Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Update March 2017

In 2015, the MIDC proposed four initial standards for indigent defense delivery systems to address: training and education of counsel, the initial client interview, use of investigation and experts, and counsel at first appearance and other critical stages.  Both the MIDC and the Michigan Supreme Court held public hearings on the first four minimum standards, and changes were made to those standards reflecting concerns expressed at those hearings.  The MIDC discussed the changes made by the Michigan Supreme Court in the June 1, 2016 Order and formally adopted those changes during the MIDC’s regularly scheduled meeting on December 20, 2016.  At that meeting the MIDC also voted to submit those first four minimum standards to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) pursuant to the process detailed through recent legislative amendments to the MIDC Act.

 The MIDC submitted the first set of standards for indigent defense to LARA in early February 2017 and comments were submitted through March 9, 2017.  The full text of the standards, as well as all comments submitted, can be viewed on the MIDC’s website at http://michiganidc.gov/standards/. Now that the comment period has closed, LARA will thoroughly review the information provided and make a decision on whether to approve the standards.
 Once the standards are approved, 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.  These submissions must be made to the MIDC within 180 days from the date that the standards are approved by LARA.  See M.C.L. §780.993(3). 

 In an effort to assist all stakeholders with the implementation of the standards, the MIDC has prepared white papers detailing the rationale and compliance models for each standard.  Indigent defense delivery systems are strongly encouraged to review these white papers and coordinate through workgroups a plan for compliance.  The white papers can be reviewed on the MIDC’s website, http://michiganidc.gov/standards/ or the complete set of white papers and standards can be downloaded here: http://michiganidc.gov/wp-content/uploads/201 7/03/White-Papers_Complete-Set-with-Standards.pdf

 The MIDC has Regional Managers working statewide to provide direction and guidance and serve as the liaisons between local systems and the MIDC.  A map detailing the assignments and contact information for the Regional Managers is available online at http://michiganidc.gov/wp-content/uploads/ 2015/04/Regionals-Map-Spring-2017.pdf.

 When planning for compliance, some systems have asked about the next standards being developed by the MIDC.  The next standards will address financial incentives and disincentives in compensating assigned counsel, caseload capacities, qualification and review of attorneys eligible for assignments, and independence from the judiciary.  Like the first standards, these requirements are derived from the MIDC Act, constitutional principles, or nationally accepted models for delivering public defense services.  These next standards will be discussed at the next MIDC meeting on April 18, 2017.  Information about upcoming meetings and minutes from prior meetings can be found here: http://michiganidc.gov/michigan-indigent-defense-commission/commission-meetings/.

 Each county will select its desired indigent defense delivery method to comply with the MIDC standards, and multiple models ranging from a defender office, an assigned counsel list, contract attorneys, or a mix of systems will be available.  The MIDC’s responsibility and authority is to work with the counties and courts to ensure compliance with minimum standards, not to select a particular system.  The MIDC has been contacted by several systems interested in improving their models for delivering indigent defense – for example, by setting up a public defender office.  The MIDC is pleased to offer a guide for consultation, Delivery System Reform Models: Planning Improvements in Public Defense (December 2016).  This resource is available on the MIDC’s website at http://bit.ly/midcguide.

 In February, the MIDC approved for publication the 2016 Year in Review: Impact Report, which describes the most recent full year of activity by the MIDC and its staff and how we are implementing change.  Read it here: http://michiganidc.gov/2016-year-review-impact-report/.  To learn more about the MIDC, visit our website at www.michiganidc.gov and follow us on twitter and Instagram @michiganidc.

Contact:  Marla McCowan; Director of Training, Outreach and Support; mmccowan@ michiganidc.gov; (517) 657-3066