Michigan Indigent Defense Commission

The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission held a business meeting and first ever public hearing on the initial set of proposed minimum standards for indigent defense delivery systems on August 18, 2015 at the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley School of Law.  On that date, attendees at the Lansing, Grand Rapids and Auburn Hills Campuses were able to provide the Commissioners with feedback about the proposed standards, offer support, and suggest modifications for change.  This public hearing was a critical step prior to the standards being submitted to the Michigan Supreme Court as set forth in the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Act.  The MIDC is extremely grateful for the generosity of the WMU Cooley Law School in donating space to the Commission to conduct this meeting which allowed for remote participation in Grand Rapids and Auburn Hills by interested parties.  Full coverage of the public hearing can be found on our website via the Lansing State Journal.

Since that public hearing, the subcommittees of Commissioners and MIDC staff have returned to work on the language of the proposed standards, which will again be made available to the public prior to the next business meeting of the Commission in October.  All comments submitted continue to be considered by the Commission.  Anyone wishing to provide additional commentary on the standards may do so by electronic mail to info@michiganidc.gov or U.S. Mail to 200 N. Washington Square, Lansing, MI 48933.  Comments will continue to be posted to our website as they are received for review by the public.

MIDC staff visited bar associations and other stakeholders around the state prior to the public hearing, with presentations to groups and attorneys from the Michigan District Judges Association, Wayne, Berrien, Kent, Muskegon, Saginaw, Roscommon, Oscoda, Crawford, Isabella, Chippewa and Marquette and Antrim Counties, and since the hearing in Ottawa.  Jonathan Sacks presented at Criminal Advocacy Program in Wayne County on September 11, 2015, and he will serve on a panel at the State Bar of Michigan Annual Meeting on October 9, 2015, and will provide an update on the activities of the MIDC at the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan conference in Traverse City on November 13, 2015.  If you would like a staff member to speak to your local bar association or group of attorneys, or if you would like to come to our office and speak to the MIDC staff about any questions or concerns, please contact Marla McCowan, Director of Training, Outreach and Support, at the address or telephone number below.

The MIDC staff moved into permanent space in early September.  We are on the third floor of the Capitol National Bank Building in downtown Lansing.  Our new space will have offices for the MIDC staff members, and will have a conference room to accommodate our bi-monthly Commission meetings and educational events hosted by the Commission and staff.  The core group of staff has been in temporary space on the fourth floor of the Capitol National Bank Building since we started our work late last winter; we are looking forward to settling in to our permanent space and moving ahead with the work on the standards and data collection to improve indigent defense statewide.  To assist with this work, the MIDC will be using carry over funding from prior fiscal years for contracts with regional managers to help implement our first set of standards.

The first comprehensive survey of indigent defense in Michigan has already received over 120 responses from Michigan Circuit and District Court administrators.  The MIDC intends to publish a report reporting the results this fall.

In our efforts to accomplish our mission through collaboration, transparency and accessibility to all partners in the criminal justice community, the MIDC’s new Freedom of Information Act policy has been placed on our website.  Pursuant to the MIDC Act, both the Freedom of Information Act and the open meetings act apply to our agency.  The MIDC’s FOIA policy details how to submit a request and the process for how a request will be responded to, along with other relevant information.  Please see the MIDC website for the complete policy, and contact the FOIA coordinator at foia@michiganidc.gov with any related questions or concerns.

The MIDC was pleased to be invited by Gideon’s Promise to the Indigent Defense Leadership Summit at the University of Mississippi School of Law, an annual seminar that brings public defender leaders together for community resource sharing, training on the Gideon’s Promise model of client centered representation, and strategies to improve the defense of poor people accused of crimes.  Marcela Westrate, the MIDC Legislative and Policy Director, spent a long weekend in Oxford, Mississippi at the end of July with public defender leaders from around the country, and acquired invaluable insight into best practices for indigent defense to be implemented in Michigan.   Previously, the MIDC Executive Director Jonathan Sacks, and Marla McCowan, the MIDC Director of Training, Outreach and Support, have attended programs through Gideon’s Promise including the Trainer Development program.  The Leadership Summit is the precursor to the two week long Summer Institute for new public defenders.  If any experienced attorneys are interested in attending the Trainer Development program in Atlanta in the summer of 2016, or any new attorneys taking assignments are interested in attending the Summer Institute in 2016 (location to be determined), please contact Marla McCowan at the address or phone number below to discuss this program further.

by Marla McCowan
Director of Training, Outreach and Support


(517) 388-6702

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Visit our website at: www.michiganidc.gov and follow us on twitter and Instagram @michiganidc