Frequently Asked Questions

How do I find out who my lawyer is?

  • There are two ways to find out who your lawyer is.  First, you can go to the next hearing you are scheduled to attend and wait for your lawyer to call you.  The only way to speak to your lawyer in advance though is the second method.
  • The second method of finding out who your lawyer is would be to call our office at (231) 724-6585.  When you call that number you can ask for your lawyer's name and set up an appointment to speak to him or her.  Since your lawyer is most likely in court all day, it is very unlikely that he or she will be there to take your call or meet with you without an appointment.
    • There are a couple things to keep in mind when calling to find out who your lawyer is.  One, we may not know yet.  You are appointed to us but we are not notified by the Court for a few days and even then, may not get your discovery materials for days after so it may be a few days after you are arraigned before we can speak to you intelligently about your case.
    • Fred Johnson is probably not your lawyer.  Mr. Johnson is the current director of the Muskegon County Public Defenders so his name goes on everyone's paperwork.  Another attorney will actually be assigned to represent you in court.
  • When is my next court date?
    • We do not know.  Call (231) 724-6258 if the case is a misdemeanor or (231) 724-6251 if the case involves a felony.  Those are the telephone numbers to the district and circuit court clerks, respectively.
  • What do I do if I miss my court date?
    • Call us immediately!  Our ability to keep you out of jail after missing a court date diminishes the longer you wait.  If you think you have a good excuse, like, you were in jail somewhere else or in the hospital and could not attend, make sure you bring any documentation you have with you so the judge does not have to take your word for it.  The judge will not call your excuse and check your story.
    • While turning yourself in after missing a court date can be frightening, it is worse if they have to go out and get you.  If you miss a court date and then get picked up (arrested) you should expect to sit in jail before seeing your judge and a high bond afterward.
  • How do I change my lawyer?
    • You probably can't.  This is not Burger King.  While the taxpayers of this county have generously paid to provide you with an attorney, they have not paid for you to have a choice.  That is the bad news.  The good news is the Mukegon County Public Defenders are not like other public defenders you may have had an association with.  We care.  But, sometimes we will have to tell you bad news or disagree with you.  You may, at any time, hire your own lawyer but if you are unhappy with the one you have.  If you cannot afford to hire, you will receive a hard working advocate but you cannot chose who that person is.
  • What if my lawyer is not doing his or her job?
    • You contact the director, Fred Johnson, Jr., at (231) 724-6585 extension 3.  If you have a complaint, Mr. Johnson will assign a senior attorney to investigate or he will investigate himself. But that does not mean he will agree with you.  The law is like calculus: It is complicated and non lawyers do not know all the rules.  Many times your lawyer will make suggestions you do not agree with.  It is his or her job to tell you the best he or she knows, even if it will make you mad.
  • What if I cannot attend my court date?
    • Let us know as soon as possible.  The more advance warning you can give us the better chance we can get the matter adjourned.  It is very difficult to get adjournments a day or two before a hearing (especially when the hearing is a trial) and it gets more and more unlikely with each additional adjournment you request after the first one you receive.  In the end, you are required to attend your hearings and if you fail to do so, you may be subject to fines and being put in jail.
  • My witnesses are leaving town.  They are about to erase the video.  What do I do?
    • Tell us immediately!  Any time we may loose witnesses or evidence do not try to fix it yourself.  Call your lawyer and alert him or her to the problem.
  • What can I do to help my case?
    • You have the right to remain silent.  Do it!  Most of the people in prison talked themselves into those cells.  No talking means no Facebook conversations.  No tweets.  No letters or phone calls from jail speaking of your case.  No coded messages.  No jailhouse lawyers or bunky discussions about your case even if you trust him!  No talking!
    • Gather your evidence.  Yes, the lawyer is supposed to do that but what if he or she doesn't? Wouldn't it be better if you had your stuff together anyway?  Get the names and contact information of your witnesses.  Copy texts, email and Facebook postings that support your case. Read your police reports and be prepared to discuss your case with your attorney.
    • People who make appointments to see their attorneys get better results than people who wait until the day of trial and meet their lawyers at court.  Just sayin'.