Office of the St. Clair County Public Defender


St. Clair County Logo


                Michael G. Boucher                                           Frederick Lepley
               Chief Public Defender                                 Chief Assistant Public Defender

The Office of the Public Defender is tasked with representing indigent defendants before the 72nd District Court and the 31st Circuit Court on misdemeanor and felony matters.


The Right to Counsel

Historically, indigent defendants across the country routinely were required to answer criminal charges filed by the government all too often without the assistance of counsel. In 1963, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that indigent defendants were entitled to have representation provided to them at public expense if they were financially unable to retain counsel.


A Race to the Bottom

In 2008 National Legal Aid and Defenders Association (NLADA) commissioned a study regarding the criminal representation of the poor and published a report entitled “A Race to the Bottom” ranking Michigan 44th of the 50 states for per capita expenditure in providing those services. The report was particularly critical of the apparent emphasis on speed and cost savings over a defendant’s right to due process. The study further found significant disparities in the provision of services as each County in the State had devised its own system to qualify defendant’s and assign counsel. The result was unequal and insufficient representation of the poor.


Michigan Indigent Defense Act

In 2011, Governor Rick Snyder acknowledged that reforms were required in the criminal justice system and signed an executive order to create a commission with the intention to investigate, identify and recommend changes to the provision of indigent defense in the State. In 2013 the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission was formed and the Commission created the first four standards that would provide the foundation for representation of the poor. Those standards included provisions requiring continuing legal education requirements for attorneys who perform that work, initial interviews of clients within 3 days, funds earmarked for experts and investigators, and providing counsel at their first appearance on criminal charges.

In Early March 2020, the Office of the St. Clair County Public Defender opened. In the following weeks as the COVID 19 pandemic closed businesses and altered the work lives of many, the dedicated attorney’s at the Office of the Public Defender appeared in Court and at the County Jail to represent clients.

Providing representation to indigent defendants is equal parts challenging and rewarding. Our mission is to serve our clients ethically, competently and with compassion.

The staff of the Office of the St. Clair County Public Defender is fortunate to have the opportunity to provide counsel to our clients while serving the community and it is our objective to be a model for other Public Defender Offices.



Contact Information

St. Clair County Public Defender
302 Michigan St. Upper Level
Port Huron MI 48060
Hours: Monday - Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Phone: (810) 985-2333
Fax: (810) 985-2308
Email: Public Defender
 
Public Guardian Status: 

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