Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, Summer 2016

The Michigan Supreme Court conditionally approved the first set of standards for indigent defense delivery systems in Michigan on June 1, 2016.  The Court conditioned this approval on legislative revision of the MIDC Act to address certain constitutional questions implicated by the statute.  These questions involve the placement of the MIDC within the judicial branch, separation of powers concerns, and the authority to regulate the legal profession.  The MIDC has been working with the Governor and Supreme Court to develop a solution.

Staff and Regional Consultants continue to collaborate with State Court Administrative Office Regional Administrators and county governments as stakeholders evaluate the conditionally approved standards, addressing: training and education of counsel, the initial client interview, use of investigation and experts, and counsel at first appearance and other critical stages.  The full text of the standards conditionally approved by the Supreme Court can be found on the MIDC’s website at http://michiganidc.gov/standards/.

Over the past year, the criminal defense community has reached out to the MIDC for resources and support that can be provided to appointed counsel.  Other stakeholders have also made specific complaints about indigent defense practice and process.  The most common question that the MIDC receives is about increasing fees to attorneys for their work on assigned cases.  In April 2016, the MIDC began drafting the next set of standards for indigent defense delivery systems in Michigan, and the MIDC will be addressing financial incentives and disincentives in compensating assigned counsel in future standards and pursuant to the MIDC Act.  However, the MIDC continues to receive complaints about attorney fees.  The Commission has recently published a position paper on fees aimed at all stakeholders in the criminal justice system.  Attorneys are encouraged to read the position paper when requesting reasonable fees in assigned cases, while trial court administrators and judges may use the document as a resource for evaluating these requests.  The position paper is on the MIDC’s website at http://michiganidc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/MIDC-Position-Paper-on-Attorney-Fees.pdf

Attorneys and other stakeholders also inquire about the process for formally submitting complaints about fee issues and other areas involving indigent defense.  The MIDC has a “Recommendations & Complaints” committee, which approved a form for submitting complaints to the Commission pursuant to MCL 780.989(1)(e).  All criminal justice stakeholders including indigent clients and members of the public may submit a complaint or recommendation.  You can find the form on the “contact us” page of the MIDC website, http://michiganidc.gov/contact/ The form itself is simple but helps identify specific problems for the committee, and it is a process-based approach to problem solving whenever possible.  The MIDC Staff is not in a position to accept complaints through community based networks or other informal means, and is not authorized to respond on behalf of the Commission to individual complaints made in public or private forums.  Complaints received through the form based-process will be forwarded to the MIDC Recommendations & Complaints committee and will be formally responded to with steps outlined for further action by the Commission as needed.

The MIDC will meet on August 9, 2016 for a regularly scheduled meeting.  The Commission meets at 1:00 p.m. in Lansing and all meetings are open to the public.  Information about upcoming meetings, or agendas 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.

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

For images associated with this message, please view at: https://spark.adobe.com/page/Y7Xt9/ and visit our website at: www.michiganidc.gov and follow us on twitter and Instagram @michiganidc.