Why We Exist
Establishing an Office
The legal basis for the establishment of public defense for indigent persons was established pursuant to landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions interpreting Federal law and the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In addition, the Michigan Constitution of 1963, Art. 1, Sec. 20, Michigan Court Rules 5.915, 65, 6.905, 6.610 and Michigan Compiled Laws 775.16 also require fair trials regardless of a defendant's ability to pay. These same laws have been interpreted to require quality representation for persons against whom the government threatens a significant liberty interest. For instance, if the government attempts to remove a child from his or her parents or to require treatment in an inpatient facility due to mental health issues, then those people are entitled to lawyers.
Although our criminal justice system the best (ever) in the world, it has is a creation of human beings and nothing human beings make is perfect. Even so, perfection is the goal. We will rest when everyone - the defendant and the alleged victim - get fair trials. If lawyers are the entry point to the system, then quality lawyers are essential. It is with this in mind that the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners created this office.
The consequence of these inadequacies in the criminal justice system to the individual is that innocent persons can be charged and convicted. Victims do not receive fair redress when the system fails. The consequence to the community is a loss of faith in its judicial system. Like most of our government, the judicial system works because people believe it works and is fair. Should that ever change, should every verdict be viewed with suspicion and doubt, should people come to believe there is no other means to justice, what alternative is there to mob justice?
Using a Public Defender
"Meet 'em, plead 'em, and leave 'em!"
All too often, around the country, those persons required to accept public defenders have departed the experience repeating the refrane, above. A sad testament to the treatment people felt they received from their public defender. More sadly is how often it was true.
The Muskegon Board of County Commissioners were well aware of this perception and other problems when they created the Public Defenders. They wanted a new day for the citizens of this County. They wanted quality representation. They wanted accountability in the system. They wanted the biggest bang for the taxpayer's buck. They wanted the word to go out that you will receive justice in Muskegon County even if you can not afford to pay for a lawyer. Thus far, the Public Defenders has become one of the most respected legal organizations in the State . . . amongst lawyers. Winning over the public is a slower process. It took decades to earn the level of disrespect and distrust from the general public and we will not overcome it quickly. We are committed to doing so however, one client at a time.