Michigan standards for court-appointed attorneys survive challenge from Oakland County

As reported in the Lansing State Journal, on November 3, 2017 the Michigan Court of Claims issued an Opinion and Order that dismissed a lawsuit brought by Oakland County against the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission.  The lawsuit raised challenges to the MIDC Act as well as to the MIDC’s implementation of the first standards for indigent defense delivery systems.

Read  the Opinion and Order by Judge Christopher M. Murray that dismissed Oakland County’s lawsuit here.

The full docket entries from the case in the Michigan Court of Claims can be access here.

Coverage of the Court’s decision in the Lansing State Journal can be read here.

All indigent defense delivery systems are required to submit plans for compliance with the MIDC’s first standards no later than November 20, 2017.  Find information about the MIDC’s standards and the application for compliance plans and grant funding on our website.

 

Position Available: MIDC Executive Director

As announced at the October 17, 2017 Commission meeting, Executive Director Jonathan Sacks has accepted a position as Director of the State Appellate Defender Office.  Mr. Sacks will leave the MIDC in January 2018.

The full posting for the MIDC Executive Director position is below.  Applications should be submitted through the State of Michigan’s website: https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/michigan/jobs/1889600/director-midc

Position Available – Executive Director

Michigan Indigent Defense Commission

$92,000 – $133,000 or as set by the Commission

 The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) is looking for qualified applicants to serve as Executive Director. The position is appointed and supervised by the MIDC, and is responsible for developing and overseeing reforms to Michigan’s public defense system consistent with the Michigan indigent defense commission act (Public Act 93 of 2013).

ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Advocating for legislative appropriations required to fund implementation of standards adopted by the MIDC.
  • Reviewing local compliance plans implementing the minimum standards adopted by the MIDC.
  • Researching, developing and drafting new standards and requirements for the provision of indigent defense services in Michigan and presenting these to the MIDC for its approval.
  • Hiring, supervising and directing the personnel of the MIDC.
  • Providing leadership and direction toward the development and achievement of the MIDC’s philosophy, mission, and its immediate and long-term goals and objectives.
  • Leading the MIDC’s effort to preserve, protect, and where appropriate, advance the right to counsel for indigent persons. Enabling the MIDC to identify and establish best practices for delivering the effective assistance of counsel.
  • Developing and maintaining clear, frequent and effective communication with the MIDC, local court funding units, leadership of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, bar associations, associations of lawyers that provide representation to indigent defendants, the media, indigent client population, and the public.
  • Monitoring the use of funds and approving all expenditures. Preparing and presenting the annual budget for approval of the MIDC and submission to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and the Michigan Legislature. Working with legislative committees and leadership to ensure that appropriation requests are procured by the MIDC.
  • Development and implementation of procedures and policies necessary to effectuate Public Act 93 of 2013, including, but not limited to, each of the following:
  • Collecting accurate data from local units of government and other sources. Summarizing the collected data and preparing reports for the MIDC, stakeholders, and the public.
  • Implementing rules and procedures for indigent criminal defense systems to apply to the MIDC for grants to bring a system’s delivery of services into compliance with the minimum standards established by the MIDC.
  • Annually reporting to the Governor, the legislature and the Michigan Supreme Court. Publishing policies, budget, indigent defense data, and other information for the public on the MIDC website.
  • Evaluating local systems’ compliance with approved standards and recommending corrective actions if a system is not in compliance.
  • Establishing procedures for the receipt and resolution of complaints and the implementation of recommendations from the courts, other participants in the criminal justice system, clients and members of the public.

EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE:

A juris doctor degree from an ABA approved school is preferred. Applicants with an advanced degree or experience in public administration, court administration or related administrative field, plus management experience will be considered.

The ideal candidate should have significant experience in the representation of indigent clients, significant commitment to this priority, significant public sector leadership experience and be highly skilled in personnel management, public policy advocacy and budget development.  A demonstrated ability to inspire and lead people is essential.

All applicants must have competent knowledge of Michigan’s criminal justice system and its statutes and rules; the statutes creating the MIDC; and be comfortable working with individuals from a variety of organizations.  Preference given to applicants with knowledge of the issues surrounding indigent defense, Michigan’s system for providing public defense and experience with the legislative process in Michigan. 

WORK LOCATION

Lansing, Michigan with periodic travel throughout the state.

INSTRUCTIONS

            Applications must be submitted through the State of Michigan’s online hiring system. For details and to apply, please see https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/michigan/jobs/1889600/director-midc

All applicants are required to submit a separate, detailed and concise narrative statement addressing each of the following items. These statements will be used to distinguish the best-qualified candidates for the position. Please discuss and explain the following:

  1. Management and/or supervisory experience;
  2. Criminal defense experience and knowledge of Michigan’s criminal system;
  3. Knowledge of the State of Michigan’s appropriations process; and,
  4. Commitment to quality, zealous legal representation to indigent people facing a loss of liberty.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE:           November 30, 2017

 

 

 

MIDC Proposes Standard for Economic Disincentives and Incentives

The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission met on October 17, 2017 and released for comment a standard on economic disincentives and incentives, pursuant to MCL 780.991(2)(b).  The standard is prefaced with language making clear that assigned counsel “must have the time, fees, and resources to provide the effective assistance of counsel guaranteed to indigent criminal defendants by the United States and Michigan Constitutions.”

Read the full text of the proposed standard here.

Download the complete packet of standards here.

Earlier this summer, the MIDC also proposed minimum standards for indigent criminal defense services addressing the need for independence from the judiciary, defender workload limitations, and qualification and review of attorneys accepting assignments in adult criminal cases.  The full text of all of standards can be found on the MIDC’s website.

The MIDC invites all stakeholders in the criminal justice community and the general public to provide feedback on the proposed standards through Februrary 1, 2018.  Comments on the newly proposed standards can be sent to comments@michiganidc.gov or mailed to the MIDC’s Lansing office.

 

Jeffrey Collins Appointed to MIDC

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed Jeffrey Collins of Detroit to the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission.  Collins will serve as a nominee of the Senate Majority Leader and replace Shela Motley.

“I thank Jeffrey for his commitment to ensuring all Michiganders have access to sufficient legal representation,” Snyder said.

Read the Governor’s press release here.

Read about all of the Commissioners on the MIDC’s website.

Innovation Grant Awards in the Latest News from the MIDC

The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission met on July 31st and again in August 15th in an effort to provide resources and information for funding units planning for compliance with the first standards for indigent criminal defense systems.  Every trial court funding unit in Michigan is required to submit a plan for compliance with the first four standards, along with a cost analysis, to the MIDC no later than November 20, 2017. Those first four standards cover training and education of counsel, the initial client interview, use of investigation and experts, and counsel at first appearance and other critical stages. The full text of the standards approved by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs can be found on the MIDC’s website.

The MIDC has published several documents to assist funding units with compliance planning: a detailed application with instructions for completing the form, a guide for submission of compliance plans, cost analyses, and local share calculations, as well as sample plans for a variety of systems to consider. The MIDC’s website has a grants page containing a complete collection of information.

The MIDC’s Regional Managers continue to work statewide to assist with compliance planning. Rebecca Mack, the MIDC’s Grant Manager, will conduct webinar-based application workshops coordinated with each Regional Manager throughout the month of September. All work group members are welcome and invited to attend these sessions. The MIDC’s calendar has information to register for each workshop.

Earlier this summer, the MIDC published three new standards for feedback and comment by stakeholders in the criminal justice system. The next standards address the need for independence from the judiciary, defender workload limitations, and qualification and review of attorneys accepting assignments in adult criminal cases. The comment period remains open until October 6, 2017. The full text of those standards and a link to instructions for submitting comments is available online.

At the August 15, 2017 meeting, the Commission discussed a proposed standard on economic disincentives and incentives.  Dr. Jonah Siegel, the MIDC’s Research Director, explained the challenges in establishing reasonable fees due to a lack of calculation information nationwide and discussed combinations of rates and overhead expenses for potential MIDC required hourly attorney fees.  The standard will be developed further by the Commission this fall and discussed at the October 2017 meeting.  The Commission will invite public comments prior to finalizing the standard.

As part of the MIDC’s mandate to establish best practices for delivering the effective assistance of counsel to indigent defendants charged with crimes, the Commission offered a competitive grant opportunity to fund programs dedicated to improving indigent defense locally and statewide.  Separate from permanent compliance planning, these grants will allow local systems to pursue innovative projects to immediately improve indigent defense. Sixteen applications were received in July for projects that will begin this fall. At the August 15th meeting, the Commission voted to fund the following projects:

  • Allegan/Van Buren Regional Indigent Defense Program (RIDP): To explore an innovative regional model regarding the implementation of a joined/hybrid Public Defender Office to provide Indigent Defense Services;
  • Calhoun County Indigent Defense Intake Study: To identify and develop best practices for the indigent defense intake and reimbursement process to identify the truly indigent, assure integrity of the system and increase compliance with reimbursement orders;
  • Feasibility Study of Multi-County Administration of a Managed Appointment Model for Indigent Defense Services: Study the feasibility of joining Mecosta County with 5 other counties to provide a single administrator to manage each county’s indigent service plan;
  • Feasibility Study for the creation of a Managed Assigned Counsel Model for the 3rd Class District Courts of Macomb County: Study the feasibility of joining with the other 3rd Class District Courts in Macomb County to provide a single administrator to manage each of the district court’s indigent service plan;
  • Assessment of Metropolitan Justice Center State Defender Office (Wayne County) Felony Practice: Obtain the consulting services of The Defender Initiative at Seattle University and its partner The Sixth Amendment Center with the assistance of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association to study SDO’s felony representation.

The grants will be awarded on a one-time basis for projects that will conclude no later than September 2018. Systems will be required to report on progress regularly.

The MIDC will meet next on October 17, 2017 for a regularly scheduled meeting. The Commission meets at 1:00 p.m. in Lansing and all meetings are open to the public. Information about upcoming meetings, or agendas and minutes from prior meetings can be found on our website. We will continue to post progress about our work and any other developments about indigent defense in Michigan on our website as well.

Gov. Snyder Reappoints Michael Puerner to Commission

Governor Rick Snyder has reappointed Michael Puerner of Ada to the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission.

The commission was created as a result of efforts to improve legal representation for low-income criminal defendants. In October 2011, Snyder issued Executive Order 2011-12, establishing the initial Indigent Defense Advisory Commission, responsible for recommending improvements to the state’s legal system. These recommendations served as the basis for legislation to address this need, as well as called for the 15-member Indigent Defense Commission that the governor signed into law in July 2013.

“I thank Michael for his continued commitment to ensuring all Michiganders have access to legal representation,” Snyder said.

Puerner is the vice president, secretary, and general counsel of Hastings Mutual Insurance Company.  He is secretary of the Hastings Mutual Insurance Company Charitable Foundation and chair of the Insurance Alliance of Michigan.  Puerner holds a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Northwestern University and a law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School. He will continue to serve as a nominee of the Senate Majority Leader.

Puerner will serve a four-year term expiring April 1, 2021.

Read the full press release here.

Gov. Rick Snyder makes appointment, reappointment to the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission

Gov. Rick Snyder announced the appointment of Joseph Haveman of Holland as well as the reappointment of Thomas McMillin of Rochester Hills to the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission.

The commission was created as a result of efforts to improve legal representation for low-income criminal defendants. In October 2011, Snyder issued Executive Order 2011-12, establishing the initial Indigent Defense Advisory Commission responsible for recommending improvements to the state’s legal system. These recommendations served as the basis for legislation to address this need as well as called for the 15-member Indigent Defense Commission that the governor signed into law in July 2013.

“I’d like to thank these individuals for their commitment to ensuring all Michiganders receive the legal representation they deserve,” Snyder said.

Read the full press release here.

MIDC Summer 2017 Update

The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission met on June 20, 2017.  In addition to a full business agenda, the Commission received a report from staff regarding system reform efforts statewide.  The MIDC has published several documents to assist with compliance planning for the first four standards for indigent criminal defense systems which were approved by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) this spring.  Those first four standards cover training and education of counsel, the initial client interview, use of investigation and experts, and counsel at first appearance and other critical stages.  Every court funding unit in Michigan is required to submit a plan for compliance with the first four standards for indigent defense, along with a cost analysis, to the MIDC no later than November 20, 2017.

The full text of the approved standards can be found on the MIDC’s website.  This link includes the first four standards as well as the next set of proposed minimum standards for indigent criminal defense services.  These next standards address the need for independence from the judiciary, defender workload limitations, and qualification and review of attorneys accepting assignments in adult criminal cases.  The MIDC is also finalizing a proposed standard on economic disincentives and incentives which will be published later this year for comment.  Systems are encouraged to look at the next standards when planning for compliance, and consider the feasibility of larger scale system reform.

Resources that are helpful for compliance planning include:

  • A Guide for Submission of Compliance Plans, Cost Analyses, and Local Share Calculations, designed to answer questions from funding units to prepare documents to submit to the MIDC, available here.
  • Answers to the most frequently asked questions from funding units, in a shorter handout form, available on the MIDC’s “helpful information” tab on the standards page.
  • Regional Managers are on staff to provide direction and guidance to indigent defense delivery systems around the state on compliance with MIDC-enacted standards.  See the MIDC’s website for the managers assigned to a particular region on this map.
  • Systems interested in large scale reform such as creating a public defender office or a managed assigned counsel system will want to review the MIDC’s guide, Delivery System Reform Models: Planning Improvements in Public Defense, available online on our resources page.
  • Stakeholders should review white papers prepared for each of the first four standards describing background information as well as details for implementing each standard.
  • A report detailing the progress in Huron County piloting a counsel at first appearance project is available on the MIDC’s website along with other reports from data collection.

The Commission has announced the availability of limited grant funds for local governments that fund trial courts to initiate projects that address best practices, improvements, or innovations to the local delivery of indigent defense services.  Grants will be awarded up to $80,000 for one year beginning October 1, 2017.  Separate from permanent compliance planning, these grants allow for local governments to pursue innovative projects to immediately improve indigent defense.  Read the announcement and all of the latest news on the MIDC’s website.

In 2016, the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission gathered basic information from attorneys on their experiences in indigent defense.  The responses that we received documented the prevalence of inadequate compensation in indigent defense systems across the state.  That report is now published on the MIDC’s website: Attorney Perspectives on Michigan’s Criminal Indigent Defense System: A Report of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (June 2017).

As a follow up, the MIDC is seeking more in-depth information about attorney compensation and costs.  ALL CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEYS are asked to take approximately 10 minutes to provide this valuable information to the MIDC no later than July 3, 2017.  These experiences will directly inform the development of the MIDC’s proposed Standard 8, Economic Disincentives or Incentives.  The MIDC is interested in perspectives even if attorneys do not currently take or never have taken court-appointed cases.  All responses are ANONYMOUS.  The survey can be accessed here.

he 2016 survey of defense attorneys also revealed concerns over the case assignment process and a lack of independence from the judiciary.  The concerns led the MIDC’s Research Unit to investigate the distribution of case assignments across circuit courts in Michigan to assess the prevalence of imbalance in the assignment process.  Eight circuits were selected for the study, which revealed that the majority of courts examined do not consistently appoint attorneys on a balanced rotational basis even when their assignment processes appear, on paper, to be independent and fair:  “In some instances, there are extreme differences between the top and bottom portion of attorneys accepting cases.”  That research brief is available on the MIDC’s website.

The MIDC will meet next on July 31, 2017 for a special additional meeting in advance of compliance plan deadlines.  The Commission meets at 1:00 p.m. in Lansing and all meetings are open to the public.  Information about upcoming meetings, or agendas and minutes from prior meetings can be found here.  We will continue to post progress about our work and any other developments about indigent defense in Michigan on our website as well.

Contact:

Marla McCowan

Director of Training, Outreach & Support

MIDC Releases Guide for Compliance Planning and Offers Innovation Grants in 2017

At the June 20, 2017 Commission meeting, the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission released a guide to submission of compliance plans to meet minimum standards.  The Commission also announced the availability of limited grant funds for local governments that fund trial courts to initiate projects that address best practices, improvements, or innovations to the local delivery of indigent defense services.  Grants will be awarded up to $80,000 for one year beginning October 1, 2017.  Separate from permanent compliance planning, these grants allow for local governments to pursue innovative projects to immediately improve indigent defense.

Read the MIDC’s Guide for Submission of Compliance Plans, Cost Analyses, and Local Share Calculations.

Additional helpful information for funding units can be found on our standards page, here.

Read the Innovation Grants announcement and see the application here. As a convenience, a Microsoft Word version of the application is here.  Applications must be submitted no later than July 28, 2017 to opportunities@michiganidc.gov.

For more information about grants from the MIDC, see our grants page.

MIDC Compensation Survey for Criminal Defense Attorneys

Calling ALL Criminal Defense Attorneys: Take our Survey by July 3rd

In 2016, the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission gathered basic information from attorneys on their experiences in indigent defense.  The responses that we received documented the prevalence of inadequate compensation in indigent defense systems across the state.  As a follow up, we are seeking more in-depth information about attorney compensation and costs.

ALL CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEYS are asked to take approximately 10 minutes to provide this valuable information to the MIDC.  Your experiences will directly inform the development of our proposed Standard 8, Economic Disincentives or Incentives.  We are interested in your perspective even if you do not currently take or never have taken court-appointed cases.

All responses are ANONYMOUS. The survey can be completed below, or accessed here.

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