About the Office

"From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him."
Gideon v. Wainwright
 
Created in 1976 by Chapter 120 of the Ohio Revised Code, the Office of the Ohio Public Defender (OPD) is the state agency responsible for providing legal representation and other services to people accused or convicted of a crime who cannot afford to hire an attorney. The office, which is overseen by the Ohio Public Defender Commission, is divided into Administrative, Appellate Services, Policy & Outreach, and Trial Services divisions.
 
OPD provides representation on appeals and post-conviction actions in death penalty, criminal, and juvenile delinquency cases; at trial when requested by local courts and in counties that contract with OPD for trial services; and at parole revocation hearings for the more than 50,000 people in Ohio’s prisons. The agency provides technical assistance, research services, educational programs, and investigation and mitigation services to local public defenders and court-appointed counsel across Ohio. OPD also reimburses counties for a portion of the cost of running local indigent defense systems, and enforces standards established by the OPD Commission.
 
State Public Defender Tim Young and the Ohio Public Defender Commission are fully committed to improving Ohio’s indigent defense system. Working with local public defenders, courts, and county commissioners, as well as state leaders and organizations, OPD strives to change laws, rules, and practices in order to create a more effective and efficient indigent defense delivery system. The quality of justice a person receives should not be determined by that person’s financial status.
 
 

 

Timothy Young, Ohio Public Defender
 

Timothy Young has been the Ohio Public Defender since Jan. 1, 2008, after serving as a county public defender for 14 years. He has led reform efforts for indigent defense in Ohio and is responsible for creating the Ohio Wrongful Conviction Project, a non-DNA exoneration project. Tim is a founder and former chair of the National Association for Public Defense. He also serves as vice-chair on the Criminal Justice Recodification Committee, and as a member of the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission and the Task Force on Access to Justice. Tim previously served as chair and vice chair of the American Council of Chief Defenders, and on the Joint Task Force to Review the Administration of Ohio's Death Penalty, the Task Force on Funding of Ohio Courts, the Access to Justice Task Force, and the Rule 8 subcommittee. He has tried numerous cases throughout his career, ranging from misdemeanors to homicide cases. Tim received his B.A. and his J.D. from the University of Dayton. He has devoted his career to serving the indigent population of our society.
 

 

Elizabeth R. Miller, Assistant Director
 

Elizabeth Miller is the Assistant Director of the Office of the Ohio Public Defender (OPD). She has dedicated her legal career to ensuring the most vulnerable individuals in our society are afforded quality legal representation. Elizabeth first joined the OPD in 2004 and served as an Assistant State Public Defender in the OPD’s Juvenile Department—providing trial, appellate, and post-conviction representation to juveniles across the state, which included successfully arguing cases before the Supreme Court of Ohio. From 2011-2012, Elizabeth served as Director of the Juvenile Division of the Hamilton County Public Defender Office in Cincinnati. In 2012, Elizabeth rejoined the OPD as a Supervising Attorney in the OPD’s Legal Department, supervising attorneys providing appellate and post-conviction representation to incarcerated adults. In 2014, Elizabeth was appointed Assistant Director of the OPD, a profession that she feels is her calling and drives her to constantly work toward improving the support and services available to both OPD’s clients and staff members.
 
As Assistant Director of the OPD, Elizabeth is responsible for the development and operations of OPD’s central office in Columbus, and four county offices. Elizabeth directly supervises and mentors the agency’s four deputy directors, and helps oversee the more than 140 staff who provide representation to capital, adult, and juvenile clients.
 
In addition to her role in leading OPD’s staff members, Elizabeth serves as the OPD’s representative on statewide commissions; meets with lawmakers, attorneys, and interested parties on legislation and policies; and provides training for public defenders across the country. She chairs OPD’s Diversity & Inclusion Working Group, and is currently a Steering Committee Member for the National Association for Public Defense and Stepping Up Initiative. Elizabeth, who is a certified trainer in Crucial Conversations, recently earned her Certificate in Government and Non-Profit Leadership from The Ohio State University’s John Glenn College. She graduated from Miami University (Ohio) with a degree in Political Science and Russian, and received her J.D. from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

 
Administrative Division
 
The Administrative Division provides support services that are responsive to the agency’s needs, goals, and objectives, and accountable to the public concern. Much of the division provides the necessary services common to most state agencies, including fiscal and accounting, personnel and training, computer information systems, purchasing, fleet management, and delivery. The Administrative Division includes the Fiscal Department, the Human Resources Department, the Information Technology Department, the Library Department, and the Office Services Department.

 

Sharon Flynt, Deputy Director
 
Sharon Flynt is the Director of Administration for the Office of the Ohio Public Defender. She has a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management and a Master of Business Administration. Sharon is also a Certified Ohio Fiscal Professional. She entered public service in 2002 and has been with OPD since February 2008. At OPD, Sharon ensures that the Administrative division is operationally efficient and effective. Sharon, a passionate advocate for ensuring a successful and supportive culture at OPD, brings more than 30 years of management experience to the Agency.

 
Appellate Services Division
 
The primary focus of OPD’s direct legal representation is appealing death penalty, criminal, and juvenile delinquency cases. The Appellate Services Division represents clients in Ohio’s appellate courts, the Supreme Court of Ohio, and federal appellate courts, as well as in Ohio’s trial-level courts, when cases are remanded for further action. The Wrongful Conviction Project investigates and litigates claims of innocence from people incarcerated in Ohio prisons, and the Mitigation & Investigation Department provides investigatory services to OPD clients and in capital and other high-level cases across the state. Appellate Division staff also provide legal orientation to people entering Ohio prisons and juvenile facilities, and training and assistance to outside counsel. The Appellate Services Division includes the Death Penalty Department, the Juvenile Department, the Legal Department, the Mitigation & Investigation Department, and the Wrongful Conviction Project.
 

Jill Beeler, Deputy Director
 
Jill Beeler is the Director of Appellate Services for the Office of the Ohio Public Defender. Jill earned her undergraduate degree in criminology/criminal justice from The Ohio State University and her law degree from Capital University. Jill has worked for OPD since 1998, and served as Chief Counsel of the Juvenile Department from 2008 to 2015. Along with managing the division, Jill collaborates with stakeholders on system reform, advocates on legislation, and participates on various task forces and committees. Jill began a Kids in Adult Prison working group at OPD. This working group of attorneys and investigators discusses litigation strategy and legislative reform that may impact kids who are tried as adults, sentencing issues, and juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences. Jill is a member of the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee, the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission Advisory Committee, and the Governor’s Council on Juvenile Justice. Jill is also a certified Juvenile Training Immersion Program (JTIP) trainer.


 
Trial Services Division
 
The Trial Services Division provides representation and other services to people facing charges in Ohio’s trial courts. Branch office staff and contractors represent clients in cases ranging from misdemeanor to capital in their assigned counties, while the Trial Department represents clients across the state, specializing in capital and other high-level cases. The Trial Services Division includes the Trial Department, the Multi-County System, and the Trumbull County Branch Office.
 

John Cornely, Deputy Director
 
John R. Cornely is the Director of the Trial Services Division. He manages the contract attorneys and the four county offices that provide local indigent defense services for the ten counties that contract with OPD, as well as the Trial Department in Columbus. Along with managing the Division John keeps a small felony caseload and frequently consults with other attorneys and public defenders’ offices about trial practice issues. While at OPD John has served as an Assistant Public Defender in the Athens County Office and the Director of the Ross County Office. Prior to joining OPD John was in private practice at a small law firm and then as a solo practitioner. While in private practice John took cases as appointed counsel in multiple counties and as a CJA attorney for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. John has tried over one hundred felony jury trials in twelve counties. John graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in Political Science and received his J.D. from The Ohio State University College of Law.

 
Policy & Outreach Division
 
The Policy & Outreach Division is the agency’s public face outside of courtrooms, handling the agency’s media and social media, legislation, and administrative policy. The Division also serves as the main point of contact for county indigent defense systems and oversees reimbursement to the counties. Policy & Outreach is responsible for enforcing the Ohio Public Defender Commission’s standards and the agency’s guidelines. The Policy & Outreach Division is made up by the County Assessment and Reimbursement Department, the County Support and Training Department, the Data Analysis and Reports Department, and the Legislation, Administrative Policy, and Media Department.
 

Laura Austen, Deputy Director
 
Laura Austen is the Director of Policy and Outreach for the Office of the Ohio Public Defender. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Wittenberg University, and a J.D. from Capital University Law School, where she was a Child Welfare and Adoption Law Fellow. Laura joined OPD in 2009 and has served as a law clerk, staff attorney, and supervising attorney in the Juvenile Department. At OPD, Laura is a member of the Kids in Adult Prison Working Group and the Racial Justice Initiative. Prior to entering the practice of law, Laura worked in the mental health field as a mental health worker on an acute care psychiatric unit for adults, a youth leader in a residential treatment facility for adolescents, and as a case manager for children at a community behavioral health center. She is co-author of the article, "Advocacy for Young or Expectant Parents in Foster Care," published in the American Bar Association’s Child Law Practice Journal, Vol. 28 No. 7.