For Immediate Release

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Matthew Allee, (202) 580-6922 or

Constitution Project Files Brief in Support of Claims of Inadequate Legal Representation in Michigan

Amicus brief filed in the Michigan Supreme Court in the case of Duncan v. Michigan

WASHINGTON - Today, the Constitution Project, along with the National
Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Brennan Center for Justice, and
NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, filed an amicus
brief with the Michigan Supreme Court, urging the Court to decide that
those bringing the case have a sufficient claim for relief based on the
State's failure to provide them with constitutionally adequate
representation in their respective criminal cases. The plaintiffs in the
case of Duncan v. Michigan are eight indigent defendants who
request, on behalf of themselves and a class of indigent defendants in
three Michigan counties, that the Court declare the current public
defense system unconstitutional and order the State to provide
constitutionally adequate representation in the future. 

In an
attempt to dismiss the litigation, the State of Michigan has argued that
a United States Supreme Court opinion, Strickland v. Washington,
prevents any person from suing for ineffective assistance of counsel
until after he or she is convicted. However, the plaintiffs counter that
Strickland is inapplicable in a case such as Duncan,
which seeks prospective, class-wide relief. The Constitution Project and
other amici support the plaintiffs' argument that Strickland
does not apply in this situation in the brief filed today.  

brief states, in part:

"According to the Complaint, because of systemic defects, including
inadequate funding, supervision, and guidelines for the assignment of
attorneys, criminal defendants in three Michigan counties routinely lack
representation that meets even the basic standards of the legal
profession. This lack of meaningful representation causes Plaintiffs to
be routinely harmed throughout the course of their criminal proceedings -
resulting in excessive bail or the unnecessary denial of bail,
overcharging, wrongful convictions, guilty pleas that are not knowing
and voluntary, and excessive sentences. Because the United States and
Michigan constitutions ensure the right to counsel at all critical
stages of a criminal proceeding, these harms . . . violate the
Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Moreover, the prospective relief
sought in the Complaint is the only way to address such constitutional

The Constitution Project's National Right to Counsel Committee, in
its seminal report released last year, Justice Denied: America's
Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel
, urged
states to provide sufficient funding and oversight to public defense
systems to comply with constitutional requirements. The Committee
endorsed litigation seeking prospective relief on behalf of a class of
indigent defendants when states fail to comply with those requirements.
The bipartisan Committee consists of independent experts representing
all segments of America's justice system, including former judges,
prosecutors, police, defenders, and victim advocates.    

view a copy of the amicus brief of the Constitution Project, the
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Brennan Center for
Justice, and NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, go to:

To view Justice Denied, the report of the Constitution
Project's National Right to Counsel Committee, go to:



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The Constitution Project is a politically independent think tank established in 1997 to promote and defend constitutional safeguards. More information about the Constitution Project is available at

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