By Mike Kruzman /

Livingston County’s Chief Public Defender delivered the department’s first annual report.

Chief Public Defender Karen Groenhout joined the online meeting of the Livingston County Public Safety and Infrastructure and Development Committee, Monday afternoon, to share the report. The Livingston County Public Defender’s Office was established in January of this year by Groenhout and the late County Administrator Ken Hinton with the aid of state funding from the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission.

Groenhout told the Committee they’ve come a long way in over the first 10 months in meeting standards required by the MIDC that are required for grant funding. She said they weren’t in compliance with any of the standards at the time they opened, but are now in every standard with one small exception. That exception, she said, is that they have to have some work done in the courthouse in order to have private meeting space for attorneys to meet with their different clients in a confidential meeting space. Groenhout said they have that worked out and planned for in the budget, and that it should be completed for next year.

The office works to quickly undertake representation and provide effective defense to all clients, guaranteeing their constitutional rights. They also work to explore appropriate but alternative options to prison sentences, including enrollment in the specialty Veterans, Drug, or Mental Health courts.

Groenhout set forth goals for the office moving forward. In those, she would like to develop an internship program for future lawyers, and develop a social worker program to assist clients through the legal process and those who are looking for help in bettering themselves. Groenhout wants to work with local schools and colleges to inform students and the community of their presence while also teaching them about public defense careers. She additionally wants run criminal defense clinics throughout the year, maintain and build relationships with other county offices and the courts.

Groenhout closed out her presentation saying this has been very difficult, but has also been “truly the most exciting and rewarding year” she’s had in her career.