House Judiciary Committee Approves McMillin's Indigent Defense Legislation
The following news was submitted by the Michigan House Republicans.
The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday overwhelmingly (14-1) passed legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Tom McMillin, along with 74 other House members listed as co-sponsors, to fulfill policy recommendations made by the Indigent Defense Advisory Commission.
"The new commission will help to identify and encourage the best practices for creation and operation of an effective statewide criminal indigent defense delivery system," said McMillin, R-Rochester Hills. "Ensuring justice is distributed out as fairly as possible is one of the few functions I believe necessary for government to carry out."
House Bill 5804 creates the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission to provide for its duties and powers, provide for constitutionally effective assistance of counsel to represent indigent defendants in criminal cases, provide standards for the appointment of legal counsel, and provide funding for certain functions of the MIDC and to implement the standards in courts around the state.
"There is evidence to suggest that judicial independence in our state is not always present and appointed lawyers are not always able to maintain the best interest of their clients," said McMillin, who represents Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township. "One of the obvious challenges is dealing with defendants who do not have the means to hire an attorney or the necessary resources to give them a fair defense."
Michigan has traditionally delegated indigent legal aid responsibilities to county governments, but failure to provide clear guidelines has resulted in an uncoordinated service delivery among 83 counties.
"After serving nine months on the Indigent Defense Advisory Commission, it's obvious the systems in place are lacking in several areas and fail to ensure adequate defense is provided to the indigent," McMillin said. "Correcting this broken system is a very high priority as I work to ensure as much equal justice as possible is served."
HB 5804 now goes to the House for a vote.