Michigan Indigent Defense Commission - April 2016 Update

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.  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 at http://michiganidc.gov/policies-and-reports/.  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 at http://michiganidc.gov/michigan-indigent-defense-commission/.

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 at http://michiganidc.gov/michigan-indigent-defense-commission/commission-meetings/.  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 http://michiganidc.gov/midc-regional-consultant-assignment-and-contact-information/  or contact us at the information below.

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

For images associated with this message, please view at: https://slate.adobe.com/cp/C33Fk/ and visit our website at: www.michiganidc.gov and follow us on twitter and Instagram @michiganidc.