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Michigan commission moves ahead with proposal for public defender standards

Feb 14, 2017

A Michigan agency is seeking public comment on a recommendation creating uniform standards for public defenders in the state.

The 15-member Michigan Indigent Defense Commission created the proposal. The standards include better education and training for attorneys and mandatory interviews with defendants, along with other practices that improve legal service.

Commission Chair James Fisher says that these recommendations are necessary to improve a Michigan public defense system that, in his eyes, is failing and inconsistent in too many areas. 

"Part of the criticism of Michigan's system up to this point has been that there are no standards," he says. "You have some places where the counties or municipalities may be doing a very good job at providing these services, in other areas they are quite deficient."

Fisher also believes that creating statewide guidelines will increase the amount of state funding counties will receive in order to meet them. 

"The legislation anticipates that the state will start participating in a major way to defray the costs of these services and upgrading them to a more reasonable level," he says.

The Commission anticipates that these initial proposals should face little opposition, however it hopes to later expand them to include more controversial topics such as minimum attorney pay and case load limits. 

A previous version of this story said the state Legislature would have to approve the changes the commission is recommending. That is incorrect.