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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  • by Kelly Location: Jackson on Oct 11, 2012 at 03:06 PM
    I sure would like someone to show me where in the Constitution is states that people charged with a crime are guaranteed a 'free' attorney. What is the criteria for receiving a 'free' attorney?
  • by Erica Location: Leslie on Oct 11, 2012 at 06:37 AM
    Politicians have started throwing up that we'll have to take money from roads whenever something is going to cost money. In this story it's parks and potholes. The problem is that at least when it comes to road maintenance, that pot of money isn't the same one that pays for the other initiatives. In Michigan at least, roads are primarily a local issue and are primarily funded through Act 51 funding (the gas tax). By law, that money cannot be used for these other purposes. Before we allow any politician, on either side of the aisle, to tell us what we have to lose to pay for something else we need to educate ourselves properly on how EXACTLY these services are funded. Often funds are legally obligated to a service an cannot be shifted to pay for another one. When we talk about decreasing one service to pay for another we are usually talking about services paid for out of the general fund...human services, emergency services, and yes, in many cases Parks (although they are often funded through separate ballot initiatives and millages). In short, don't let politicians scare you with funding shortages until you know what they're talking about.
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