Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Seeking Public Comment on Minimum Standards

The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) issued a press release reflecting that the MIDC submitted the first set of standards for indigent defense delivery systems:

The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC), now housed in the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), has submitted proposed standards to LARA and is seeking public comment on the first set of minimum standards for indigent defense delivery systems. The minimum standards involve education and training, the initial client interview, experts and investigators, and counsel at first appearance and other critical stages in front of a judge. Following a public comment period, LARA Director Shelly Edgerton will thoroughly review the information provided and make a decision on whether to approve the standards.

Comments on the standards can be submitted to the MIDC until March 9, 2017.

Read the standards on the MIDC’s website along with comments previously submitted.

Read the press release issued by LARA here.

MIDC Awarded Federal Grant for Social Worker Sentencing Project

A informational sheet about this project is available to download here.

With funding and support from the U.S Department of Justice, the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) has partnered with the Urban Institute to examine the impact of social worker involvement in the public defense representation of adults facing criminal charges. The goal of the Social Worker Sentencing Project is to reduce incarceration rates by lowering prison sentences for specified felony defendants in favor of appropriate community alternatives, and decrease recidivism through the increased use of treatment and educational programs. To do so, the MIDC and the Urban Institute will engage in the following three steps:

1) Embed social workers to act as client advocates in two diverse Michigan indigent defense systems—a non-profit public defender office in Kent County (Grand Rapids) and a private assigned counsel system in Genesee County (Flint);

2) Assess SWSP implementation and effectiveness through intensive process and impact evaluation activities guided by an action research framework; and

3) Develop a program manual to increase practitioners’ knowledge of social workers as a resource for indigent defense, and to guide replication and enhance sustainability

The project will run from 2017 through 2019. The MIDC and the Urban Institute will collaborate with national experts with many decades of experience practicing, implementing, and measuring the effects of social work in indigent defense to guide program design, implementation, and evaluation.  As the first effort to measure from a social science perspective the impact of social workers in trial-level criminal indigent defense in Michigan, the project aims to develop solutions that help improve the provision of indigent defense across the state and more broadly.  The program will complement efforts already in place in Michigan like the pioneering partnerships of the Muskegon County Public Defender’s Office with social workers.

Read more about this project here.

Governor Signs Legislation Improving Michigan’s Indigent Criminal Defense System

Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation to ensure the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission meets state constitutional obligations and maintains independence from the judiciary while continuing its work to maintain a fair indigent criminal defense system in Michigan.  Pursuant to a series of amendments to the 2013 enabling legislation, the MIDC is now housed within the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.  Governor Snyder issued a press release after signing the legislation:

“Ensuring that every Michigander has access to affordable and competent legal counsel is critical to our public defense system and our democracy,” Snyder said. “These bills help us continue to make sure those who have been accused of crimes receive the fair and capable legal representation they are guaranteed under the Constitution.”

Read the Governor’s full press release here.

Find information about the legislation on the Michigan Legislature’s website.

MIDC Update – December 2016

Update and Answers to Frequently Asked Questions, prepared by Commission Staff

December 2016 (updated January 5, 2017)

Download this message in .pdf format here.

We are pleased to provide these updates to the public, which includes information about amendments to our enabling statute, a new resource that the MIDC published for planning delivery system reform, a career posting for a Regional Manager position and the date of an upcoming Commission meeting.

Amendments to Enabling Legislation

During the fall of 2016, a series of bills were introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan Senate to amend the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Act and related statutory provisions.  The primary legislative amendments (1) move the MIDC from the Judicial Branch to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA); (2) clarify the definition of local systems as trial court funding units; and (3) require LARA to approve proposed minimum standards for indigent defense and specifies that these minimum standards should not infringe on Supreme Court authority.  A companion bill was introduced in the Senate to amend the Administrative Procedures Act to make clear that the MIDC standards are not part of the APA’s rule making process.  The primary bills amending the MIDC Act passed in the House on September 22, 2016 and were unanimously approved by the Senate on December 14, 2016.  The legislation is awaiting the Governor’s signature at the time of this writing.  A detailed description of House Bills 5842-5846 and Senate Bill 1109 can be found on the Michigan Legislature’s website.

Update: Governor Snyder signed the legislation on January 4, 2017.

·         Why did the MIDC Act need to be amended?

The Michigan Supreme Court conditionally approved the first set of standards for indigent defense delivery systems in Michigan on June 1, 2016.  The Court conditioned this approval on legislative revisions to the MIDC Act to address certain constitutional questions implicated by the statute.  These questions involved the placement of the MIDC within the judicial branch, separation of powers concerns, and the authority to regulate the legal profession.  The Commission worked closely with the Governor’s Office and the Supreme Court as the amending legislation was developed and introduced.  It is anticipated that amendments resolve the constitutional concerns raised in the Supreme Court’s Order.

·         What happened to the MIDC’s first four conditionally approved standards?

In 2015, the MIDC proposed four initial standards for indigent defense delivery systems to address: training and education of counsel, the initial client interview, use of investigation and experts, and counsel at first appearance and other critical stages.  Both the MIDC and the Michigan Supreme Court held public hearings on the first four minimum standards and changes were made to those standards reflecting concerns expressed at those hearings.  The Standards are set forth in detail on the MIDC’s website.  The MIDC discussed the changes made by the Michigan Supreme Court in the June 1, 2016 Order and formally adopted those changes during the MIDC’s regularly scheduled meeting on December 20, 2016.  At that meeting the MIDC also voted to submit those first four standards to LARA pursuant to the process detailed through the legislative amendments.  That submission will occur in January, after the Governor signs the legislation.

·         When will the indigent defense delivery systems have to comply with the standards?

Systems are required to submit a plan for complying with the standards within 180 days after they are formally approved.  MCL 780.993(3).  The approval process has shifted from Supreme Court approval to Department (LARA) approval as detailed in the legislative amendments.  Approval from LARA has not happened yet, so as of this writing the timeframe has not started running.  The MIDC anticipates that the 180-day clock will begin to run in 2017.

·         Do systems have to comply with the Standards?

All indigent defense delivery systems must submit a plan for compliance with the standards enacted by the MIDC.  See M.C.L. 780.993.  Compliance will then depend upon state funding.

·         How much will it cost local systems to comply with the standards?

The MIDC Act makes clear that counties will not have to pay additional funds for compliance.  The counties are only required to maintain their “local share”, which is the average annual expenditure for indigent adult criminal trial defense services in the 3 fiscal years prior to the MIDC Act (July 1, 2013) excluding money reimbursed to the system by individuals determined to be partially indigent.  See MCL 780.983.  Any amount of money needed to comply with the standards above the local share will be part of a grant request submitted with a compliance plan.  The funds will be provided by the State and distributed to systems through grants administered by the MIDC.  If the grant funds are not provided to the systems, then compliance with the standards is not required.  See MCL 780.993.

·         What about systems that want to go beyond implementing just the first four standards?

Each county will select its desired indigent defense delivery method, and multiple models ranging from a defender office, an assigned counsel list, contract attorneys, or a mix of systems will be available.  The MIDC’s responsibility and authority is to work with the counties and courts to ensure compliance with minimum standards, not to select a particular system.  The MIDC has been contacted by several systems interested in improving their models for delivering indigent defense – for example, by setting up a public defender office.  The MIDC is pleased to offer a guide for consultation, Delivery System Reform Models: Planning Improvements in Public Defense (December 2016).  This resource is available on the MIDC’s website.

·         How can systems start planning for compliance now?

The MIDC has Regional Managers on staff to provide direction and guidance to indigent defense delivery systems around the state on compliance with MIDC-enacted standards. They serve as liaisons between local systems and the MIDC.  The Regional Managers have been working in every county in Michigan in the past year, learning about local systems and gathering information and ideas for complying with standards.  They have answers to all of the most common questions, they can provide technical information about how to determine spending on indigent defense, and they are prepared to offer practical solutions for compliance to maximize the impact of improvements.  All stakeholders are welcome to contact the Regional Managers to discuss the standards and how to implement them locally.  See the MIDC’s website for the managers assigned to a particular region.

·         Does the MIDC have any positions available?

The MIDC is currently accepting applications for the staff position of Regional Manager for the region covering Lapeer, Macomb, Oakland and St. Clair Counties.  Please see the MIDC’s website for more information about this career opportunity, including the full job posting and application submission requirements.

·         How can I learn more about the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission?

The MIDC will meet on February 21, 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.

 

Contact:

Marla McCowan

Director of Training, Outreach and Support

mmccowan@michiganidc.gov

(517) 657-3066

MIDC Amendments Approved by Senate

On Wednesday December 14, 2016 the Michigan Senate unanimously approved legislation that amends the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Act, and re-establishes the MIDC in the Executive Branch and within the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.  The amendments provide that minimum standards created by the commission must not infringe on the Supreme Court’s authority over practice and procedure.

The bill analysis from the Senate Fiscal Agency is here.

House Bill 5842 passed 37-0 in the Senate.

House Bill 5843 passed 37-0 in the Senate.

House Bill 5844 passed 37-0 in the Senate.

House Bill 5845 passed 37-0 in the Senate.

House Bill 5846 passed 37-0 in the Senate.

 

 

 

 

Gov. Snyder Appoints Derek King to MIDC

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed Derek King, of Ceresco, to the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission.  Mr. King will represent local units of government, pursuant to MCL 780.987(1)(k).

“Derek has experience in a variety of fields and his dedication to community service will be an asset to the commission,” Snyder said.

Read the full press release here.

Read about all of the Commissioners here.

Indigent Defense Bills Clear House

As reported in Gongwer, on Thursday September 22, 2016 the Michigan House of Representatives passed bills that would re-establish the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission within the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which is in the executive branch.  The bills also state minimum standards created by the commission must not infringe on the Supreme Court’s authority over practice and procedure. They would take immediate effect under changes adopted on the floor.

HB 5842 passed 100-7.

HB 5843 passed 101-6.

HB 5844 passed 100-7.

HB 5845 passed 101-6.

HB 5846 passed 100-7.

Read the full report in Gongwer here.

 

Bills Introduced to Amend MIDC Act

On September 8, 2016, State Legislators introduced a package of bills to amend the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Act of 2013.  The bills are available to review here:

HB 5842

HB 5843

HB 5844

HB 5845

HB 5846

Track the progress of these bills at www.michiganlegislature.org.

Latest News from the MIDC

Summer 2016 Update

To see images associated with this message click here.

The Michigan Supreme Court conditionally approved the first set of standards for indigent defense delivery systems in Michigan on June 1, 2016.  The Court conditioned this approval on legislative revision of the MIDC Act to address certain constitutional questions implicated by the statute.  These questions involve the placement of the MIDC within the judicial branch, separation of powers concerns, and the authority to regulate the legal profession.  The MIDC has been working with the Governor and Supreme Court to develop a solution.

Staff and Regional Consultants continue to collaborate with State Court Administrative Office Regional Administrators and county governments as stakeholders evaluate the conditionally approved standards, addressing: 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 conditionally approved by the Supreme Court can be found on the MIDC’s website.

Over the past year, the criminal defense community has reached out to the MIDC for resources and support that can be provided to appointed counsel.  Other stakeholders have also made specific complaints about indigent defense practice and process.  The most common question that the MIDC receives is about increasing fees to attorneys for their work on assigned cases.  In April 2016, the MIDC began drafting the next set of standards for indigent defense delivery systems in Michigan, and the MIDC will be addressing financial incentives and disincentives in compensating assigned counsel in future standards and pursuant to the MIDC Act.  However, the MIDC continues to receive complaints about attorney fees.  The Commission has recently published a position paper on fees aimed at all stakeholders in the criminal justice system.  Attorneys are encouraged to read the position paper when requesting reasonable fees in assigned cases, while trial court administrators and judges may use the document as a resource for evaluating these requests.  The position paper is on the MIDC’s website.

Attorneys and other stakeholders also inquire about the process for formally submitting complaints about fee issues and other areas involving indigent defense.  The MIDC has a “Recommendations & Complaints” committee, which approved a form for submitting complaints to the Commission pursuant to MCL 780.989(1)(e).  All criminal justice stakeholders including indigent clients and members of the public may submit a complaint or recommendation.  You can find the form on the contact page of the MIDC website.  The form itself is simple but helps identify specific problems for the committee, and it is a process-based approach to problem solving whenever possible.  The MIDC Staff is not in a position to accept complaints through community based networks or other informal means, and is not authorized to respond on behalf of the Commission to individual complaints made in public or private forums.  Complaints received through the form based-process will be forwarded to the MIDC complaints and recommendations committee and will be formally responded to with steps outlined for further action by the Commission as needed.

The MIDC will meet on August 9, 2016 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.

 

Michigan Supreme Court Conditionally Approves Indigent Defense Standards

LANSING, MI –The Michigan Supreme Court conditionally approved the first set of standards proposed by the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) in an Administrative Order issued June 1, 2016.

The initial standards address some of the major problems Michigan faces in the delivery of adequate indigent defense systems:  training and education of counsel, the initial client interview, use of investigation and experts, and counsel at first appearance and other critical stages.

Each local indigent criminal defense delivery system working with the State Court Administrative Office will now submit its compliance plan to the MIDC and the agency will work with the legislature to secure funding for those plans.

In April, the MIDC approved the subjects of the next set of standards: independence from the judiciary, caseloads, attorney qualifications and review, and reasonable fees.

Read the Michigan Supreme Court’s press release here.