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11 Investigates: Justice at any cost? Only if you can pay for it.

After our investigation uncovered some attorneys are limited on how much time and they can spend on poorer clients, Lucas County is working to make changes.

Brian Dugger

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Update 12/20/19: After our initial investigation, Lucas County is working to adjust its appointed counsel rates for the beginning of 2020. A WTOL investigation found that Lucas County had among the lowest rates in the state of Ohio for attorneys appointed to poorer defendants. Those attorneys are also limited on how much they can spend on a case. Lead investigator Brian Dugger spoke with multiple court officials. They say a work group will soon meet to set hourly rates and caps that will be in the upper tier of Ohio’s 88 counties. Our 11 Investigates team will continue to follow this story as it develops. Our full investigation is below.

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“I feel as though they didn’t represent her at all. They aren’t going to work that hard to get her out of anything at that price, whether she was innocent or guilty.” - Antonia Martinez, mother of Courtnie Lykans

In April, Toledoan Courtnie Lykans agreed to plead guilty to a third-degree felony child endangerment charge.

The plea came with the assurance that prosecutors would not pursue the maximum prison sentence. But it also came with a price. She gave up her right to a trial and will still spend two years in prison.

“It was heart-breaking,” said her mother, Antonia Martinez. “You think that this just doesn’t happen to you. It was devastating.”

As she talked, Martinez flipped through a binder filled with legal records from the case. She stopped on a page that contained the summary of charges that Lykans’ court-appointed attorney submitted to Lucas County for payment. The attorney billed a total of $1,250.

While discussing the case, Martinez shook her head. Prior to the trial, she reached out to a private practice attorney who wanted $60,000 up front to defend her daughter.

Instead, Lykans was appointed an attorney. A cap prevented that attorney from working more than 25 hours on the case.

“I feel as though they didn’t represent her at all,” Martinez said. “They aren’t going to work that hard to get her out of anything at that price, whether she was innocent or guilty.”

Credit: Courtnie Lykans
Courtnie Lykans. Pleaded no contest to child endangerment earlier this year and was sentenced to two years in prison.