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Snyder issues executive order, creates and appoints commission that will study how to improve legal representation for the poor
October 13, 2011
Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011
LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Rick Snyder today issued an executive order that establishes a commission to investigate how to improve legal representation provided to low-income criminal defendants in Michigan. The commission will also make recommendations about how to ensure legal representation provided to low-income residents in the criminal justice system is consistent across the state.
The governor said the commission is needed because the quality of legal representation provided to defendants who are unable to pay for their own legal defense varies greatly across the state.
"A core principle of our criminal justice system is to guarantee that an individual charged with a crime be entitled to legal representation, even if they are unable to hire private counsel," Snyder said. "The Commission will work to ensure that all criminal defendants receive effective assistance of counsel."
Executive Order 2011-12 establishes the Indigent Defense Advisory Commission. Fourteen members will serve on the commission, including four lawmakers and 10 members appointed by the governor. The members appointed by the governor will represent the judiciary, prosecuting attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, the State Bar of Michigan, local governments, and the general public. (See list below.)
The commission is charged with recommending improvements that will ensure cost-effective, qualified legal counsel is available during each critical stage of legal proceedings and provided in a manner that is consistent throughout the state. Recommendations are due to the governor and Legislature by July 15, 2012.
"This Commission is a significant step forward in guaranteeing that Michigan has a criminal justice system that works for all and upholds core Constitutional rights for Michigan's citizens," said Julie Fershtman, president of the State Bar of Michigan.
The 14 Indigent Defense Advisory Commission members are:
James Fisher of Hastings, former chief judge of Barry County Trial Court. He previously served as prosecuting attorney for the Barry County Prosecutors Office. Fisher earned a degree in engineering from the General Motors Institute and a law degree from Wayne State University. He will serve as chair of the commission and represents the general public.
Thomas Boyd of Okemos, judge of the 55th District Court in Mason. He previously served as assistant attorney general for the Michigan Department of Attorney General. Boyd earned a bachelor's degree in social science from the James Madison College at Michigan State University and a law degree from Wayne State University. He will represent the interests of the judiciary.
Colleen O'Brien of Rochester Hills, Sixth Judicial Circuit judge. She previously worked for 17 years as a private practice attorney specializing in civil litigation. O'Brien earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and a law degree from the Detroit College of Law. She will represent the interests of the judiciary.
Michael Brown of Kalamazoo, president of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions for the Midwest District. He previously served in multiple roles with the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission and served 22 years in the U.S. Navy. He will represent the general public.
Judith Gracey of Sylvan Lake, sole practitioner of law in the areas of criminal, family, probate and estates, personal injury and contact law. She is also a commissioner on the Michigan Appellate Defender Commission. Gracey earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and a law degree from the University of Cincinnati Law School. She will represent the interests of the State Bar of Michigan.
Maggie Jones of Brighton, Livingston County Commissioner. She also serves as chair of the Livingston County United Way Day of Caring and is a member of the Livingston County Economic Development Council. Jones earned a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Missouri and a master's degree in education from the University of Michigan. She will represent local government.
Andrew Richner of Grosse Pointe Park, partner in the law firm Clark Hill PLC. He is a member of the University of Michigan Board of Regents. Richner previously served three terms in the Michigan House of Representatives, two terms as a Wayne County Commissioner, and one term on the Grosse Pointe Park City Council. He earned both a bachelor's degree in business administration and a law degree from the University of Michigan. Richner will represent the general public.
Suzanne Sareini of Dearborn has served as councilwoman for the city of Dearborn for more than 20 years. She also serves as a trustee of the Board of Directors for the Advanced Technology Academy Charter Public School in Dearborn. Sareini is a member of the Dearborn Optimist Club, Michigan Military Moms and the Women's Association for the Dearborn Orchestral Society. She will represent the general public.
Ronald Schafer of Portland, prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. He previously served as chief assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia and Washtenaw counties. Schafer earned a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University and a law degree from the Detroit College of Law. He will represent the interests of prosecuting attorneys.
John Shea of Chelsea, private practice attorney specializing in criminal defense. He previously worked for the Bodman, Longley and Dahling and Aaron, Schimberg and Hess law firms. Shea serves as chair and member of the Dexter Township Planning Commission. He earned both a bachelor's degree in economics and a law degree from the University of Michigan. Shea will represent interests of criminal defense attorneys.
The four appointed legislators are:
Sen. Bruce Caswell is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, where he chairs the Department of Human Services subcommittee and serves as vice chair of the subcommittees for the Department of Community Health, K-12, School Aid and Education, and Retirement. He will represent the Senate majority caucus and is appointed by Senate Majority Leader Richardville.
Sen. Bert Johnson serves on the Appropriations Committee and as minority vice-chair of the Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, General Government and Judiciary subcommittees. He also sits on the Redistricting Committee and serves as minority vice-chair of the Regulatory Reform Committee. Johnson will represent the Senate minority caucus and is appointed by Senate Majority Leader Richardville.
Rep. Tom McMillin serves as chair of the Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee and as a member of the Education, Government Operations and Regulatory Reform committees. He is a certified public accountant, business owner, and is a former Oakland County commissioner and former mayor and member of the Auburn Hills City Council. McMillin will represent the House majority caucus and is appointed by Speaker of the House Bolger.
Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton serves on the Appropriations Committee and the Community Colleges, General Government and School Air subcommittees. She is a patent attorney and has been named Legislator of the Year by the Michigan Probate Judges Association. She will represent the House minority caucus and is appointed by Speaker of the House Bolger.
All appointees will serve until December 2012 at the pleasure of the governor.
The full text of E.O. 2011-12 is available online at www.michigan.gov/snyder.
AUDIO CLIP 1 (6 seconds): Legal Counsel to the Governor Mike Gadola describes the challenge with Michigan's current indigent defense system.
AUDIO CLIP 2 (6 seconds): Legal Counsel to the Governor Mike Gadola explains what the administration hopes to achieve by creating a commission to study how to improve legal representation for low-income defendants.