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Case: Duncan v. State of Michigan

07-00242 | Michigan state trial court

Filed Date: Feb. 22, 2007

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On February 22, 2007, eight indigent felony defendants filed a 42 U.S.C. §1983 lawsuit against the State of Michigan and its governor, Jennifer M. Granholm, in a Michigan state court, specifically, the Circuit Court for Ingham County, Michigan. The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and private counsel, requested class certification to represent a proposed class of all indigent adults who had been charged or would be charged with felonies in the District …

On February 22, 2007, eight indigent felony defendants filed a 42 U.S.C. §1983 lawsuit against the State of Michigan and its governor, Jennifer M. Granholm, in a Michigan state court, specifically, the Circuit Court for Ingham County, Michigan. The plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and private counsel, requested class certification to represent a proposed class of all indigent adults who had been charged or would be charged with felonies in the District and Circuit Courts of Berrien, Genesee, and Muskegon Counties and who relied or would rely on the Counties to provide them with counsel for their defense.

The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that the State abdicated its constitutional and statutory responsibility by delegating responsibility for indigent defense to individual counties and failing to fund or provide oversight for such services. Plaintiffs complained of a number of resulting deficiencies including: underfunding, inadequate training, overwhelming caseloads, and the lack of standards for performance and workload. Plaintiffs claimed that the resulting system failed to provide indigent defendants with constitutionally adequate representation. The plaintiffs requested that the court declare the current public defense system unconstitutional and order (via injunctive relief) that the State provide representation consistent with the requirements of the U.S. and Michigan constitutions.

On May 16, 2007, Judge Laura Baird of the Ingram County Circuit Court denied the state's motion to dismiss based on governmental immunity, and granted class certification. The state appealed. On June 11, 2009, the Michigan Court of Appeals, in consolidated appeals of the trial court's decisions, affirmed the trial court on all counts, holding that the state is not shielded by governmental immunity and that the trial court properly certified the class.

Again, the State appealed, and on December 18, 2009, the Michigan Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, putting it on the April 2010 session calendar. Briefs of amici curiae were submitted to the Michigan Supreme Court by the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Brennan Center for Justice, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, the Constitution Project and the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic.

On April 30, 2010, the Michigan Supreme Court, after hearing oral arguments, vacated the trial court's order granting the plaintiffs' motion for class certification and remanded the case to the Ingham Circuit Court for consideration of the plaintiffs' motion for class certification. Also, the Michigan Supreme Court affirmed the result only of the Court of Appeals majority claiming that the defendants were not entitled to summary judgment as it was premature to make a decision on the substantive issues in the case. 780 N.W.2d 843.

In a surprising development, on July 16, 2010, the Michigan Supreme Court granted reconsideration and vacated its April 30, 2010 order thereby reversing the June 11, 2009 Court of Appeals decision for the reasons stated in that dissenting opinion including the plaintiffs' lack of standing. The order remanded the case to the Ingham Circuit Court, ordering entry of summary judgment in favor of the defendants. 784 N.W.2d 51.

On November 30, 2010, the Court again granted reconsideration, and reinstated the April 30 ruling, holding that first reconsideration was improperly granted. 790 N.W.2d 695. Two additional requests for reconsideration were denied. 791 N.W.2d 721 and 795 N.W.2d 820.

We have no further information about the progression of this case at the moment. However, on October 13, 2011, at least partly in response to this case and to campaigning by the ACLU of Michigan and other groups, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder issued an Executive Order establishing an 14-member Indigent Defense Advisory Commission charged with compiling a report on the status of indigent defense in the State and making recommendations on its improvement.

On June 22, 2012, the Commission released its report, finding that Michigan's history of delegating its responsibility to provide counsel to indigent defendants to the counties, as political-subdivisions of the State, had resulted in an uncoordinated, 83-county "patchwork quilt" with no standards as to the adequate of counsel or the level of funding. There was no State-level regulatory guidance as to what level of service would be constitutionally adequate. Most legal practitioners involved in the Michigan criminal justice system (judges, prosecutors, and indigent defense attorneys) who testified before the Commission acknowledged that the American Bar Association's recommendations for a minimally constitutionally adequate indigent defense system were not being met in Michigan. The report acknowledged Michigan ranked 44th in per capita indigent defense spending, spending 38% less than the national average. Only three of the State's 57 circuit courts funded indigent defense at or above the national average, and if it were to meet the national average the State would have to increase its total annual spending for indigent defense by nearly $50,000,000. The Commission recognized that the widespread inadequacy of indigent defense had led to higher than necessary levels of wrongful convictions, sentencing errors, and appeals resulting from ineffective assistance of counsel. It found that these avoidable errors cost the State millions of dollars.

Other recommendations included mandatory relevant continuing legal education for defense counsel, that defense counsel workloads be controlled and economic incentives encouraging the overburdening of attorneys be eliminated, and that defense counsel be provided with sufficient time and confidential space in order to consult with defendants.

The Commission recommended the State create a system that would ensure state-wide implementation of the ABA's minimum standards, and which would provide adequate funding. The Commission found that the creation of a new independent State agency, in the judicial branch, would be necessary to enforce these standards.

In June 2013, Michigan passed legislation establishing a permanent Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, largely following the recommendations of the earlier Commission's report. The commission will develop statewide standards, and the State will be obligated to provide funding to local county systems in order to maintain these standards if local funding is insufficient.

Summary Authors

David Miller (11/29/2010)

Alex Colbert-Taylor (6/28/2013)

Related Cases

Hurrell-Harring v. State of New York, New York state trial court (2007)

People


Judge(s)

Baird, Laura (Michigan)

Cavanagh, Michael F. (Michigan)

Corrigan, Maura D. (Michigan)

Davis, Alton Thomas (Michigan)

Hathaway, Diane M. (Michigan)

Kelly, Marilyn (Michigan)

Markman, Stephen J. (Michigan)

Murphy, William B. (Michigan)

Sawyer, David H. (Michigan)

Weaver, Elizabeth A. (Michigan)

Judge(s)

Baird, Laura (Michigan)

Cavanagh, Michael F. (Michigan)

Corrigan, Maura D. (Michigan)

Davis, Alton Thomas (Michigan)

Hathaway, Diane M. (Michigan)

Kelly, Marilyn (Michigan)

Markman, Stephen J. (Michigan)

Murphy, William B. (Michigan)

Sawyer, David H. (Michigan)

Weaver, Elizabeth A. (Michigan)

Whitbeck, William C. (Michigan)

Young, Robert P. Jr. (Michigan)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Dahlberg, Robin L. (New York)

Eaman, Frank D (Michigan)

Fancher, Mark P. (Michigan)

Granzotto, Mark (Michigan)

Gupta, Vanita (New York)

Kennedy, Elizabeth (New York)

Moss, Kary L. (Michigan)

North, Julie A. (New York)

Rossman, Jessie J. (Michigan)

Steinberg, Michael J. (Michigan)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Cox, Michael A. (Michigan)

Nelson, Margaret A. (Michigan)

Restuccia, B. Eric (Michigan)

Sherman, Ann (Michigan)

Other Attorney(s)

Abrahams, Erin L. (Michigan)

Adegbile, Debo Patrick (New York)

Bannon, Alicia L. (New York)

Burress, Daniel (Michigan)

Clark, Melanca D. (New York)

Dimino, Maureen (District of Columbia)

DuMouchel, David F. (Michigan)

Ellis, Nicholas (Michigan)

Giovan, William (Michigan)

McCormack, Bridget (Michigan)

Menges, Jason D. (Michigan)

Michelson, Laurie Jill (Michigan)

Moran, David A. (Michigan)

Mullin, Mary M. (Michigan)

O'Hair, John (Michigan)

Payton, John A. (District of Columbia)

Raben, Margaret Sind (Michigan)

Schmid, Mary J. (District of Columbia)

Sloan, Virginia (District of Columbia)

Swarns, Christina (New York)

Toomey, Erin L. (Michigan)

Udell, David S. (New York)

Uetz, Ann Marie (Michigan)

Expert/Monitor/Master

Brink, Malia (Michigan)

Thomas, Kim (Michigan)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

SC: 139345

COA: 278652

Docket [Court of Appeals]

Michigan state appellate court

Dec. 18, 2009

Dec. 18, 2009

Docket

SC: 139345

COA: 278652

Michigan Supreme Court Docket

Michigan state supreme court

Oct. 14, 2010

Oct. 14, 2010

Docket

07-00242

Complaint

Feb. 22, 2007

Feb. 22, 2007

Complaint

ACLU Press Release

No Court

Feb. 22, 2007

Feb. 22, 2007

Press Release

07-00242

COA: 278652

Opinion (Michigan Court of Appeals)

Michigan state appellate court

June 11, 2009

June 11, 2009

Order/Opinion

07-00242

COA 278860

SC No: 139345-7

COA 278858

COA: 278652

Order [Michigan Supreme Court]

Michigan state supreme court

Dec. 18, 2009

Dec. 18, 2009

Order/Opinion

ACLU Press Release

No Court

Dec. 21, 2009

Dec. 21, 2009

Press Release

07-00242

Press Release

Michigan state supreme court

Dec. 21, 2009

Dec. 21, 2009

Press Release

07-00242

COA: 278652

COA 278860

SC: 139345

SC 139346

SC 139347

COA 278858

Appellants Brief [Michigan Supreme Court]

Michigan state supreme court

Feb. 8, 2010

Feb. 8, 2010

Pleading / Motion / Brief

COA 278860

SC No: 139345-7

COA 278858

COA: 278652

Plaintiffs-Appellees' Brief on Appeal [Michigan Supreme Court]

Michigan state supreme court

March 12, 2010

March 12, 2010

Pleading / Motion / Brief

Resources

Docket

Last updated Nov. 1, 2022, 3:03 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Michigan

Case Type(s):

Indigent Defense

Key Dates

Filing Date: Feb. 22, 2007

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

All indigent adults who have been charged or will be charged with felonies in the District and Circuit Courts of Berrien, Genesee, and Muskegon Counties and who rely or will rely on the counties to provide them with counsel for their defense.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

ACLU of Michigan

ACLU National Prison Project

ACLU Affiliates (any)

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

State of Michigan, State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

State law

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: None Yet / None

Nature of Relief:

None yet

Source of Relief:

None yet

Issues

Reproductive rights:

Fetus Identity

General:

Conflict of interest

Funding

Quality of representation

Crowding:

Crowding / caseload