FULL REPORT (1.9 MB, PDF file): Sixth Amendment Center, The Right to Counsel in Wayne County, Michigan: Evaluation of Assigned Counsel Services in the Third Judicial Circuit (August 2019).
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ONLY (1.1 MB, PDF file): Sixth Amendment Center, The Right to Counsel in Wayne County, Michigan: Evaluation of Assigned Counsel Services in the Third Judicial Circuit (August 2019).
Under a grant from the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, Wayne County retained the Sixth Amendment Center (6AC) to conduct an evaluation of the Third Judicial Circuit’s court appointed counsel system in felony criminal trials. In Wayne County, which includes Detroit, 75% of indigent felony defendants receive trial level representation from attorneys selected and overseen by trial court judges of the Third Judicial Circuit. (The remaining 25% of defendants are represented by non-profit public defense lawyers, which was the focus of a 6AC study in 2018. Our latest report on Wayne County indigent defense services can be read as a companion to The Right to Counsel in Wayne County, Michigan: Evaluation of the State Defender Office of the Metropolitan Justice Center of Southeast Michigan (April 2018), published by the Sixth Amendment Center, in collaboration with the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, Defender Initiative of the Seattle University School of Law.)
6AC’s report explains how forcing trial court judges to design and directly oversee the system that provides attorneys to represent indigent defendants always opens the door to the dangers of undue judicial interference with the right to counsel. Every aspect of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is impaired, in the felony assigned counsel services provided in the Third Judicial Circuit, by the lack of independence from the judiciary, leaving the personal interests of appointed private attorneys in conflict with the legal interests of the defendants whom they are appointed to represent. Repairing the felony right to counsel at trial requires greater authority and resources than county officials and trial court judges have under the legal and financial construct created by state law.