What does House Bill 5676 do?

House Bill 5676, the Michigan Public Defense Act, would establish a statewide system for delivering public defense services, supported by state funding.

As introduced, a new state system would be created as an autonomous agency in the judicial branch of state government to deliver constitutionally adequate public defense services to individuals eligible for public defense services at the trial and appellate levels, as well as in delinquency proceedings.

The legislation would establish an eleven-member commission charged with developing a plan for the delivery of public defense services and overseeing a state office of public defense.

* The commission would be appointed by the governor after recommendations from the Michigan supreme court, Michigan judges' association, Michigan district judges' association, the Michigan state bar association, the criminal defense attorneys association, and from the general public.

An office of public defense would be set up and staffed by trained professionals and headed by a chief public defender.

* An appellate bureau, headed by a chief appellate defender, would oversee appellate defense functions and report directly to the Commission.

* NOTE: Extreme care was taken to ensure that conflicts in making appointments and between the trial and appellate functions were avoided.

The public defense commission is charged with establishing the number of regional offices necessary to oversee the local delivery of public defense services.

* Regional offices would provide training, resources and oversight of the system at the local level.

* NOTE: The legislation does not identify the number or location of the regions and instead instructs the commission to hold hearings around the state to develop a service delivery plan that best meets the needs of clients, attorneys and local communities.

The commission would be charged with developing the delivery mechanism for providing defense counsel to those who need it.

* Likely to use a mix of methods, based on local needs, including public defense offices staffed by public employees, public defense offices under contract with the office of public defense (nonprofit offices, contract defense offices and county offices similar to the Washtenaw's) and assigned counsel.

* Every region is required to have assigned counsel as part of its delivery system.

* Requires Michigan's public defense system be guided by and meet the Eleven Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System (see sidebar).

* The office of public defense would establish procedures to implement the commission plan and policies, including: establishing oversight mechanisms, qualifying and appointing counsel, providing training and resources to attorneys providing public defense services, collecting data and preparing reports to the commission and legislature.

The legislation requires the office of public defense (and its appellate bureau) to appoint counsel, based on a plan established by the commission, and the statute would establish standards for eligibility determinations and for recouping costs for legal defense services.

Published: Thu, Jan 21, 2010

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