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Mount Clemens — The chief judge and the county prosecutor are at odds over the handling of a clerical task related to probation violation hearings in Macomb County.

Prosecutor Eric Smith declared last February that his office would no longer be responsible for securing summonses to bring defendants to court for probation violation arraignments and bench warrants. Chief Judge John Foster and other court officials have pushed back, saying Smith should follow the procedure his office has performed for decades.

Smith told The Macomb Daily of Mount Clemens that his decision is backed by Michigan Court Rules, which indicate the responsibility belongs to the state. The county prosecutor’s offices in many of the state’s larger counties don’t have to perform the duty, he said.

“There is no reason to spend county taxpayer dollars for doing a state job,” Smith said. “There is no law that says we have to do it pro bono for the state.”

Smith has also cited staffing cutbacks for the move, claiming his office no longer has the capacity to handle the summonses. Foster said he doesn’t feel sympathy for Smith because other county departments, as well as the court, have had to grapple with cutbacks.

“We don’t think that is a valid issue,” Foster told The Macomb Daily. “We have been doing them, but the court is not supposed to do the prosecutor’s job. A probation violation is the People of Michigan against the defendant, and the prosecutor represents the People. We think the prosecutor has the responsibility to represent and protect the People in these cases.”

Although the court handles hundreds of probation violations each year, only about 10 cases require an assistant prosecutor.

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