Senate Hearings to Open on Public Defense in Michigan

Oct 8, 2012

The state Senate Judiciary Committee opens hearings Tuesday on a plan to fix Michigan’s public defender system.

The committee chair says he has to be convinced there is a problem with people not getting fair representation.

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Rick Jones says he never saw a problem with public defense in his experience as a sheriff in mid-Michigan. But he says that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems in some parts of the state with ensuring defendants are adequately represented – regardless of their ability to pay.

“I’m not prepared to say at this time that the system is broken, but I’m willing to listen and hear from both sides before I make a final decision,” he says.

Advocates for public defense reform say there is no county in Michigan that does everything necessary to ensure an adequate defense for everyone charged with a crime. Independent reports rank Michigan’s system among the worst in the country. Among other things, they’ve found too many public defenders are untrained, inexperienced, and overworked.