Supreme Court justice named our Woman of the Year

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly was named as Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s Woman of the Year at our 2012 Women in the Law luncheon on Sept. 27.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly holds her award after being named Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s 2012 Woman of the Year at the Detroit Marriott, Troy. (Photo by Mark Bialek)

Kelly has accomplished a lot in her career, including public service spanning the last 48 years.

As noted in her Women in the Law profile (see our Sept. 10, 2012, edition), Kelly was the first woman elected to State Board of Education in 1964, and was re-elected in 1968 and 1972.

While still on the board, she enrolled at Wayne State University Law School and graduated with honors in 1971. She was elected to the Court of Appeals in 1988, and re-elected in 1994. In 1996, she was elected to the Supreme Court for the first of her two terms. She was the Court’s chief justice from 2009-11.

Her push to make courts more accessible has resulted in last month’s launch of a new legal self-help website, Michigan Legal Help.

Kelly also was a loud and unwavering voice in the call for more comprehensive and fair indigent representation. She surely is gratified with HB 5804, to create the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, going to the full House with strong bipartisan support.

That Commission would set standards, attempt to stabilize funding and promote best practices.

And, as Kelly told MiLW writer Ed Wesoloski for her Women in the Law profile, she counts G. Mennen Williams — Michigan’s 41st governor and a Supreme Court justice — among her heroes and mentors. She recalls him as a charismatic man, who was forever extending his arm to “give a warm, firm handshake.”

She also mentioned that she is a SCUBA diving enthusiast, and to this day still actively participates in the sport. In addition, she confessed to Ed the guilty pleasure of reading spy novels.

Kelly started a Limited English Proficiency Program to assist non-English speakers navigate their way through the legal system.

Her most visible effort, without question, was her work on the Michigan Judicial Selection Task Force on which she served as co-chair with Senior Circuit Judge James Ryan, of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

They brought together a group of lawyers, non-lawyers, businesspeople and campaigners and researched the judicial selection process.

The task force released a comprehensive report calling for more transparency in the selection and campaign process and offered sensible solutions and alternatives that would make the judicial selection process more effective and transparent.

Those recommendations are still being considered.

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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.