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Michigan Court of Appeals allows Duncan case to move ahead

The Michigan Court of Appeals released an opinion April 3 affirming a lower court ruling in Duncan et. al. v. State of Michigan, allowing the case to move forward in Ingham County Circuit Court and denying again the state’s efforts to have the case dismissed. In the Duncan case, plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit from three counties asked the court to declare that failures in Michigan’s public defense system violated their right to counsel under the U.S. and Michigan Constitutions.

In agreeing with the lower court, the Appeals Court said, “Without an action such as this, and assuming plaintiffs’ allegations are true, indigent persons who are accused of crimes in Michigan will continue to be subject to inadequate legal representation without remedy unless such representation adversely affects the outcome. Our system of justice requires effective representation, not ineffective but non-outcome determinative representation.”

In response, Marcela Westrate, executive director of the Michigan Campaign for Justice, said the ruling reinforces the desperate need for legislators to pick up where they left off in 2012 and adopt bipartisan indigent defense reform legislation.

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