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The Washtenaw County Office of Public Defender was established in 1971 by our Board of Commissioners with the aid of a federal grant requiring that the department be an integral part of the executive branch of county government and independent of the judiciary. Since that time, the Office has become a full and equal partner in the public safety and justice system within the county and is represented in all relevant programming, policy or procedural committees. It handles all criminal, juvenile and special civil law appointments and provides a wide array of services related to:
- Bond reduction hearings
- Friend of the Court matters
- Personal protection orders
- Probation violations
- Response to legal questions from the public
The Office partners with businesses, non-profits, schools, churches and other units of government to prevent crime and enhance public safety by rendering top quality legal representation as needed to enforce constitutionally mandated public defense competently, effectively, efficiently, ethically and vigorously in all criminal, juvenile and civil law appointments in order to achieve justice where rights are protected, due process is received fairly and equally, rehabilitation is effective, recidivism is reduced and re-entry into society as law-abiding and productive residents is realized.
The outcome sought for everyone is to have a safe and just society where in addition to the prevention of racial profiling, domestic violence and the neglect or abuse of children, there are also viable resources available to ensure that those in need receive:
- Appropriate mental health treatment
- Diversion from incarceration without any compromise to safety
- Locally based substance abuse treatment and services
- Educational and training opportunities for gainful employment
- Adequate housing within a community that has put an end to homelessness
Our department is also comprised of dedicated career attorneys who operate as well trained, experienced and coordinated teams with full parity in salaries with prosecutors and, most importantly, one that meets all of the Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System established or adopted by the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan, the Michigan Campaign for Justice and the Michigan Public Defense Task Force. At any given time, the Office is further augmented with many select volunteer attorneys plus an average of 60 to 80 volunteer select student lawyers and investigators from law schools and universities throughout the country.
Justice System Improvement
In addition to reducing the cost of doing business while providing top quality service, our Office forever seeks to improve the justice system whereby the double tragedy never occurs in our jurisdiction of having an innocent person convicted and punished while the guilty person escapes penalty altogether and remains free to continue to abuse, harm and endanger the community.
Delphia T. Simpson, County Public Defender