St. Clair County is setting plans into motion for the formation of a Public Defender Office to provide services to defendants who can’t afford legal counsel on their own (also known as indigent defendants).
According to St. Clair County Administrator/Controller Karry Hepting, work has begun on the offices that will house 18 total employees, 12 being public defenders, at 302 Michigan Street in Port Huron. The office will be a new department for the county and operate under the direction of the St. Clair County Administration Department. The new department will replace the current structure of contracting 23 court-appointed attorneys assigned to cases on a part-time basis.
Based on statewide numbers available through the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, the County estimates that approximately 75% of criminal cases in its court system are partially or completely indigent, meaning defendants are considered unable to pay the fees required to hire a defense lawyer.
Hepting said the hope is that the offices will be occupied by late spring.
Reporting for WGRT, Karly Hurley.