Indigent defense bill clears House Judiciary Committee

A bill that addresses sweeping problems in the state’s indigent defense system has cleared the House Judiciary Committee.

HB 5804, would establish the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Act and create a comprehensive approach to providing constitutionally effective assistance of counsel to indigent criminal defendants.

The legislation creates the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC). The 14-member board would consist of 13 individuals appointed by the governor from nominations submitted by legislative leaders, the State Bar of Michigan, the Criminal Defense Attorney Association of Michigan, bar associations representing minority interests, judges’ associations and the chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, who would also serve as the commission’s 14th member.

Among the bill’s key features:

  • Delivery of indigent criminal trial defense services (includes selection, funding, and payment of defense counsel) independent of the judiciary yet ensuring that judges are permitted and encouraged to contribute information and advice concerning the delivery of indigent criminal trial defense services.
  • Active participation of other members of the Bar with an indigent criminal defender office when indigent criminal trial defense services caseloads are sufficiently high.
  • Screening indigent adults for eligibility and assigning counsel as soon as feasible after formal charges are filed.

HB 5804 aims to:

  • provide defense counsel with sufficient time and space where confidentiality is safeguarded for meetings with clients; control workload to permit high-quality representation;
  • match the defense counsel’s ability, training, and experience with the nature and complexity of cases to which he or she is appointed;
  • have the same defense counsel continuously represent the client, with some exceptions, at every court appearance throughout the pendency of the case;
  • provide with and require defense counsel to attend relevant continuing legal education; and
  • [provide for] the systematical review of defense counsel for quality and efficiency of representation according to MIDC standards.

The measure now moves to the full House for further consideration.

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MSC announces appointments to AGC, ADB and state bar board of commissioners

The Michigan Supreme Court announced a number of appointments to the Attorney Grievance Commission, the prosecutorial arm of the state’s attorney discipline system, the Attorney Discipline Board, the discipline system’s adjudicative arm, and the State Bar of Michigan’s Board of Commissioners, which directs the state bar’s operations, including finance, public policy, member services, and strategic planning.

Appointed to the AGC:

Wanda M. Stokes of Lansing, attorney and division chief of the Michigan Attorney General Licensing and Regulation Division, is appointed to a term ending October 1, 2015.

Martha M. Snow of Northville, attorney and shareholder in the law firm of Xuereb Snow PC, is appointed for a term ending October 1, 2015.

Rozanne F. Sedler, L.M.S.W., A.C.S.W., of Southfield, a clinical social worker with Jewish Family Services in Oak Park, is reappointed to a term ending October 1, 2015.

David L. Porteous of Reed City, attorney and principal of the law firm of McCurdy Wotila & Porteous, PC, is appointed chairperson of the AGC for a term ending October 1, 2013.

Barbara B. Smith of Bloomfield Hills, attorney and principal of the law offices of Barbara B. Smith PLLC and Smith Mediation Center, is appointed vice-chairperson for a term ending October 1, 2013.

Appointed to the ADB:

Louann Van Der Wiele of Auburn Hills, vice president and associate general counsel in the Office of the General Counsel of Chrysler Group LLC, is appointed for a term ending October 1, 2015.

James M. Cameron, Jr. of Ann Arbor, attorney and member of the law firm of Dykema Gossett PLLC, is reappointed to a term ending October 1, 2015 and is reappointed vice-chairperson for a term ending October 1, 2013.

Dr. Sylvia P. Whitmer of West Bloomfield, who served as executive director of instruction K-12 for the Birmingham Public Schools from 1990 until her retirement in 2005, is reappointed to a term ending October 1, 2015.

Thomas G. Kienbaum of Birmingham, attorney and member of the law firm of Kienbaum, Opperwall, Hardy & Pelton, PLC, is reappointed chairperson for a term ending October 1, 2013.

Appointed to the Board of Commissioners

D. Randall Gilmer of Trenton, an associate in the law firm of McGraw Morris, P.C.

C. Thomas Ludden of Bloomfield Hills, partner in the law firm of Lipson, Neilson, Cole, Seltzer & Garin, PC.

Stephen J. Gobbo of Lansing, state cemetery commissioner and regulatory compliance division director for the bureau of commercial services, Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

All three appointees will serve as commissioners-at-large for three-year terms, effective on the adjournment of the outgoing board’s meeting this afternoon.

Also appointed as a commissioner-at-large was Charles S. Hegarty of Canton, member of the law firm of Bodman PLC. He will serve the remainder of the term of Jules B. Olsman of Berkley, president of the law firm of Olsman, Mueller, Wallace & MacKenzie, PC. Olsman was elected to the Board of Commissioners by State Bar members in June. Hegarty’s term will expire in September 2013.

– Information from the MSC’s Office of Public Information

Vehicle Code changes on House Judiciary Committee agenda

The House Judiciary Committee meets on Wednesday, Sept. 19, to take testimony on proposed changes to the Michigan Vehicle Code.

Update: The bill cleared the committee on Wednesday and now goes to the full House for consideration.

SB 809 would amend the code to do the following:

  • Prohibit a Secretary of State (SOS) hearing officer from issuing an unrestricted license to a person who received a restricted license following drunk driving violations, until the person met all requirements for a driver license (or other conditions were met).
  • Require the SOS to postpone considering issuance of an unrestricted license to a person who completed a sobriety court program, for three months for each “minor violation” during an ignition interlock monitoring period.
  • Require a restricted license to be suspended, revoked, or denied if the person who was issued the license, with a requirement for an ignition interlock device, committed a “major violation.”
  • Require a mandatory 120-day license suspension period to be served consecutively to a 60-day suspension period imposed for two serious traffic violations within 36 months, and revise the definition of “serious traffic violation.”
  • Delete a requirement of a one- or three-year license suspension for a six-point violation while operating a commercial motor vehicle.
  • Increase the length of a license suspension for operating a commercial vehicle during certain out-of-service periods.

SB 809 Analysis from the Senate Fiscal Agency

The committee meets in Room 521 House Office Building, Lansing at 9 a.m.

MSC orders oral argument in marijuana ‘collective cultivation’ case

Does a person violate the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA), MCL 333.26421 et seq., by growing marijuana for other caregivers or patients?

The Michigan Supreme Court may provide an answer. The Court has ordered oral arguments in People v. Bylsma, ___ Mich App ___ (2011), on Bylsma’s application for leave to appeal an adverse Court of Appeals ruling.

Bylsma, a registered caregiver under the MMMA, had 88 marijuana plants under cultivation in a rental space. Following a police raid, Bylsma was charged with manufacturing marijuana. Under the MMMA, a registered caregiver may possess 12 marijuana plants for each registered patient that the caregiver is connected to through the Michigan Department of Community Health’s registration process.

Bylsma was connected to two registered patients, entitling him to possess 24 plants. The remaining plants, Bylsma said, belonged to other registered caregivers and patients. Bylsma argued that he was entitled to immunity under § 4(b) of the MMMA because nothing in the act prevents other caregivers or patients from using the same space to grow marijuana.

The COA denied his motion to dismiss the charge. The COA reasoned that the evidence, which Bylsma did not dispute, showed that he possessed all 88 plants, and that under the MMMA, he was entitled to only 24.

The MSC has directed the parties to address:

“(1) whether the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA), MCL 333.26421 et seq., permits qualifying patients and registered primary caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana in a collective or cooperative; and

“(2) whether, under the circumstances of this case, the defendant was entitled to immunity from prosecution for manufacturing marijuana under § 4 of the MMMA, MCL 333.26424, or entitled to dismissal of the manufacturing charge under the affirmative defense in § 8 of the act, MCL 333.26428.”

ADB panel reprimands Baskin for misconduct

An Attorney Discipline Board hearing panel has issued an order of reprimand to high-profile attorney and Oakland University Trustee Henry Baskin after he admitted that he had a sexual relationship with a client while representing her in a divorce action.

Baskin represented the client from 1999 to 2004.

According to the panel’s report, Baskin admitted that his conduct violated Michigan Rule of Professional Conduct 1.7(b)(1), in that under the circumstances of the case, “a lawyer could not reasonably believe that the representation might not be adversely affected by the lawyer’s personal interests.”

Robert Edick, the Deputy Grievance Administrator presented the case to the hearing panel. Edick argued that Baskin should be suspended for his misconduct.

The hearing panel concluded that Baskin should have known better.

“Although there is no evidence of actual injury to the client, the potential for injury under these circumstances is clear to any lawyer, and certainly to someone with respondent’s experience,” the hearing panel wrote.

“Indeed, this experience caused this panel to consider imposing a suspension, but we have concluded that Standard 4.33 is applicable and that the imposition of a reprimand adequately serves to protect the public, the courts and the profession,” the panel concluded.

Baskin was assessed costs and fees totaling $2,468.

Update: Edick said the Attorney Grievance Commission has not made a decision whether to appeal the level of discipline imposed by the hearing panel. Any appeal would be heard first by the Attorney Discipline Board.

MSC jury reform project honored by Nat’l Center for State Courts

The Michigan Supreme Court and 12 judges who took part in a two-year pilot project to test various jury reform proposals are receiving 2012 G. Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation.

The award, conferred by the National Center for State Courts, is given annually to recognize significant improvements or innovations for juries, NCSC President Mary C. McQueen said.

The jury reform effort, initiated by the MSC in 2005, resulted in amendments to the Michigan Court Rules last year.

Some of the more significant changes: judges may allow discussion among jurors about evidence during trial recesses and note taking. Juries may request views of crime scenes or other relevant locations. Judges are required to provide copies of the jury instructions to jurors when they retire for final deliberations.

NCSC Vice President and General Counsel Robert Baldwin will present the award to the Court and pilot project judges following the Court’s first oral argument on October 9. The ceremony will take place at 10:45 a.m. in the old Supreme Court courtroom in the state Capitol building.

The judges participating in the 2009-2010 pilot project include:

  • Judge Thomas P. Boyd, 55th District Court, Mason, Ingham County
  • Judge William J. Caprathe (retired) and Judge Kenneth W. Schmidt, 18th Circuit Court, Bay County
  • Judge Richard J. Celello, 41st Circuit Court, Dickinson/Iron/Menominee counties
  • Judge Beth Gibson, 92nd District Court, Newberry, Luce/Mackinac counties
  • Judge Timothy G. Hicks, 14th Circuit Court, Muskegon County
  • Judge Richard W. May, 90th District Court, Charlevoix/Emmet counties
  • Judge Wendy L. Potts, 6th Circuit Court, Oakland County
  • Judge Donald L. Sanderson, 2B District Court, Hillsdale County
  • Judge Paul E. Stutesman, 45th Circuit Court, St. Joseph County
  • Judge David Viviano, 16th Circuit Court, Macomb County
  • Judge Peter J. Wadel, Lake County Trial Court/79th District Court, Ludington