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State lawmakers to discuss proposed fixes to Michigan's "broken" indigent defense system

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The State Senate Judiciary Committee takes up bills today that would greatly change Michigan’s indigent defense system.   

James Samuels is the president of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan.    He says the current system Michigan uses to provide attorneys for poor defendants is “broken”.

Samuels likes the proposed changes, including the way attorneys get contracts to represent indigent defendants.

“It’s not uncommon for attorneys not to put up a vigorous defense because they don’t want to irritate the judge who’s in charge of giving them assignments,” says Samuels.

Samuels says he’s also glad the proposed changes call for scrapping the current “low-bid” contracts for defenses attorneys.

“There’s a disincentive to take a case to trial if you are going to be paid the same amount if you take a plea,” says Samuels, “Those kind of contracts simply don’t serve the citizens very well.”

The proposed legislation would also create state standards for defenses attorneys hired to represent poor defendants.   

Counties are responsible for paying for indigent defense.   Some county leaders are worried that changing the current system will be more expensive.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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