County Office of Public Defender created

Thomas Tomko named administrator

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published March 6, 2020

 Macomb County officials gathered March 4 in Mount Clemens to announce the creation of the Macomb County Office of Public Defender. The office will provide legal defense counsel and representation for folks unable to afford it.

Macomb County officials gathered March 4 in Mount Clemens to announce the creation of the Macomb County Office of Public Defender. The office will provide legal defense counsel and representation for folks unable to afford it.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

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MOUNT CLEMENS — A new office that will provide legal defense counsel and representation for people unable to afford it has launched in Macomb County.

On March 4 in Mount Clemens, officials gathered to announce the creation of the Macomb County Office of Public Defender, located at 16 Market St.

At its inception in 2009, the Macomb County charter included a provision for an Office of Public Defender.

“Over the past few years, the county, based on recommended standards and guidance from the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, has worked towards the goal of creating this office,” a county press release states.

Thomas Tomko will serve as the Office of Public Defender administrator. He will lead the formation of the office and its service for the public. He said a lot of collaboration needs to happen to get the office functioning.

“We’re starting with the unknown, and the goal is to gather as much as we can, identify the areas we want to cover and improve representation of indigent defendants in the county,” Tomko said.  

Since he now is a county employee, part of the Macomb County Executive Office, Tomko will close his Clinton Township law office. The position of administrator, which pays between $80,000 and $105,000, is not directly tied to the county court system.

Tomko has been an attorney for 32 years and is a 1987 graduate of the University of Detroit School of Law.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said Tomko understands the direction the county wants to head in as it relates to the Office of Public Defender.

“Back when I was sheriff, we talked about how we look at the criminal justice system and make a determination as to how we process people brought into the system because of a crime-related issue,” Hackel said.  

Deputy County Executive Vicki Wolber, Macomb County Chief Circuit Court Judge James M. Biernat Jr. and Circuit Court Judge James M. Maceroni also commented on the announcement.

Tomko was recommended from a pool of applicants by a panel that included Macomb County Circuit Court Administrator Julie Bovenschen, Judge William Hackel III, Macomb County Director of Human Resources and Labor Relations Andrew McKinnon, Biernat, Maceroni and Wolber.

Biernat indicated that the court looks forward to working with the new office.

“I’ve known Tom for a number of years, and I can speak for my colleagues that there’s probably not a judge in circuit and district court that Mr. Tomko has not appeared in front of,” Biernat said. “I think an excellent choice has been made and have 100% confidence in him.”  

Hackel said there’s always been an interest in Macomb County on finding someone to deal with individuals who need representation, and someone who can be a public defender.

There is a plan for additional staff, like clerical workers, to be hired as part of the office.

Wolber said there is a cost split between the county and the state for funding of the office: 25% from the county and 75% from the state. Around $7 million is budgeted by the county for the current fiscal year.

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