Macomb County’s new public defender aims to provide indigent services

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published October 23, 2020




MACOMB COUNTY — Thomas J. Tomko is Macomb County’s new public defender.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel made the announcement Oct. 16. Tomko previously served as the administrator of the County Office of Public Defender, created in March of this year.

“Tom has done an outstanding job getting the county’s Office of Public Defender up and running,” Hackel said in a statement. “In the midst of a pandemic, he was able to establish plans, hire staff and begin collaborating with local courts. His incredible work will ensure defendants receive legal counsel and representation when they can’t afford it. I am certain he will excel in this new position.”

The county charter has always included a provision for such an office. In recent years, the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission has made recommendations based on standards and guidance with the goal of the office’s creation.

And while other county indigent defense programs use contract agencies or multiple attorneys to provide services, this particular office—which is now ready to serve the public seven months since it was established—will offer direct legal counsel and representation.

There are three divisions within the office: administration, felony circuit court litigation, and misdemeanor district court litigation.

Administrative functions began in June and will continue to be transferred from the Judicial Aide Department as additional staffers join the division. The circuit court division will represent many indigent adult defendants with felony charges, notably capital felonies. And the misdemeanor division will represent indigent adult defendants charged with misdemeanors in the 41-2 and 42-2 district courts in Romeo and New Baltimore, respectively.

Currently, there are no plans for work in other non-Macomb County funded district courts.

“We are establishing roots here with deliberate steps toward creating a lasting, impactful and high-quality indigent defense county office,” Tomko said in a statement. “I am proud to say Macomb County is striving to meet and exceed state indigent representation standards ahead of schedule. We are getting our talented team in place, which we will expand in the future so we can continue our work on behalf of indigent adult criminal defendants in Macomb County.”