County's first chief public defender appointed


Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter has appointed the county’s first chief public defender. Paulette Loftin has dedicated most of her 15 years in law practice to indigent criminal defense including as the indigent defense coordinator for 50th District Court in Pontiac, 51st District Court in Waterford, and Lapeer County 71A District Court and Circuit Court.

“Paulette has a passion for indigent defense combined with the knowledge and skill needed to meet the challenge of building Oakland County’s first public defender’s office,” Coulter said. “She is well regarded by other defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges.”

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald and Oakland County 52-2 District Court Chief Judge Joseph Fabrizio are among those commending Loftin’s appointment, which comes on the heels of the 60th anniversary of the Gideon v. Wainwright case in which the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously affirmed a defendant’s 6th Amendment right to counsel when facing state criminal charges.

“Criminal defense attorneys play a critical role in our justice system, and creation of the new Oakland County Public Defender’s Office is an important step. A chief public defender must have a combination of skill and experience and, above all, the highest ethical standards. Paulette Loftin is an excellent choice,” McDonald said.

“Paulette Loftin is an immensely qualified and capable attorney who has dedicated much of her career to serving as a public defender,” Fabrizio said. “I am happy to hear of her appointment to the newly formed public defender’s office. I commend the Oakland County Executive team for its commitment to ensuring Constitutional protections for indigent defendants in Oakland County.”

Loftin, a 40-year-old Oakland County resident, has provided robust legal representation for hundreds of defendants including more than 30 jury trials, 14 of which were capital cases punishable by up to life in prison. She has handled some of the most arduous cases, including tackling the challenge of providing legal representation for the Oxford High School shooter, who pleaded guilty last October to murdering four students.

“I have a passion for the defense of those who could not afford it otherwise,” Loftin said. “The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that everyone charged with a criminal offense has the Constitutional right to be represented in court by an attorney, regardless of their ability to pay.”

While in law school at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, Loftin began her career at Oakland County first as a court clerk from October 2005 to August 2008, then as a legal secretary for Circuit Court Judge John McDonald from August 2008 to March 2009, when she opened her own law office with a focus on indigent defense. She has also served defendants with cases in 52-3 District Court in Rochester Hills and 47th District Court in Farmington Hills.

Loftin will begin her new role April 17. Among her initial tasks will be to hire a deputy chief public defender, five other attorneys, and three support staff. The Public Defender’s Office will initially be in Oakland County’s South Oakland Office Building at 1151 Crooks Rd. in Troy.

The salary range for Oakland County’s public defender is $152,000-$182,000.

Oakland County’s indigent defense plan will significantly change the way it provides indigent criminal defense services in the 6th Circuit and 52nd District courts. The county will use a hybrid model consisting of a public defender’s office, staffed by Oakland County employees, and the current roster of independent contractor attorneys. The Public Defender’s Office will initially handle five percent of the indigent defense cases in the 6th Circuit and 52nd District courts, with plans to grow that share in the future. The other county district courts continue to utilize their own rosters of independent contractor attorneys to provide indigent defense services.


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