Every now and then, a high-profile criminal case will result in increased citizen awareness of his or her county prosecuting attorney's office. The truth is, Ohio's 88 county prosecutors spend most of their work days in quieter fashion, fulfilling a host of duties and responsibilities that help keep our communities safe and our local governments running smoothly.
In this, our 75th year of operations, the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association seeks to remind all Ohioans of the important work being done by our local county prosecutors. Particularly at a time when popular movies and television shows are saturated with courtroom and "cops and robbers" dramas, we think a little dose of reality concerning prosecuting attorneys is needed.
Most people who follow the news understand that prosecuting attorneys do prosecute the "bad guys" in our county courts of common pleas. That is a vital part of their job, without question. But they perform many other highly valuable services to their local communities.
Prosecuting attorneys serve as "ministers of justice" indeed, they are justice-driven. This applies to putting criminals behind bars and making sure the punishment fits the crime. But their work also entails making sure that people innocently accused of committing a crime are not ultimately charged or convicted.
In addition, prosecuting attorneys are also responsible for prosecuting juvenile offenders who commit felony or misdemeanor offenses.
Prosecuting attorneys are fervent advocates for crime victims and their families. They understand that the road to recovery and normalcy can be difficult for those whose lives have been impacted by crime. Prosecutors strive to keep victims notified of future court dates and the status of pending court cases, to accompany victims to court as needed and to refer victims to appropriate community services and resources.
Finally, county prosecuting attorneys act as the lawyer for all county offices and township governments. This may not sound very flashy, but it is truly a vital service. This important work involves everything from reviewing legal documents and contracts, to helping collect delinquent taxes, to advising county commissioners on land use and annexations, to defending local officials in lawsuits. Helping local governments run smoothly may not generate headlines but it does save taxpayer dollars.
Beyond their formal responsibilities, most county prosecuting attorneys are also very active in their local communities, proactively supporting public safety programs that protect the elderly, children and families. It's not uncommon to find them in schools or senior centers offering useful information on how to keep our neighborhoods safer and free of crime. Many prosecuting attorneys also help children by tracking down delinquent child support payments and holding parents accountable for providing for their children.
I did not write this column to urge readers not to enjoy your favorite crime-and-punishment dramas in the popular media. By all means, enjoy. But I do believe it's important to shed a little light on the daily "reality show" that takes place in the offices of Ohio's 88 county prosecuting attorneys, who work very hard in the pursuit of justice and safety for all of us.
(Murphy is the executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney's Association.)