Macomb County Opens New Office Of Public Defender

Metro Detroit Community NewsMt. Clemens, MI - On Friday, January 12, 2024, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel officially opened the new Office of the Public Defender facility in downtown Mount Clemens.

The office, which is located at 22 Market Street, provides 9,640-square-feet of space dedicated to providing indigent defense services in the County.

“It’s incredible to see the growth of this office, and the expansion of the important services it provides in our community for those in need,” said Hackel. “Under the leadership of Public Defender Thomas Tomko, this team has grown in terms of staff, relationships with local courts, and the types of services it can offer residents. All of this ensures that every defendant receives legal counsel and representation, even if they cannot afford it.”

Since its inception, the Macomb County Charter has included a provision for an Office of the Public Defender. Over the past few years, the County, based on recommended standards and guidance from the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC), has worked towards the goal of creating this office. County leaders officially opened one with the assistance of grant funding in March 2020 and named Thomas Tomko its public defender in October of that year. The office, which was located at 16 Market Street in Mount Clemens, was 1,650-square-feet and included space for two staff members and five attorneys.

“The goal of the Office of Public Defender is to provide quality criminal defense services to indigent defendants facing criminal charges,” said Tomko. “As our office has grown, there was a real need for additional space to meet our overall administrative and representation missions. The grant funded expansion of the office allows us to better achieve these goals both now and in the future.”

The mission of the Office of the Public Defender is twofold:

1. To operate, supervise and manage the Macomb County system of providing assigned counsel for indigent criminal defendants; and
2. To competently, effectively and vigorously protect and defend the constitutional rights of indigent clients represented by attorneys in the Macomb County Office of Public Defender.

To accomplish this, the team has grown to nine attorneys and six staff. In its new office, there is space to grow that number to 38 total employees.

“With full staff, the Office of the Public Defender is targeted to handle 25-30% of the felony indigent defense cases in Macomb County,” Tomko said. “It will also continue to assign cases to the over 200 roster attorneys who handle the remainder of local felony cases.”

In addition to extra space for staff, the facility, which was completed with grant funding from the MIDC, provides a design that meets all state standards. It features confidential meeting places and a multi-media training room that can accommodate 20 participants.

There are also facilities for an investigator, interns and a social worker, a position which can assist clients needing treatment, housing or employment. This new role demonstrates the County’s commitment to providing cutting-edge indigent defense services, something which will further expand later this year.

“This summer, Macomb County will be one of five counties in the state to participate in a newly developed fellowship program facilitated by Wayne State Law School and the MIDC,” said Tomko. “The program will work with students studying to be social workers and students studying to be attorneys, teaching them to take a broader holistic approach to indigent defense. This will ultimately improve the quality of defense, it will level the playing field when it comes to sentence recommendations, and it will reduce recidivism of indigent clients.  The newly renovated Office space allows us to practice holistic defense and to be part of innovative new programs like the summer fellowship program.”

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