June, 2013

As activity continues to mount on reform of Michigan's public defense system, we will continue to provide updates to our readers.  These updates will include those addressing attorney fees.

On July 1, 2013, Governor Snyder signed Public Acts 93 and 94 of 2013 and the process of reforming Michigan’s indigent defense system began.  The acts establish the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, which will be responsible for creating and enforcing consistent indigent defense standards throughout the state.  The standards will be based on the “Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System” which have been adopted by the State Bar of Michigan.

We have made it over the first hurdle – the legislation was approved by both the House and the Senate and has been signed.  Now the work begins!  Over the coming months Governor Snyder will name members of the commission from lists created by a variety of groups including the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, the Michigan Judges Association, the Michigan District Judges Association, the State Bar of Michigan, the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, the Majority Leaders for both the House and Senate, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and a representative from a minority bar association.  No member of the commission can be compensated for working as a prosecutor or providing indigent defense while on the commission.

Once the commission members are named, the commission will hire an executive director and then the process of creating and implementing the new standards will begin.  At the bill signing, Governor Snyder stated that additional funding would be necessary and that he anticipated funding to be included in the budget for the next fiscal year.  To enable the commission to start its work, the Governor said he would consider a supplemental appropriation to the current year’s budget.

It’s so exciting to have the legislation enacted.  I’m so thankful to the many people who have worked so hard for so long to accomplish this.  I hope that you will continue to watch the Campaign’s Twitter feed (@Working4Justice) and we will post on Facebook (www.facebook.com/mijustice) as the commission begins its work.  You can also check our website at www.mijustice.org.

by Marcela Westrate
Interim Executive Director
Campaign for Justice

Marcela Westrate joined the Campaign in 2012 and currently serves as its Executive Director. Prior to joining the Campaign, Marcela worked for the Michigan House of Representatives and served as the lead analyst for the Democratic Caucus on Judiciary and Corrections issues. Marcela has a bachelor's degree in Environmental and Natural Resource Policy Studies from Michigan State University and a law degree from Michigan State University Detroit College of Law.