LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: On April 10, 2013, Senator Bruce Caswell introduced Senate Bill 300 in the Michigan Senate, while Representative Tom McMillin introduced House Bill 4529 in the Michigan House of Representatives. These identical bills would establish a permanent commission that will create and enforce indigent defense standards throughout the state.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision, Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), affirms that those accused of a crime are entitled to effective assistance of competent counsel, even if they cannot afford it. Yet Gideon’s promise remains unfulfilled in Michigan.
Today, Michigan’s public defense system is plagued by inadequate funding, high caseloads and lack of organization and oversight. These failures have led to multiple wrongful convictions - in which an innocent person was incarcerated and the true perpetrator remained free - and an inability to uphold the constitutional rights of all Michigan citizens.
Michigan Public Defense Task Force
Since June 2001, MCCD convened the Michigan Public Defense Task Force, a 50-member group dedicated to assuring fair and effective justice and the recognition that Michigan's public defense system must be strengthened.
In 2002, the Task Force published Eleven Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System (“Eleven Principles”), patterned on the American Bar Association’s (ABA’s) Ten Principles of Indigent Defense. The Eleven Principles were subsequently adopted by the State Bar of Michigan’s Representative Assembly in 2002 and its Board of Commissioners in 2005.
July 2011 - Justice Policy Institute published "System Overload: The Costs of Underresourcing Public Defense."
March 2009 - Dawn Van Hoek of the State Appellate Defender Office published "Penny-Wise and Pound Foolish," discussing the cost savings of an effective public defense system.
June 2008 - The National Legal Aid and Defender Association released an evaluation of trial-level indigent defense services in Michigan entitled "A Race to the Bottom; Speed & Savings Over Due Process: A Constitutional Crisis" in June 2008.
July 2008 - The Ten Core Principles: For Providing Quality Delinquency Representation Through Public Defense Delivery Systems were adopted by the National Juvenile Defender Center and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association in partnership with the American Council of Chief Defenders in December 2004 and revised and reissued in July 2008.
April 2002 - The Eleven Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System were adopted by the Public Defense Task Force and the State Bar of Michigan Advisory Council.