The Plaintiff in the case, Michael Powers, pled no contest to reckless operation of a motor vehicle and was ordered to pay a $250 fine and placed on probation in lieu of serving 30 days in jail. Powers was later rearrested for failing to pay his fine and was ordered to serve his original sentence of 30 days. In spite of his indigence, Powers was not given an attorney or hearing to challenge the revocation of his probation for non-payment of his fine.
Powers sued the Hamilton County Public Defender Commission alleging that its practice of not affording counsel for indigent defendants facing incarceration for non-payment of a fine violated the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.
The judge in the case granted summary judgment for Powers on his claims, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed, finding material facts in dispute.
On remand, the parties agreed to a settlement. The county agreed to set up a fund with $75,000 for disbursement to defendants who were incarcerated for non-payment of a fine without first being afforded an attorney or indigency hearing. The county also agreed to pay $1,000 to Powers for his work in representing the class.
Hamilton County now provides an attorney and a hearing to defendants facing incarceration for non-payment of a fine.
Powers was represented by Robert Newman and Stephen Felson of Cincinnati, Ohio. See: Powers v. Hamilton County Public Defender Commission, USDC SD OH, Case No. 1:02CV605.
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Powers v. Hamilton County Public Defender Commission
|Cite||USDC SD OH, Case No. 1:02CV605|