All who work in public defense know there is a problem -- we call it the "indigent defense crisis."  In 2002, NLADA established the Justice Standards, Evaluation and Research Initiative (JSERI) in order to concretely evaluate the depth and breadth of both successes and difficulties in indigent defense representation throughout the country, providing a measurement of public defense services against national standards.  JSERI's protocol for evaluation of any system combines a review of the jurisdiction's budgetary, caseload, and organizational information with site visits to observe courtroom practice and interviews of all key criminal justice system stakeholders and policymakers.

Publication Date: 02/19/2010

Gideon Alert: High Court Focuses on the Right to Effective Counsel in Plea Bargaining

BY Edwin A. Burnette on Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 10:46 AM

The meaning of the Sixth Amendment’s promise of “effective counsel” has taken on additional dimensions over the past few weeks. On March 21, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two decisions exploring the right to effective assistance of counsel during plea bargaining. In Missouri v.

Gideon Alert: Michigan takes first steps to fulfilling Gideon’s promise

BY David Carroll on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 4:12 PM

On October 13, 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder issued Executive Order No. 2011-12 establishing an Indigent Defense Advisory Commission (Commission).  The Commission is charged to make recommendations to the Governor and Legislature for statewide “improvements to the system of providing legal representation for indigent criminal defendants.”  The recommendations from the 14-member, bi-partisan Commission must ensure that: “indigent defense is free from undue political interference and conflicts of interest;” “the right to counsel is delivered by effective counsel at each critical stage of the proceedings in a manner that is consistent throughout the state;” and, “government-funded criminal defense lawyers are sufficiently trained and supervised, appropriately qualified, and adequately compensated.”  The Commission must meet their charge in a manner that is fiscally responsible and cost-effective, while being “responsive to jurisdictional variances and local community needs.” Findings and recommendations are due to the Legislature and Governor no later than July 15, 2012.

 David Carroll's statement regarding the news of Michigan Gov. Snyder's Executive Order 2011-12 creating an Indigent Defense Advisory Commission.

Author/Organization: David Carroll, NLADA
Publication Date: 10/13/2011

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On October 13, 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder issued Executive Order No.

Author/Organization: David Carroll
Publication Date: 10/13/2011

Gideon Alert: Michigan Bar task force recommends how to deliver justice in the face of diminishing returns

BY David Carroll on Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 6:16 PM

“By almost every measure, indigent criminal defense as a whole in Michigan falls far short of accepted standards, undermining the quality of justice, jeopardizing public safety, and creating large and avoidable costs.  Michigan’s public defense system has fallen far short of acceptable standards for decades and is worsening … The cost of properly fixing the system is great; the cost of not fixing it is greater.” This is the conclusion reached about indigent defense services in the State Bar of Michigan’s “Judicial Crossroads Task Force” report Delivering Justice in the Face of Diminishing Returns, released January 26, 2011.  The report summarizes the conclusions of a Bar-convened task force composed of twenty-nine leaders of the Bar, business, civic and political communities, including 14 judges.

Gideon Alert: As Michigan Supreme Court again reinstates ACLU Duncan lawsuit, the Race to the Bottom continues in Chippewa and Bay counties

BY David Carroll on Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 1:11 PM
On April 30, 2010, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously ordered the American Civil Liberties Union class action lawsuit in Duncan v. Michigan to move forward, only to reverse itself on July 16, 2010 in a 4-3 order issued on reconsideration.  By granting summary judgment in favor of the Governor and State of Michigan at that time, most people (including this author) assumed the court had put an end to any opportunity for the plaintiffs to prove they are being denied the effective right to counsel as a result of Michigan’s inadequate and ineffective system of public defense.  (For more information on the Duncan case and orders, see our earlier Gideon Alerts here and here.)  However, on November 30, 2010, the Court issued a third order, reversing itself yet again with another 4-3 vote, that reinstates the original unanimous April 30th order. 

In 1985, Eddie Joe Lloyd was convicted in Detroit of the rape and murder of a teen-age girl. The evidence of his guilt was overwhelming.  Eddie Joe Lloyd’s written confession gave specific information about the crime scene that only the perpetrator could have known.  Police had him on tape admitting to the brutal acts.  It was a slam dunk case.  The jury took less than an hour to convict him of 1st degree felony murder.  Lamenting the lack of the death penalty in Michigan, the judge sent Eddie Joe to a maximum security prison for the remainder of his life without the possibility of parole.  Justice was served… except for one small problem – Eddie Joe Lloyd was innocent.

Publication Date: 2010

On June 18, 2008, NLADA released its report, A Race to the Bottom: Speed and Savings over Due Process: A Constitutional Crisis, which found that the state of Michigan fails to provide competent representation to those who cannot afford counsel in its criminal courts.  The state of Michigan’s failure to fulfill its constitutional obligations has produced myriad county public defense systems that vary greatly in defining who qualifies for services and the competency of the services rendered. Michigan ranks 44th in the nation for per capita public defense spending ($7.35), behind such states as Alabama and Georgia.

Publication Date: 2010

Gideon Alert: Innocence Project reports 81% of innocent exonerees' IAC claims wrongly denied

BY David Carroll on Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 7:07 AM

A new report by The Innocence Project documents how difficult it is for defendants to win their claims that their trial attorneys provided ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC). Of the first 255 people exonerated through DNA evidence, approximately 1 out of every five had raised claims in their appeals that their trial attorney was ineffective.  Appeals courts rejected those claims in the majority of cases (81%).