County Exploring Options For Specialty Court Legal Representation
February 25, 2022
By Mike Kruzman / firstname.lastname@example.org
A committee of County Commissioners is seeking more information before deciding on whether or not to support a contract extension for an attorney who provides services to defendants in two specialty courts.
Sara Applegate, the Special Courts and Programs Administrator presented the request to the Livingston County Courts, Public Safety, and Infrastructure and Development Committee this week. She was seeking a six-month contract extension for attorney Paige Favio, who has been providing legal services to participants in the Veterans Treatment Court and Intensive Treatment Mental Health Court.
Applegate said that they recently partnered with Public Defender’s Office in another specialty court, Adult Drug Court, and were exploring expanding that partnership to Veterans and Mental Health courts. However, Applegate said that looking at the case load, the Public Defender’s Office did not think it was feasible. Favio, was said to provide excellent services to the two courts, hence Applegate was seeking the extension to provide time for putting the contract out to bid.
Commissioner Carol Sue Reader is a former judge who presided over the Veterans Treatment Court. She said that in her discussions, the Public Defender’s Office wasn’t overworked and that asking for another attorney had nothing to do with caseload, but for covering 125 cases that have come off contract. She pointed to a 39% decrease in caseloads from 2015-2021, and though that was affected by COVID, felt there are defense attorneys in the office that have room for more work.
Applegate said they were hoping to get public defenders on the specialty court teams to fill the role on the other side of the table with prosecutors.
Reader, familiar with the team model, had other issues with it. She said everything that happens in the team meetings is confidential, and questioned how a defense attorney who is representing a client, keeps information they learned in a meeting from them.
Applegate said that the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission did not feel there was a conflict of interest, but Reader still had doubts.
If they are going to go to contract, that, Reader said, should be resolved. But if there is no conflict, then Reader said the public defenders already on board ought to be handling those courts.
The Committee voted unanimously to table the resolution until they received more information. They additionally requested that the Chief Public Defender be present when the matter comes back before them next.
Favio's current contract with the Courts is set to expire on March 31st,