Public defender plan can enhance justice for all

Given the amount of work that needs to be done, we like the move Marquette County has made to establish a public defender’s office, which provide legal representation for adult defendants in Marquette County’s district and circuit courts who cannot afford counsel.

The move traces its roots to a new set of requirements put forth last year by the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, which seeks to improve the quality of indigent defense in Michigan.

In addition, they are part of a response to a 2007 lawsuit against the state over its approach to indigent defense, a Mining Journal story on the matter detailed.

According to Marquette County officials, what the county is currently doing — assigning indigent cases to lawyers willing to take them — works well. The idea here is to improve the quality of representation.

Funding, of course, is key in all of this. Marquette County will pay an average of $224,000 per year (averaged out over a three-year period). The remaining monies needed to set up the office for the 2018-2019 fiscal year are approximately $631,000 and will be funded by the state, Erbisch said.

That’s something the state will hopefully do going forward because without state money, none of the above will happen.

This seems like a good plan, all things considered. Improving the quality of indigent legal counsel is a laudable, and achievable, goal, under this plan.