News 07.22.10

Indigent Defense Suffers Another Setback in Michigan

Michigan has become notorious in recent years for its woefully underfunded indigent defense system, and the state Supreme Court recently dealt poor defendants another blow by tossing out a lawsuit challenging the state’s system as unconstitutional.

The court

ruled 4-3

to reverse a previous decision and throw out a class-action lawsuit brought by the ACLU, with the majority finding that defendants don’t have a constitutional right to “a meaningful relationship” with their attorney.

Michigan is

44th in the country

in per capita spending on indigent defense, and

an editorial in the Detroit Free Press

last week chided the court, saying “it’s a sad state of affairs when our state’s highest court possesses neither the financial wherewithal nor any urgent sense of responsibility to uphold the constitutional rights of Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens.” The editorial goes on to call for Michigan legislators to support proposed bipartisan legislation that would replace the state’s current patchwork defense system with statewide standards for competence and compensation.

Shoddy defense has played a role in at least two wrongful convictions in Michigan overturned through the work of the Innocence Project – those of

Eddie Joe Lloyd

and

Walter Swift

.  Learn more about

bad lawyering as a cause of wrongful conviction.

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