SADO and Michigan’s Indigent Appellate Defense System

Our mission: Fighting injustice through access, advocacy, compassion, and education. 

The State Appellate Defender Office (SADO) fulfills the statutory requirements of the Appellate Defender Act (MCL 780.712) and the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution to represent indigent people appealing their criminal convictions.

SADO consists of three divisions: The public defender division, the Michigan Appellate Assigned Counsel System (MAACS), and the Criminal Defense Resource Center (CDRC). The state-funded public defender represents at least 25% of individuals with pending appeals. The public defender division of SADO has a staff of two managing attorneys, sixteen attorneys, one investigator, and one mitigation specialist. Nearly 75% of individuals appealing their convictions are represented by county-funded private attorneys, managed by MAACS. The CDRC provides training to the state’s court-appointed trial and appellate counsel, and resources to the public and all system stakeholders.

SADO also has a temporary Juvenile Lifer Unit. These lawyers and mitigation specialists at SADO represent clients serving life without parole sentences for offenses committed as children. These clients require new sentencing hearings because they are serving mandatory life sentences in violation of the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The Juvenile Lifer Unit consists of one managing attorney, five attorneys, four investigators, and one reentry coordinator. SADO's Project Reentry works with our juvenile lifer and direct appeal clients to build reentry plans, prepare for parole, and guide people on their journey home from incarceration.