Woman signing legal papers

Can I Fire My Court-Appointed Public Defender?

Whether on TV or in movies, almost everyone has heard the phrase “If you can not afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to you.”

This is one of the most fundamental aspects of our judicial system — everyone is entitled to representation regardless of their income or ability to pay. However, it’s important that you understand the difference between a court-appointed public defender and a private attorney.

Which is Better: Public Defender vs. Private Attorney

Getting a say in who defends you.

Court-appointed attorneys are just that — court-appointed. This means you will have no say in who takes your case. A private attorney, however, is hired by you. This gives you the opportunity to speak with different lawyers and choose who you feel is best fit to represent you.

Caseloads and workflow.

Public defenders are notoriously overworked. With many handling dozens, if not hundreds, of different cases, they may not have the necessary amount of time required to really tackle your case. But because a private attorney never has to take a case, they’re in better control of their workload. If a private attorney agrees to take your case, it’s because they have the time needed to provide you with a quality defense.

Resources available to them.

In addition to overall caseloads, public defenders are also overworked because they often do not have a team assisting them. With every aspect of the job resting on their shoulders, it can be tough to manage everything. However, private attorneys often have a team in-house that assists in your case. When facing serious criminal charges, you want a team standing behind you.

Real-world experience.

Though not always, most court-appointed attorneys are relatively young in their careers and lack the experience needed when handling more sensitive cases.

With over 50 years of combined experience, the attorneys at Rodenhouse Law Group have provided quality service to those in the Grand Rapids area for years.


With so many cases to handle, getting in touch with your public defender can sometimes be very difficult. However, part of what makes a team so valuable is that someone is always available to answer your questions.

The ability to request a new lawyer.

As we mentioned above, court-appointed attorneys are assigned cases by the state. If you don’t like your lawyer and want to request a new public defender, the process can be very difficult (however, you can fire a public defender and replace them with a private attorney without the court’s approval).

In order to receive a new court-appointed attorney, you must prove:

  • Your Constitutional right (via the Sixth Amendment) to effective council is jeopardized by your current lawyer.
  • You and your public defender have such severe irreconcilable differences that you will not receive effective representation.

The Purpose of a “Marsden Hearing”

If you wish to remove your attorney, you’ll have to request a Marsden Hearing. During this time, a judge will listen to a defendant describe the reasons why he or she believes their counsel is not qualified or able to defend them. Then, the judge will question the defendant and the attorney before coming to a final decision.

The judge’s ruling must be based on the information presented during the Marsden Hearing and can’t be influenced by the judge’s personal opinion of the attorney or the attorney’s previous courtroom conduct.

Criminal charges are not to be handled lightly in Michigan, and you deserve an attentive and aggressive criminal defense lawyer on your side to defend against any unfair or false accusations. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today. Call (616) 344-5066 or fill out an online contact form here.