Michigan Indigent Defense Commission-November/December, 2015

End of 2015 Update

As 2015 comes to a close, the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission is pleased to report that the first set of proposed minimum standards will be imminently submitted to the Michigan Supreme Court, our staff is growing, and we have Regional Consultants in place to begin the work of compliance and best practices in indigent defense delivery systems in this state through 2016.

The Commission met on December 15th and formally voted to submit the first set of proposed standards to the Michigan Supreme Court during the first week of January 2016.  Since the public hearing on August 18, 2015, and since the Commission’s October 2015 meeting, changes have been made to the originally proposed standards.  The final version to be submitted to the Michigan Supreme Court can be found on the MIDC’s website at http://michiganidc.gov/standards/.

During the meeting, the Commission heard a presentation from Professor Robert Boruchowitz from the Seattle University School of Law about national trends in public defense.  Based on that presentation, some discussion began about the next standards to be proposed by the MIDC such as caseload limitations and financial incentives and disincentives for working on cases including attorney compensation.

The Commission also announced that six regional consultants will begin working in early January through the end of the fiscal year.  These 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.

In northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, the regional consultant is Michael Naughton.  Mike lives in Traverse City, and has experience in both state and federal court at the trial and appellate level.  Mike is recognized as a technology expert statewide for criminal cases, and regularly serves as a trainer on technology and complex electronic discovery for attorneys.  Mike is a CDAM Board Member and Vice President of the Utopia Foundation in Traverse City.

Christopher Dennie will serve as the regional consultant in western Michigan.  Chris has most recently served as a public defender with the Kent County Office of the Defender for fourteen years, working on every type of criminal case from misdemeanors to murder trials.  Chris was part of a team of attorneys assigned to a grant project at the 63rd District Court that concluded this fall, which provided for counsel to accused defendants at their first appearance before a magistrate or judge.  Chris brings extensive experience in indigent defense to his new role as an MIDC consultant.

Barbara Klimaszewski will work as the regional consultant in the central/northern Michigan region, where she has represented indigent defendants for more than 30 years.  Barbara began working as an attorney in legal services prior to opening a practice with her partner William T. Street in Saginaw in 1978.  Barbara served as a CDAM Board Member for approximately 20 years, she regularly serves as a CDAM Trial College Trainer, and is highly respected by members of the bench and bar for her skills and experience as a criminal defense attorney.

In the central/southern region of Michigan, Ashley Carter will serve as the regional consultant.  Ashley has been a Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn, New York.  Ashely grew up in Detroit and is deeply committed to improving indigent defense in Michigan, having taken time to study Detroit’s assigned counsel system and to design a training model to improve communication between attorneys and clients at the initial client interview.

Cheryl Carpenter will serve as the regional consultant in Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer and St. Clair Counties.  Cheryl began her career as a public defender in St. Louis, Missouri, and has been in private practice in southeast Michigan working as a criminal defense attorney for the past fourteen years.  Cheryl serves as faculty at the National Trial College, at CDAM’s Trial College, and as an Adjunct Professor of Trial Skills at Cooley Law School.  In addition to working on high profile criminal cases, Cheryl has been a statewide leader in efforts to reform Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry.

Wayne County’s regional consultant is Kelly McDoniel.  Kelly has worked in Wayne County for several years, serving as the Director of Training through the Wayne County Criminal Defense Bar Association and as a Research Attorney with SADO’s Criminal Defense Resource Center.  Kelly has worked closely with members of the Detroit bar, where the overwhelming majority of cases involve the representation of poor people, to design training and organize resources for attorneys with a wide range of experience levels.

The MIDC has also hired Christopher Sadler as a Research Associate.  Chris has recently worked as an analyst with the Michigan Department of Education and has a master’s degree in Public Administration.  Chris will work closely with MIDC Research Director Dr. Jonah Siegel.  The MIDC Act provides for court compliance with data collection.  After the first set of proposed minimum standards are adopted, support for data analysis will be critical.

The MIDC will soon be distributing a survey to attorneys relating to the first set of minimum standards, as a complement to the survey that was sent to court systems late last summer.  If criminal defense attorneys are interested in beta testing this survey before it is sent statewide, please contact Marla McCowan to participate and provide feedback as the questions are being finalized.  The MIDC will post comprehensive reports on these surveys after completion.

The MIDC staff continues to travel around Michigan meeting with members of the criminal justice community and the general public.  MIDC Executive Director Jonathan Sacks presented to criminal defense attorneys at CDAM’s annual conference in Traverse City and spoke at the Michigan Supreme Court’s Judicial Conference in Grand Rapids.  We have also begun a court observation and data collection protocol with interns and volunteers that will transition to regional consultants during the early portion of their contract work.  Please contact the MIDC to coordinate a staff member or regional consultant to speak with your local bar association or group, to volunteer, and to provide us with information of local interest to incorporate into potential compliance plans as we work on implementing our first set of standards in 2016.

Happy New Year.

by:  Marla McCowan
Director of Training, Outreach and Support

mmccowan@michiganidc.gov, (517) 657-3066

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