By Mike Kruzman /

A previously questioned path for pairing up public defenders with residents in the Livingston County Specialty Court system has been amended and is now on a course for approval.

In February, Specialty Courts and program Administrator Sarah Applegate spoke to the County Courts and Public Safety Committee, seeking a six-month contract extension for attorney Paige Favio. Favio has been providing legal services to residents in the Veterans Treatment Court and Intensive Treatment Mental Health Courts, but her contract expires on March 31st. The extension would give the Courts time to put the contract out to bid.

During that February meeting, however, questions from County Commissioners arose about the feasibility of the Public Defenders Office to take on that work. The issue was tabled. At this week’s meeting of the Committee, Applegate and Chief Public Defender Karen Groenhout were back with an amended plan that would see the Public Defenders Office take on the caseload. The Office already handles cases for a third Livingston County Specialty Court, Adult Drug Court.

Applegate and Groenhout said they had explored and vetted a couple solutions and have found one that they believe will be positive for all parties involved. Commissioner and former judge Carol Sue Reader was once critical of the plan, but on Monday, thanked the dup for the time they have spent on this since the last meeting. She said that after talks with herself, Commissioner Jay Drick, and Circuit Court Judge Michael Hatty, she thinks they have come up with a resolution that meets everyone’s needs. Reader concluded, saying now they need juast a little more time to get their “ducks in a row for funding.”

Groenhout said they expect to get the funding and should know for certain by June. She said the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission in late 2020 determined that specialty courts could be funded or taken on by the Public Defenders Office. To help bridge the time from now until then, the Committee recommended approval of a 3-month extension of Favio’s contract with an option for 3 more months, if needed. That recommendation will now go to the full Board of Commissioners for final consideration.