Hamilton will lead the newly created Public Defender Office with locations planned in Holland (12185 James St.) and Grand Haven (1111 Fulton Ave).
The office is a new mandate from the state, in the making since Public Act 93 of 2013 was approved. The act mandates new standards for the public defense delivery system. Ottawa County officials evaluated their options for complying and, in June, the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (the board overseeing the implementation of PA 93 across the state) approved the plan for the office.
Hamilton has 30 years experience in indigent defense counsel, giving him extensive knowledge of the criminal justice system. He also comes with leadership qualities that will serve the county and facilitate this transition well, county officials said in the announcement of his appointment Friday.
Hamilton is currently an attorney with the law firm Hann Persinger PC. He is a graduate of Michigan State University and Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
"Bob has a long track record of excellence as an attorney and has many contacts and resources that will be invaluable as he leads the creation and implementation of the new Public Defender Office," County Administrator Al Vanderberg said in Friday’s announcement.
The Public Defender Office aims to provide parity in resources between defense counsel and prosecuting attorney, the ability to control caseloads, more continuity and longevity in experience, and the maximization of state funding.
"For over 50 years, Ottawa County public defenders have provided exceptional indigent defense services to those individuals unable to afford an attorney,” Hamilton said. “I look forward to continuing their example of dedicated service into the future by utilizing the resources made available by this new plan.”
Hamilton will begin his duties in early November after state funding is received, where he will initiate Public Defender Office set-up and complete hiring his staff. A total of 19.7 full-time-equivalent employees are planned to be hired to handle the caseload, including Hamilton. Staffing levels were determined using historical Ottawa County caseload statistics and national caseload recommendations.
Funding for the Public Defender Office will come from both the state and the county, at $1,944,219 and $923,087 respectively. The latter number represents what the county currently pays in indigent defense costs.