Thursday, December 2, 2010

NLADA Gideon Alert: Michigan lawsuit reinstated

Gideon Alert: As Michigan Supreme Court again reinstates ACLU Duncan lawsuit, the Race to the Bottom continues in Chippewa and Bay counties

On April 30, 2010, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously ordered the American Civil Liberties Union class action lawsuit in Duncan v. Michigan to move forward, only to reverse itself on July 16, 2010 in a 4-3 order issued on reconsideration.  By granting summary judgment in favor of the Governor and State of Michigan at that time, most people (including this author) assumed the court had put an end to any opportunity for the plaintiffs to prove they are being denied the effective right to counsel as a result of Michigan’s inadequate and ineffective system of public defense.  (For more information on the Duncan case and orders, see our earlier Gideon Alerts here and here.)  However, on November 30, 2010, the Court issued a third order, reversing itself yet again with another 4-3 vote, that reinstates the original unanimous April 30th order. 

One dissent from the November 30 Order clearly suggests that politics were the motivation behind this latest turn-about.  “The Court’s decision to suddenly expedite this case seems designed to prevent the new Court after January 1, 2011 from considering a motion for reconsideration.”  Politics does appear to be at the heart of all these reconsiderations.  Despite the original unanimous decision, the first reconsideration broke down on partisan lines with the three Republican and one Independent jurists switching positions, seemingly without any new evidence being presented by the defendants as to why their votes should be reconsidered.  At the time, the three Democratic jurists said as much in their dissent: “Today’s order slams the courthouse door in plaintiffs’ face for no good reason.”