Excerpt. Full article available on the Sixth Amendment Center’s blog.
The State of Michigan must fulfill its Fourteenth Amendment responsibility to ensure the effective assistance of counsel to all indigent defendants who face the possible loss of their liberty in criminal and delinquency cases, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. For this reason, the 6AC report, The Right to Counsel in Wayne County, Michigan: Evaluation of Assigned Counsel Services in the Third Judicial Circuit, released August 1, 2019, recommends that state law be amended to allow the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission to administer and adequately fund felony indigent representation in Wayne County.
The good news
Bold actions are already underway to overcome the deficiencies identified in the public defender office system that represents the other 25% of indigent felony defendants.
In June 2019, Wayne County Commissioners unanimously approved Neighborhood Defender Service (NDS) to establish a new public defender office in Detroit. The decision brings NDS’s nationally-recognized holistic representation model to the service of Wayne County residents. NDS Detroit will open its doors in early October 2019, with a staff of 70 working in teams to meet the legal and social work needs of appointed clients and to provide defense representation intent on disentangling appointed clients from the criminal legal system once and for all. NDS Detroit will ultimately also provide legal assistance in other fields, including immigration, housing, and family law, to protect residents who endure collateral consequences as result of an interaction with the criminal legal system.
“No one in Wayne County should ever be convicted of a crime because they are poor, and NDS Detroit is going to help make that a reality. We know what it means to work in communities harmed by mass incarceration and look forward to making the city a leader in the provision of public defense,” said NDS Detroit Managing Director Chantá Parker. “We are grateful that MIDC and local Wayne County officials have recognized the need to protect the rights of these communities and secure the justice they need to thrive.”