Suit against governor goes before high court

A group of prisoners who claim that the state’s public defender system violates their constitutional rights will have their arguments heard by the Michigan Supreme Court next week.
The plaintiffs in Duncan v State of Michigan filed a class action suit on behalf of all indigent criminal defendants in three Michigan counties, arguing that the current system, in which counties pay for public defender services at trial, is inadequate and poorly funded.
They seek a court order to compel the state to provide funding, oversight, and training for public defense lawyers.
Among the issues in the case: whether the trial court properly certified the plaintiff’s class action lawsuit and whether the courts can order the relief that the plaintiffs are seeking.
Also before the Court is Brooks v Starr Commonwealth.
At issue in that case, according to court records,  is whether the defendant — which operates a medium-security detention facility for juvenile offenders — can be held liable for the death of a man who was murdered by a youth who escaped from the facility.
A state statute, MCL 803.306a(1), requires a facility to “immediately” notify police or the sheriff of a public ward’s escape.
In documents filed with the court, the plaintiff contends that the facility — whose staff searched for the escaped youth for almost two hours before notifying the county sheriff — violated the statute and is negligent as a matter of law.
But the trial court judge dismissed the plaintiff’s claim of negligence per se, stating that, although the defendant had violated the statute, the plaintiff could not show that the facility owed her or the murdered man a duty; the judge noted that the killing took place 11 days after the youth’s escape.
In a split opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed and reinstated the negligence per se claim, with the majority stating that a jury should decide whether the plaintiff had a claim.
The remaining eight cases involve issues of constitutional, criminal, family, governmental immunity, procedural, and tax law.
Court will be held on April 13 and 14 in the Supreme Court’s courtroom on the sixth floor of the Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing.
Oral arguments will begin at 9:30 a.m. on April 13; on April 14, oral arguments will begin at 9:00 a.m.
The court’s oral arguments are open to the public.


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