Public Hearing on Indigent Defense Standards Available Online

On May 18, 2016, the Michigan Supreme Court held a public hearing on whether to incorporate the first set of minimum standards for indigent defense delivery systems submitted by the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission on January 4, 2016.  The video recording from that public hearing is now available online.

Watch the video of the public hearing.

Comments on the MIDC Standards begin at approximately the 26:30 mark.

Pursuant to MCL 780.985(3), the Michigan Supreme Court has until July 2, 2016 to adopt the standards submitted by the Commission.

Michigan Supreme Court to Hold Public Hearing on Indigent Defense Standards

The Michigan Supreme Court has announced information about the public hearing to be held on administrative matters before the Court.  The public hearing will be held on Wednesday May 18, 2016 beginning promptly at 12:30 p.m. and will end no later than 2:30 p.m.  The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission’s first standards for indigent defense delivery systems will be part of the Court’s agenda.  The Court will broadcast the hearing through a live streaming video service.

Read the media release about the public hearing here.

View the live streaming hearing here beginning at 12:20 p.m. on May 18, 2016.

Read the first proposed standards for indigent defense delivery systems here.

Latest News from the MIDC

April 2016 Update

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The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission met on Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in the MIDC Office in Lansing, Michigan.  The first proposed standards for indigent defense delivery systems remain pending in the Michigan Supreme Court, with the comment period continuing until May 1, 2016 and the public hearing on the first standards set for May 18, 2016.  In the meantime, the Commission is moving forward by connecting our Regional Consultants with stakeholders in the criminal justice system, creating a process in anticipation of implementing the first proposed standards statewide, and developing the next standards in our efforts to drastically improve the representation for poor people charged with crimes in Michigan.

The MIDC is pleased to report that the Regional Consultants have met with practitioners, court administrators and judges in nearly every county.  The initial meetings have been critical to talk through the first standards and acquire information about spending on indigent defense.  In many meetings the local systems have shared information about ideas for compliance.  Court administrators and attorneys have also identified where standards are already being met, and in some cases have organized meetings to create preliminary outlines for compliance plans where significant change needs to occur.  Once the standards are adopted by the Michigan Supreme Court, the statute provides only 180 days for systems to submit compliance plans to the MIDC, and 60 days for the Commission to approve those plans thereafter.  All of these early discussions have provided valuable information to shape the process for compliance, and should make the workload easier when the first standards are approved.

The Commission’s work is informed through these meetings with courts and practitioners, as well as through the data collection mandated by the MIDC Act.  In February, the Commission released a report of its first survey to measure the delivery of criminal justice for indigent defense reform in Michigan entitled Snapshot of Indigent Defense Representation in Michigan’s Adult Criminal Courts: The MIDC’S First Survey of Local Court Systems.  The report has been discussed in national conversations about indigent defense reform and can be downloaded for review on the MIDC website.  The MIDC also recently completed its first survey of criminal defense attorneys in Michigan, designed to gather data about their assigned cases and learn how we can work together to improve indigent defense statewide.  Much like the court system survey, the attorney survey sought information about continuing legal education requirements, confidentiality of space for attorney client meetings in courts and jails, using experts and investigators in practice, and recommendations for prioritizing the next standards to be proposed by the MIDC.  The MIDC is producing a report summarizing those survey findings, which will be prepared and posted on the MIDC’s website by this summer.

Data collection and meetings have fortified the Commission’s priorities for the next standards to be proposed this year.  The next standards will address financial incentives and disincentives in compensating assigned counsel, caseload capacities, qualification and review of attorneys eligible for assignments, and independence from the judiciary.  Like the first standards, these requirements are derived from the MIDC Act, constitutional principles, or nationally accepted models for delivering public defense services.  The process for proposing the standards will begin through drafts created by MIDC Committees and will be circulated among the Commission as a whole later this spring.  The MIDC Act requires a public hearing prior to submitting the standards to the Michigan Supreme Court, which will be planned for later this year.  The MIDC is committed to being as transparent as possible in this process and encourages feedback from all members of the criminal justice community.

The MIDC continues to move forward with plans for system-wide reform, and in 2016 will add to the foundation necessary to implement improvement to indigent defense in Michigan.  This will be accomplished by collaborating with courts and practitioners and seeking appropriations to provide systems with the necessary resources to adequately fund public defense.  Governor Snyder recently reappointed John Shea, Brandy Robinson, Frank Eaman and William Swor to the Commission; all four will serve terms that expire April 1, 2020.  Information about Commissioners is available on the MIDC’s website.

The Commission will next meet on June 21, 2016.  Information about all upcoming meetings 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.  To schedule a meeting with your Regional Consultant, please see the contact information on the MIDC’s website or contact us directly.


Governor Makes Re-Appointments to Commission

On April 13, 2016, Governor Snyder announced in a press release that Frank Eaman, Brandy Robinson, William Swor and John Shea have been re-appointed to serve on the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission:

“A key principle of the judicial system is that every citizen has a right to competent legal counsel,” Snyder said. “I am confident these members will continue to serve our state well on this commission.”

Read the entire press release here and find out more about all of the Commissioners on the MIDC’s website.


Comment Period for Standards Ends May 1st

On January 11, 2016 the Michigan Supreme Court issued a news release about the proposed minimum standards being published for public comment, together with Administrative Order 2016-xx:

On order of the Court, this is to advise that the Court is considering adoption of an administrative order that would establish minimum standards for appointed counsel as proposed by the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission. Before determining whether the proposal should be adopted, changed before adoption, or rejected, this notice is given to afford interested persons the opportunity to comment on the form or the merits of the proposal or to suggest alternatives.  The Court welcomes the views of all. This matter also will be considered at a public hearing.

View the entire Administrative Order on the Michigan Supreme Court’s website.  The Court will post the notice and agenda for the public hearing on the Administrative Matters & Court Rules Page.

The comment period expires on May 1, 2016.  Comments will be posted on the Michigan Supreme Court’s website.

Commission Seeks Standards for Court Appointed Defense Lawyers in Michigan

In an interview with Michigan Radio, 55th District Court Judge Tomas Boyd of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission discussed the first set of proposed minimum standards for indigent defense delivery systems that are currently pending in the Michigan Supreme Court as well as findings from a court system survey conducted by the Commission that was released in February:

“There are 111 district courts within those 83 counties, 58 circuit courts, each of them has a different way to do this,” said Boyd. “There is no consistency across the system. So what the legislature intends to do, and what Gov. Rick Snyder intends to do, is to establish a layer of minimum standards that every system needs to rise up to.”

The entire interview is online and available for listening on Michigan Radio’s website.



Survey: Poor Don’t Get Adequate Defense in Michigan Courts

The Detroit Free Press is reporting on the findings of a recent Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Survey:

The report by the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission is the first comprehensive statewide survey on the defense of poor people, said the commission. It found wide variations in how indigent people are represented across the state, with only 6%  of district courts requiring an attorney at both the bail hearing and at arraignment. And only 15% have guidelines for continuing legal education standards for attorneys appointed to represent the needy.

The Detroit Free Press article quotes from Commissioners Frank Eaman, Brandy Robinson and William Swor about the work of the MIDC.

Read the entire article on the Detroit Free Press website.

MIDC Executive Director Delivers Progress Report

Jonathan Sacks, the Executive Director of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, was part of a recent breakout session at a symposium at the University of Michigan Law School on February 19-20 titled, “Innocent Until Proven Poor, Fighting the Criminalization of Poverty,” sponsored by the Michigan Journal of Race and Law.

Frank Weir of the Legal News reported on the session.  Sacks gave an overview of the recent history of indigent defense in Michigan and the work of the Commission:

“Our permanent commission seeks to have the state meet its Sixth Amendment obligations,” Sacks said.  He noted that the commission has begun to address the three concerns by conducting research to see how big the problem is; develop minimum standards so all counties have the same understanding of what is required for adequate indigent defense; and “the state then needs to step in and start funding county compliance plans with the minimum standards.”

Read the entire article at the Legal News.


Research Director Describes Survey Results

In a recent post for the National Association for Public Defense, MIDC Research Director Dr. Jonah Siegel discusses the work of the Commission in collecting data, our first survey of court systems, and how the results will be used to improve indigent defense statewide.

[T]he MIDC’s first research task was to survey all circuit and district courts in the state to gather basic information on the representation of indigent adult criminal defendants in their systems. Survey questions addressed the extent to which local public defense systems currently engage in evidence-based practices that have been identified nationally as characterizing representation that is high-quality and effective. The survey also intended to shed light on process. Since data on indigent defense representation have never been comprehensively and consistently collected in Michigan, data collection provided critical insight to the MIDC into how to most effectively connect with stakeholders to gather accurate information. The results will be used by the MIDC to inform the development of statewide minimum standards and to guide the implementation of standards in each local jurisdiction.

To read the full post, please see the NAPD’s website.

To read the entire survey report, click here.

Recommendations Proposed to Help Indigent Defendants

In a recent interview with WLNS, MIDC member Judge Thomas Boyd discussed the first set of proposed minimum standards for indigent defense delivery systems currently pending before the Michigan Supreme Court.  The first standards involve training for public defenders, more confidential spaces for attorney-client meetings, more effective use of investigators, and, faster assignments to counsel.

“Not only does the Michigan constitution, the United States constitution say you have the right to effective assistance to counsel, but it just makes sense in terms of making sure that a just result comes from each case,” Boyd said.

See the interview at the WLNS website.