Livingston County’s Board of Commissioners has appointed a Public Defender Administrator as part of their plan in becoming compliant with new standards set by the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC).

The Board on Monday voted unanimously to appoint James VerPloeg as the county’s new Public Defender Administrator. VerPloeg, who was chosen as one of seven applicants, will provide oversight in assigning indigent criminal defendants to public defenders. The Public Defender Administrator position was created as a result of the county’s Michigan Indigent Defense plan.

The plan comes following the legislature’s decision to revise and update the state’s indigent defense system. County Administrator Ken Hinton says the county was satisfied with the level of indigent that was provided in the past; however all counties are now required to implement new standards that lawmakers hope will improve indigent defense. Among the standards are procedures for selecting court-appointed attorneys and requirements for counties to provide attorneys with continuing education, as well as private areas for client discussions.

Hinton says the county’s share of the cost to implement the new rules is a fixed amount of approximately $1 million and anything above that will be borne by the state. Hinton says the county is still working out details with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) on a contract for a state grant that aids in implementation costs. He reports they are close to finalizing the contract and will have 180 days to fully implement the plan from the time they first receive the funds.

The Board of Commissioners also recently approved a 25% pay raise for a group of local public defenders, as well as an extension for a nine-month contract. (DK)