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Commission Recommends Agency to Oversee Indigent Defense

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A commission appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to look at how Michigan ensures everyone accused of a crime gets a decent legal defense has made its recommendations.The complaints about Michigan –and the state’s system is considered one of the nation’s worst – are that public defenders are inexperienced, over-worked, and underpaid. The Michigan Indigent Defense Advisory Commission says an independent agency should serve as a watchdog over public defense.

Judge James Fisher chaired the commission. He says the agency would set standards for every county to follow…           

at we can ensure that people have attorneys representing them who are capable, and adequately compensated, qualified, experienced, so forth.”

And the state should step in, he says, when counties don’t live up to the rules.

Now, it’s up to the Legislature and Governor Snyder to enact the recommendations. Hearings could begin this summer. Fixing public defense in Michigan could cost taxpayers $50 million.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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