Michigan Indigent Defense Commision seeks comment on proposed minimum standards

The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC), now housed in the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), has submitted proposed standards to LARA and is seeking public comment on the first set of minimum standards for indigent defense delivery systems.

The minimum standards involve education and training, the initial client interview, experts and investigators, and counsel at first appearance and other critical stages in front of a judge. Following a public comment period, LARA Director Shelly Edgerton will thoroughly review the information provided and make a decision on whether to approve the standards.

On January 4, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation to ensure the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission meets state constitutional obligations and maintains independence from the judiciary while continuing its work to maintain a fair indigent criminal defense system in Michigan. The legislation moved the commission from the judicial branch to LARA.

This set of minimum standards was conditionally approved by the Michigan Supreme Court on June 1, 2016.

— Education and Training of Defense Counsel

— Initial Interview

— Investigation and Experts

— Counsel at First Appearance and Other Critical Stages

Details of each standard can be found on the commission’s website at http://michiganidc.gov/standards/

Pursuant to MCL 780.985 as amended, opposition to a proposed minimum standard should be submitted before March 9, 2017 by email to comments@michiganidc.gov. All comments will be posted on the MIDC website at: www.michiganidc.gov.

Every indigent defense delivery system in Michigan is required to submit a plan for compliance with the standards together with a cost analysis to the MIDC. If the standards are approved, these submissions must be made to the MIDC within 180 days from the date of approval.

The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission was established to create and enforce uniform public defense standards throughout the state. Its members are appointed by the Governor with recommendation of the Legislature, Supreme Court, the State Bar, and representing interests from the criminal justice system and the general public.

The commission was created as a result of efforts to improve legal representation for indigent criminal defendants. In October 2011, Governor Snyder issued Executive Order 2011-12, establishing the initial Indigent Defense Advisory Commission, which was responsible for recommending improvements to the state’s legal system. These recommendations served as the basis for legislation to address this need and called for the 15-member Indigent Defense Commission that the governor signed into law in July 2013. Please see the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Act at http://michiganidc.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/mcl-Act-93-of-2013.pdf for more.