Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Michigan

About Us
Attorneys & Staff Legal Resources
For Clients & Families



District Map

Other Defender Offices

History: Office of the Federal Public Defender, W.D. MI.

The Western District of Michigan is composed of a Northern and Southern Division. The Northern Division includes all fifteen counties of Michigan’s upper peninsula. Thirty-four counties in the lower peninsula comprise the Southern Division. While there are federal court facilities in both Kalamazoo and Lansing, the District Court is headquartered in Grand Rapids, MI.

Prior to the authorization of a Federal Defenders Office in the Western District, cases in need of court-appointed counsel were assigned to attorneys on the Criminal Justice Act (CJA) Panel. The Federal Public Defenders Office for the Western District of Michigan was established in the Fall of 1995 when the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals appointed Howard Gillingham as its first Federal Defender. Being a newly established office, there was no physical office space when Mr. Gillingham took office in October, 1995.

Soon after taking office, Mr. Gillingham hired an administrative officer who secured temporary office space at the Waters Building in Grand Rapids. Mr. Gillingham thereafter hired two assistant federal public defenders, and the office began accepting appointments in the Southern Division in April of 1996. Cases indicted out of the Northern Division continued to be assigned to CJA Panel Attorneys. In June of 1996, the office moved to its current office space on the third floor of the Trade Center Building at 50 Louis St., N.W., in Grand Rapids. By the end of 1996, the office had also hired an investigator and legal secretary.

In May of 1997, Mr. Gillingham resigned as the Federal Defender. The Sixth Circuit named Henry Martin, the Federal Defender for the Middle District of Tennessee as Acting Defender while a search for a new defender began.

In June or July of 1997, Christopher P. Yates was hired as an assistant Federal Public Defender. Mr. Yates was eventually appointed by the Sixth Circuit as the Federal Public Defender. Mr. Yates was sworn in as the Federal Defender in September, 1998 and served in that capacity until his resignation in March, 2004.

Between Mr. Martin’s interim appointment in May of 1997 and Mr. Yates’ departure, the Grand Rapids office added several positions and a satellite office was opened in Marquette, Michigan. In January 2005, Ray Kent was sworn in as this district’s new Federal Defender. July 31st 2015 Ray Kent left the Federal Defender's office to become a Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan. On August 3rd 2015 First Assistant Sharon Turek was named Interim Defender.