What We Do

The Muskegon County Office of Public Defender was established in 2014, as an integral part of county government, to provide mandated legal defense representation for indigent and partially indigent persons in criminal, civil contempt and juvenile matters, while serving as counterpart to state, county, city, village and township prosecutors throughout all courts in the county.

In so doing, the Public Defender partners with the community in the enforcement of the Constitutional right of indigent and partially indigent persons within our County to quality legal representation, fair treatment, due process, safety, security and justice in criminal, juvenile and civil appointments.

The county official holding the Office of Public Defender is appointed by the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners and is a part of the department head staff of the Muskegon County Administrator. The current Public Defender is Frederick D. Johnson, Jr., and his name appears as the attorney of record on all cases where the Public Defender is appointed by the Courts to represent persons whom they have determined to be indigent or partially indigent.

The Public Defender has a staff of Assistant Public Defenders and legal clerks augmented by many volunteer student lawyers, investigators and social workers. The Office is further organized into divisions that provide legal representations for felony and juvenile cases, to include both delinquencies and abuse\neglect. Implementation of this is expedited by assigning attorneys directly to courts for immediate coverage.

The Public Defender represents the vast majority of criminal defendants throughout the county in all state and local criminal matters, including probation violations, extradition and establishment of paternity. The Public Defender also represents clients on a limited number of criminal and juvenile appeals. The Office further provides representation in contempt of court matters, including child support and personal protection order violations. Whenever there is a criminal court docket, an Assistant Public Defender will be present to provide representation as needed.

By reason of training and experience, the Office of the Public Defender has become a pool of specialized knowledge and this pool is always made available to the Court and private bar. Integrally linked to Muskegon County's justice system, the Public Defender has established smooth working relationships with the courts, state and local police departments, prosecutors, probation departments, and others resulting in both competent and efficient handling of all matters assigned within a vigorously contested adversarial system.