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Houghton Accepts Tri-County Public Defenders Office Proposal

Houghton County needs more public defenders to meet the requirements set by the state.

In 2013, the state said all 83 counties in Michigan are deficient when it comes to providing public defense and enacted legislation to revamp the system.

Attorney David Gemignani, who serves as the public defender for the bulk of the local cases, presented a proposal to address the problem to the Houghton County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

The proposal would create a non-profit corporation, a Tri-County Public Defenders Office, for Houghton, Baraga and Keweenaw County, funded by those counties with additional money from the state.

To fully fund the office, Gemignani said the state would have to provide about $590,000 per year.

To date, the Michigan legislature has yet to provide funding for these arrangements.

As Gemignani pointed out, the accused have a constitutional right to a legal defense and it’s the state’s responsibility to provide counsel for those who are indigent.

The board accepted the proposal but it’s unknown when the funding will be available to implement it.

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