Kalamazoo County plans to launch a nonprofit public defender’s office. Commissioners approved the plan a few days ahead of a deadline set by the state.
Michigan is requiring counties to bring their indigent defense services up to new state standards. Kalamazoo wants to create a law firm dedicated to those cases, to replace its contract system. The firm is expected to have its own offices away from the courthouse, which houses the prosecutor’s office. The proposal gained wide support from commissioners, including board member Julie Rogers.
“I think at the end of the day our current situation is that we are not serving our citizens with the model that we have right now. And the courts have said that. So we’ve got to do something to move forward,” she said.
Vice Chair Stephanie Moore says the justice system has often failed to offer a quality defense.
“This is an opportunity for us to push all of that back and to start best representing indigent individuals in our community,” she said.
The county will also make room at the jail and courthouse for clients and lawyers to meet securely. The plan now goes to the state for review.