Zach Klein

City Attorney

Columbus, OH

Zach Klein was sworn in as Columbus City Attorney on January 1, 2018 after serving the previous seven years as a member of Columbus City Council, including as Council President from 2016-2017.

As City Attorney, Zach has focused on how the law can be applied most effectively to promote public safety, encourage economic progress for all, and protect the most vulnerable among us—whether that is making the criminal justice system more equitable and fair, combatting human trafficking in city hotels and massage parlors, using civil litigation to shut down nuisance properties and illegal businesses, protecting civil rights, promoting social justice reform, or encouraging private sector investment to turn blighted properties into neighborhood assets.

Zach also is committed to finding bold and creative ways to use the full breadth of the City Attorney’s office to better serve all Columbus residents. One of his first moves was creating the City Solicitor General’s office, a position designed to promote important public policy changes. He also established a Proactive Litigation Team for the City Attorney’s office to actively seek opportunities to protect the rights of Columbus residents.

Zach is currently at the forefront leading a statewide, bipartisan effort to change criminal justice policy and reform Ohio’s drug sentencing laws to focus on rehabilitation and treatment instead of incarceration—appropriately distinguishing between those who are fighting addiction and the drug traffickers who prey upon them.

In 2018, Zach spearheaded Columbus’ efforts to enact several new common-sense gun laws—making dozens of technical and substantive changes to the city’s criminal codes related to firearms offenses, including laws to prohibit convicted domestic abusers and other violent felons from possessing firearms.  While effectively closing the gap between existing federal and state firearms law to get guns out of the hands of criminals who have violent and dangerous backgrounds, Zach also has pushed to prohibit imitation weapons from being on the streets and to expand Ohio’s nuisance code to include properties where violent felony crimes occur.

Under Zach’s leadership, the City Attorney’s office has filed, joined, or supported several lawsuits aimed at protecting workers’ rights, civil rights and safeguarding taxpayer dollars.  The City of Columbus is currently the lead plaintiff in a lawsuitwhich includes the cities of Baltimore, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Philadelphia—to defend the Affordable Care Act’s healthcare protections for millions of Americans.

Zach grew up in Belpre, Ohio along the Ohio River and is a proud graduate of Ohio State University and Capital University Law School.  He began his career in public service as a law clerk for the Ohio Third District Court of Appeals and the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.  He has served in the White House as Deputy Director of Management and Administration in the Office of Vice President Joe Biden, and as the Deputy Chief of Legal Services in the Ohio Attorney General’s office.  Zach also has worked as a Special Assistant United States Attorney and has spent time in private practice at the law firm Jones Day and the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.

Pro-Growth Progressive Ideas Shared

Problem

Many economically disadvantaged neighborhoods are home to entrepreneurs who have the time and energy to help turn their neighborhoods around, but who don’t have access to funding.

Solution

Councilmember Klein convened a group of small business owners, the local Chamber of Commerce, and local non-profits to determine which investments would make the most impact to revitalize disadvantaged neighborhoods and then designed a set of grants and loans to fund streetscape and building improvements, as well as start-up loans to create new jobs.


Problem

Many people commit non-violent crimes as a means of survival. Social determinants barriers, including unemployment and lack of food, may result in substance use, criminal activity, or other negative behaviors. These individuals often spend months to years cycling through the criminal justice system before they can or are able to make a change. Research supports we need to begin to view the criminal justice system through a public health lens to address recidivism. Our goal is to prevent crime through this front-end fulfillment of social services' needs.

Solution

We perform an internal review of the cases to determine eligibility for the program. In court, a trained community health worker from a third party provider administers a 36 question screening tool about social determinants barriers and provides linkage to resources to address needs. Resources can include anything from employment prospects, treatment, transportation, or food access. This confidential information is stored in a HIPAA compliant database. The community health worker keeps the defendant on the health worker’s caseload throughout the diversion process to assist with any outstanding issues. Upon successful completion of the program, our prosecutors ask the court to dismiss the criminal case and agree to having the case sealed.