Gov. Rick Snyder today issued an executive order that establishes a commission to investigate how to improve legal representation provided to low-income criminal defendants in Michigan. The commission will also make recommendations about how to ensure legal representation provided to low-income residents in the criminal justice system is consistent across the state.
The governor said the commission is needed because the quality of legal representation provided to defendants who are unable to pay for their own legal defense varies greatly across the state.
"A core principle of our criminal justice system is to guarantee that an individual charged with a crime be entitled to legal representation, even if they are unable to hire private counsel," Snyder said. "The Commission will work to ensure that all criminal defendants receive effective assistance of counsel."
Executive Order 2011-12 establishes the Indigent Defense Advisory Commission. Fourteen members will serve on the commission, including four lawmakers and 10 members appointed by the governor. The members appointed by the governor will represent the judiciary, prosecuting attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, the State Bar of Michigan, local governments, and the general public. (See list below.)
The commission is charged with recommending improvements that will ensure cost-effective, qualified legal counsel is available during each critical stage of legal proceedings and provided in a manner that is consistent throughout the state. Recommendations are due to the governor and Legislature by July 15, 2012.
"This Commission is a significant step forward in guaranteeing that Michigan has a criminal justice system that works for all and upholds core Constitutional rights for Michigan's citizens," said Julie Fershtman, president of the State Bar of Michigan.
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