U.S. House Judiciary: first hearing on indigent defense

Hearing on the Representation of Indigent Defendants in Criminal Cases: A Constitutional Crisis in Michigan and Other States?

In a historic move, the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on March 26, 2009 to investigate the failure of a state to uphold the right to counsel for those accused of a crime, a right promised by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s Sub-Committee on Crime, Terrorism & Homeland Security focused on the serious flaws in Michigan’s public defense system, which include numerous questionable practices, from untrained and overburdened attorneys to slight-of-hand maneuvers to get the accused to unwittingly waive their right to an attorney.

The dire reality of Michigan’s public defense plight has received considerable recent attention, largely in reaction to the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) report “A Race to the Bottom,” (June 2008) which studied 10 of the state’s 83 counties and determined the state has failed time and again to uphold the constitutional rights of its citizens or to meet the nationally recognized standards prescribed in the American Bar Association’s Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System.

The primary author of the NLADA report, David Carroll, NLADA’s director of research and evaluations for Defender Legal Services, testified at the hearing, along with: Dennis Archer, former mayor of Detroit and former president of the American Bar Association; Nancy Diehl, past president of the State Bar of Michigan and chief of the Trial Division for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office; Erik Luna, professor of law at Washington & Lee University School of Law and adjunct scholar with The Cato Institute; Regina Daniels-Thomas, chief counsel of the Juvenile Law Group with the Legal Aid & Defender Association of Detroit; and Robin Dahlberg, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Racial Justice Program. Testimony submitted by all who appeared before the committee, and other concerned organizations and advocates, has been posted below for public reference.

 

National Legal Aid & Defender Association

 

Minority Witness Testimony

  • Written testimony of Nancy Diehl, past president of the State Bar of Michigan and chief of the Trial Division for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Written testimony of Erik Luna, professor of law at Washington & Lee University School of Law and adjunct scholar with The Cato Institute

     

    American Bar Association

     

    American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

    • Written testimony of Robin Dahlberg, senior staff attorney for the ACLU Racial Justice Program

     

    Legal Aid & Defender Association, Inc., of Detroit

    • Written testimony of Regina Daniels Thomas, chief counsel of the Juvenile Law Group with the Legal Aid & Defender Association of Detroit

     

    State Bar of Michigan

     

    Michigan Campaign for Justice
    (the Campaign submitted a packet of briefing materials)

    • Written testimony of Laura Sager, director of the Campaign for Justice;
    • “Michigan’s Public Defense System – Winter 2009 Report Card” published by the Campaign for Justice;
    • Written testimony of Hon. Fred Borchard, president of the Michigan Judges Association;
    • Written testimony of Margarent Sind Raben, president of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan;
    • Written testimony of Dick Hillary, Kent County Office of the Public Defender, Grand Rapids, MI;
    • Written testimony of Peter Psarouthakis, legislative chairman and immediate past president of the Michigan Council of Private Investigators;
    • Written testimony of Maxine Thome, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers – Michigan Chapter;
    • Written testimony of Theresa Spencer, president of the Michigan County Social Services Association;
    • Written testimony of Amy J. Winans, executive director of the Association for Children’s Mental Health;
    • Written testimony of Susan McParland, executive director of the Michigan Association for Children with Emotional Disorders;
    • Written testimony of David Moran, co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic;
    • Written testimony of Elizabeth Arnovitz, executive director of Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency;
    • Written testimony of Heaster Wheeler, executive director of the Detroit Branch NAACP;
    • Written testimony of Melanca D. Clark, counsel to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law;
    • Written testimony of James Muffett, president of Citizens for Traditional Values;
    • Written testimony of Susan Herman, director of the Michigan Jewish Conference; and
    • Written testimony of Mary Engle, executive director of Prison Fellowship.

     

    Michigan State Appellate Defender’s Office (SADO)

    • Written testimony of Dawn Van Hoek, chief deputy director of SADO

     

 

Author/Organization:
Publication Date: 03/26/2009