Michigan Indigent Defense Commission

The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission has been busy this fall: moving into permanent office space in downtown Lansing, updating the first set of proposed minimum standards for indigent defense delivery systems, obtaining overwhelming responses to our first survey distributed to courts statewide, and beginning the process of hiring regional con-sultants to help improve the representation of poor people in Michigan.

The MIDC received important feedback from many members of the criminal justice community on the first set of proposed minimum standards and wishes to thank everyone who submitted comments and suggestions in writing and at our public hearing.  The text and comments on these standards now incorporate this feedback and can be found on our website at http://michiganidc.gov/standards/.  The updated version makes clear that improvement does not rest with counsel alone; rather, the standards should be implemented as system-wide requirements and reforms.  The standards are designed to improve the entire system, and will fortify defense attorneys around the state as they work towards better representation for their indigent clients.

The MIDC met on October 20, 2015 to discuss the revisions to the first set of standards.  No formal action was taken on the standards at that meeting.  Any further comments received from the public will continue to be posted on the MIDC website along with final revisions to the standards.  The next MIDC meeting is Tuesday December 15, 2015 at 1 p.m. in Lansing at the Commission Office.  The Commission is expected to take action at that meeting and submit the first set of proposed standards to the Michigan Supreme Court during the first week of January 2016.

MIDC staff moved to permanent office space on the 3rd floor of the Capitol National Bank Building at 200 N. Washington Square in downtown Lansing.  The most recent Commission meeting was held in the office’s conference room, which will also be used for training and outreach events beginning early next year.  The office is open Monday through Friday.  A new, main telephone number for the office has recently been installed to reach the staff at 517-657-3066.  Requests for information can be sent anytime to info@michiganidc.gov.

During the Commission meeting, MIDC Research Director Jonah Siegel presented initial results from a survey distributed to every court in Michigan this summer.  At the time of the October Commission meeting, responses to the survey were reported from more than 95% of courts (Circuit and District) around the state.  The survey seeks to mea-sure the delivery of criminal justice for poor people in Michigan, and can be viewed on the MIDC’s web-site at http://michiganidc.gov/midc-announces-first-ever-comprehensive-survey/.  The MIDC has received many questions about the results of this survey from criminal defense practitioners.  A summary of the results will be distributed later this fall and the data collected will be used to inform the development of statewide standards for public defense.

The MIDC is currently seeking regional consultants to help provide direction and guidance to indigent defense delivery systems on compliance with standards.  Successful candidates will work on the forefront of indigent defense reform in Michigan.  Consultants will serve as the liaisons between local systems and the MIDC and will work with criminal justice stakeholders to design the most appropriate plans for meeting minimum standards for indigent defense in a particular county or system.  Interested candidates should send a resume and a short (one-page) proposal detailing qualifications, desired pay rate, and the preferred region of the state for placement to opportunities@michiganidc.gov.  The Request for Proposals is available on the MIDC’s website, along with frequently asked questions about the scope of the work and the consultant’s responsibilities.  The deadline for submitting proposals is November 20, 2015.

The Regional Consultants will serve as independent contractors through the current fiscal year, ending September 30, 2016.  The MIDC then intends to hire full time regional managers next fiscal year, beginning October 1, 2016.  The MIDC staff is currently working on an annual appropriations request to bring the staff up to permanent levels.  If the MIDC receives this funding, it is anticipated that the staff will grow from four people to up to 16 permanent members by the fall of 2016.  With staffing at that level, the MIDC will be in the best possible position to implement minimum standards for indigent defense.

The MIDC staff continues to travel around Michigan meeting with members of the criminal justice community and the general public.  In recent weeks, Executive Director Jonathan Sacks has met with judges or practitioners in Kent, Wayne, Lenawee and Kalamazoo Counties.  Jonathan also presented to a large group of criminal defense attorneys in Wayne County at the CAP session on September 11, 2015, and was a panelist at the State Bar of Michigan’s Criminal Law Section program entitled “Exploring Indigent Defense Reform” along with Commissioner Nancy J. Diehl, Hon. Sarah J. Smolenski and Muskegon Public Defender Fred Johnson.  Jonathan will be a speaker at the upcoming conference of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan in Traverse City on November 13, 2015.  Registration and information about the entire conference is available through CDAM’s website at http://cdamonline.org/.  MIDC staff was pleased to be invited to speak to the Gray Panthers of Metro Detroit and welcomes any opportunity to discuss our work with the public.  Please contact us to make arrangements at info@michiganidc.gov.

by:  Marla McCowan
Director of Training, Outreach and Support
, (517) 657-3066

For images associated with this message, please view at: https://slate.adobe.com/a/J6lo9/ and visit our website at: www.michiganidc.gov and follow us on twitter and Instagram @michiganidc.