Judge Wants to Fix Michigan Public Defense System

By: Fay Li Email
By: Fay Li Email

A patchwork quilt is how Judge Thomas Boyd describes Michigan's public defense system, where there's no common agency to ensure the standard of public defenders for those who can't afford an attorney.

According to Judge Boyd, at worst it's put the innocent behind bars and put citizens at risk.

"We don't think a crime has been solved when a criminal continues to go on a rampage," said Judge Boyd.

That's why he's part of a group recommending that the state create a permanent commission to oversee the work of counties and set standards to ensure adequate public defense.

"You have to meet state minimum standards in terms of the amount of training, the number of cases someone could handle," Judge Boyd said.

However, according to Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the proposal (also a bill going through the legislature) is an overreach. He doesn't think the problem of incompetent public defense is widespread enough to justify this level of state involvement.

"You're always going to have an occasional poor attorney...I don't think you damn the whole system because of one case," said Sen. Jones.

He also said paying for the commission and meeting its requirements could be too costly for taxpayers.

"When I had testimony, well, let's close the parks and let's patch less potholes to pay for this, I have to question is this really what we should be doing," said Sen. Jones.

Sen. Jones is asking for more debate and changes before moving forward.

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