MIDC Publishes First Set of Proposed Minimum Standards

Public Hearing Scheduled for August 18, 2015 at 1:00 pm in Lansing

The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) published its first set of Proposed Minimum Standards for the local delivery of indigent criminal defense services throughout the state.  

The four standards cover the following areas: (1) Education and Training of Defense Counsel, (2) Initial Attorney/Client Interview, (3) Investigation and Expert Witnesses, and (4) Timing for Appointment of Counsel. 

The proposed minimum standard for education and training will focus on the Ninth Principle of the American Bar Association’s Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System, that a public defense system, in order to provide effective assistance of counsel, must ensure that “[D]efense counsel is provided with and required to attend continuing legal education.”  The standard will require knowledge of the law, knowledge of forensic and scientific issues, knowledge of technology, and will contain continuing legal education requirements for counsel providing indigent defense.

The initial client interview standard will focus on United States Supreme Court Precedent and ABA Principles that recognize that the “lack of time for adequate preparation and the lack of privacy for attorney-client consultation [can preclude] any lawyer from providing effective advice.”  See U.S. v. Morris, 470 F.3d 596, 602 (6th Cir. 2006).  The standard will require a prompt interview of a client in a confidential setting. 

The standard for experts and investigators will address the United States and Michigan Supreme Court holdings that require trial counsel to adequately investigate and seek appropriate expert assistance for the defense.  The standard will require counsel to request funds for adequate investigation and use of expert witnesses. 

The proposed minimum standard on timing for appointment of counsel will reflect the U.S. Supreme Court holding that assistance of counsel is required at critical stages of proceedings, starting with when a defendant’s liberty is subject to restriction by the court.  The standard will require availability of counsel at first appearance in front of a judge or magistrate and at the pre-trial stage.  

All four proposed standards were published for public comment on June 22, 2015. 

The MIDC will hold a public hearing on these standards on August 18th at 1:00 PM at the Lansing campus of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. Video conference equipment will also allow participation from the Cooley Auburn Hills and Grand Rapids locations. All comments received prior to 5:00 p.m. Friday August 7, 2015 will be considered by Commissioners.  Comments can be sent to info@michiganidc.gov or to our office at 200 N. Washington Square, Lansing, Michigan 48933. Visit www.michiganidc.gov for more information.