How can you represent those people? Part Three

“What I’m Thinking About” Wednesday
June 25, 2014

To read Part One, click here.
To read Part Two, click here.


How can I represent those people?

I could easily point to the Constitution and claim that it is necessary to defend individuals charged with a crime in order to maintain a free and just society.  The adage that it is better that nine guilty people go free than it is for a single innocent person be convicted is reason enough.  And though this is a foundational reason, for me it’s more than that.

I would start by answering the question with a question:  Who are those people?

The way I see it, people are people.  Those people imply that there are some individuals who are not like the person who asks the question and me.  How are those people different than you and I?  What is that separation that should deny them from my representation?  And what is it that makes the questioner feel superior to my clients?

We live in a disposable society.  If something breaks, it is often cheaper to throw it away and buy a new one than it is to fix it.  And unfortunately, I believe, the mentality can make it easy or acceptable to have disposable people.  We, as a nation, are becoming more isolated from each other.  Our disengagement with others reduces empathy towards those that aren’t within our small circle of family and friends.  I’ve met a lot of those people in my practice.  They have families.  They have friends.  They have children.  Only a few are alone or have only a handful of people who are in their immediate circle.  But that doesn’t mean they are any less of a person than me.

We also live in a society fueled by media and entertainment for vengeance.  If we’re struck, we must strike back.  Harder.  It is so ingrained in our society it feels natural.  We don’t question why we were struck (or do so at superficial level that is biased towards defending one striking back – take 9/11 for example).

I cannot deny this emotion.  When we returned from our honeymoon we discovered our apartment broken into and all of our new gifts gone.  I’ve felt the heat for vengeance.  But we mustn’t jump to conclusions.

The first on-campus event I attended in law school was sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild.  They brought in three speakers who had one thing in common:  they had been death row inmates, all released after several years of appeals and the culling of evidence destroying the cases against them.  There, before me, sat a man who was weeks away from state execution, discussing his case, living with the conflicting feelings of being innocent but condemned to execution.  Vengeance doesn’t always lead to justice.  If sought hastily, it can create further injustice.

Life isn’t fair, right.  I disagree with that maxim.  Life is neutral.  It is people that are either fair or not fair.

The police and prosecutor were not fair with Donna Goodwin.  They incarcerated a poor, ailing, mature African American woman for one month.  After gaining a HIPPA release from Goodwin, I spoke with her doctor.  She knew Goodwin’s health and records for years, and would have never referred her to the physician on the prescription pad, mainly because she was from a competitor health care system.  When I demanded video evidence or eye witness testimony of Ms. Goodwin at the pharmacy, two days before the hearing the prosecutor told me they were going to dismiss the case because they had no witnesses.

The nosy-body neighbor was not fair to Eddie Lee.  She and Gerry made a false claim to get Eddie Lee in trouble.  What they didn’t count on was the three witnesses that contradicted her story, and in a bench trial before the judge, Eddie Lee was found not guilty of attempted criminal sexual conduct fourth.  Ms. Nosy-body took it further and filed a disorderly conduct charge against one of the witnesses who testified in the trial, who I then defended, achieving a dismissal of that charge.

The rent-a-cops at the grocery store were not fair to Scott Young.  At their testimony during the preliminary examination, they claimed that they were several car lengths away when Young pulled up and stopped to pick up his mother.  The judge bound the matter over, but in a Motion to Quash, the circuit court judge dismissed the assault with a dangerous weapon felony.

The probation office was not fair to Danny Hugel.  I filed a motion to have Hugel removed from the Sex Offender Registry, based on a 2009 Michigan Court of Appeals decision that ruled that having to register after successfully completing HYTA before October 1, 2004 and not required to do so after October 1, 2004, was cruel and unusual punishment, contrary to the Michigan Constitution.  While awaiting that hearing, the probation officer levied another frivolous probation violation against him.  On a Tuesday, the hearing before the judge to remove him from the Sex Offender Registry was held, and the judge ruled in our favor.  Two days later, with the new alleged crime of failing to comply with the sex offender registry and the probation violation, the charges were dismissed.

It would have been easy for these four individuals to take plea deals, or should I say, for an attorney to guide them into taking pleas.  Life’s not fair, right?

So it’s a Constitutional duty, and a duty to uphold justice and fairness.  But there’s one other element that I have found with most of these clients.  I like them.  I can relate to them.  Those in jail, I don’t mind visiting them prior to our first appearance in court, to get their side of the story that they feel would go unheard but for my visit.  For the four clients above – and others like them I have defended – their situation could have happened just as easily to you or to me.

I tend to root for the underdog, and when someone is charged with a crime, there is no bigger underdog.  Of course, in a number of cases, the issue is not innocence or guilt, but rather damage control.  The act was committed, and a sentence has to be imposed.  In those cases, my goal is to get a fair sentence for the client, instead of having the book thrown at them.

People who are charged with a crime are not necessarily bad people.  Should a single act define who we are?  Think of some of the single acts you may have engaged in that you may not be proud of.  Would you want your life to be defined by that?

This is why I defend people charged with crimes.


How can you represent those people? Part Two.

“What I’m Thinking About” Wednesday
June 18, 2014

(If you would like to read Part One, click HERE)

I gave Donna Goodwin(1) a copy of the police report.  It included copies of the prescriptions that she allegedly had filled.  Goodwin explained to me that she lived on a fixed income in Detroit, her doctor’s office within walking distance of her home, and the pharmacy she filled her prescriptions with was on the corner.  She had never heard of the doctor whose name was on the prescription.  Until this charge, she had never been in Clinton Township.  She provided me with the name of her doctor and her office location.  Goodwin also told me that her state id had been stolen from her the summer before.

In February, 2008, I sat for the Michigan Bar Exam.  I had left the City of Detroit to try my hand at running a business, which lasted eighteen months during the recession.  I then clerked for a legendary labor arbitrator whose office was in Detroit, and with his encouragement I decided to go after the license to practice law.  I swore into the Bar in May, 2008.

Swearing in before Judge Richard Caretti in Macomb County Circuit Court.

I took Eddie Lee and his neighbors aside to go over the police report.  He was alleged to have been drunk, left the lawn chair he had been sitting on in Al’s (his neighbor) front yard, then crossed the street to where the alleged victim was sitting on the front porch of a male’s home.  She claimed that Lee started hugging on her and had touched her private parts through her clothing.

Al told me that her story was complete fabrication.  The woman was the neighborhood’s busybody, sticking her nose into every neighbor’s business.  Al was barbequing with Lee sitting in a lawn chair.  Yes, he was drunk.  So drunk that Al said there was no way Lee could have walked across the street without falling face first on the ground.  Ms. Busybody had walked in front of Al’s home, looked at the two men and said, “I smell marijuana.”  Al told her to leave because the only thing smoking was the burgers on the grill.  She walked away in a huff and joined Gerry, a known alcoholic and loud mouth, on his front porch.  About twenty minutes later the police arrived and talked to Ms. Busybody.  They then walked over and arrested Lee.  Two of the neighbors confirmed Al’s version of the story.

The arbitrator was near the end of his career (though I wouldn’t be surprised if  he was still arbitrating labor cases around the country today, six years later).  I needed to consider my options.  The City of Detroit Law Department was hiring in the Labor and Employment Section, where I had clerked during law school.  The interview with two people I had previously worked for was promising, but the open position was for an experienced attorney, not an entry level attorney.  What options were available to me, a forty-six year old male at the start of his law career?

Scott Young told me that he was driving his mother grocery shopping.  He took her to a store where she purchased some groceries.  However, she needed to go to a second store to get the things she needed that the first store did not have.  Young dropped his mother off at the front door, then parked the car and waited for her.  Thirty minutes later, Mom came out of a different door.  No groceries.  No cart.  He drove to meet her.  When she entered the car he asked her what she was doing.  She insisted he drive away.  They drove out of the parking lot, but was immediately pulled over by the police.  According to the police report, Mom had filled a shopping cart with groceries and had pushed them past all points of sale and into the foyer between the two sets of doors leading out.  (This was where the restrooms were located in the store).  Two plain clothed security guards stopped her and began to question her.  She claimed she needed to use the restroom, but they assumed she was trying to walk out with the cart.  She abandoned the cart and left the store.  The two security guards followed and alleged that Young had sped the car in their direction, almost striking them as he stopped to pick Mom up.

A guy I went to law school with, who sponsored me when I swore into the Bar, Kevin Johnson, suggested I look into criminal defense because he said that it seemed right for me.  I shadowed him on his court days, then took the full day session, “A is for Attorney” held on the first day of the Fall 2008 Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan conference.  That launched my criminal defense practice.

Kevin Johnson sponsoring me on my swearing into the Bar.

In 2000, Danny Hugel was seventeen years old.  He plead to a charge of criminal sexual conduct fourth degree for touching the breasts of a thirteen year old girl without her consent.  He was sentenced under Michigan’s Holmes Youthful Training Act (HYTA) which allows a defendant under the age of twenty-one to plead guilty to a charge then be sentenced to a period of probation.  If the defendant successfully complete the term of probation, the case is then dismissed and becomes a non-public record.  However, in 2000, the Sex Offender Registry Act (SORA) required someone convicted of a criminal sexual conduct fourth degree to register as a sex offender.  The law contradicted itself.  HYTA dismissed the charge, however SORA proclaimed it to be a conviction of a sex crime.

There’s the back story.  That’s the “how.”  You really want to know “why.”  Why would I dedicate my practice to representing those people?

I’ll answer that by starting with a question.  Who are those people?

Concluded next week.

(1)  All clients name’s have been changed.

Superstitious? Finding friends in federal prison and Detroit City FC pride

Friday, Finally!
June 13, 2014

– Friday the 13th.  Feeling superstitious?

–  You’ve seen it on the news often.  A person is taken into custody and charged with a crime.  Neighbors and family are interviewed and many times you’ll hear phrases like, “He seemed like a nice, quiet guy.”  “Never had a problem with him.  Always pleasant.  Kept to himself.”

Marie Mason was a girl I knew in high school.  An intelligent, soft spoken girl, I don’t recall how many classes I had with her, but they were usually college-prep type classes, like physics, trigonometry, pre-calculus.  I don’t recall any specific conversations with her, but I remember the sense I had about her.  She was mature for a teenager.  An old soul within a young body.  Always nice.  Always kind.

(Marie held the Secretary position on the Executive Forum, top right photo, she’s on the left, and also in the bottom row, second photo from the right).


On a high school campus that graduates over one thousand people, and in a time before the internet, I lost track of her.  It wasn’t until a year or so before my 30th class reunion that I found her.  And federal prison was not the place I expected.

On September 8, 2008, Marie entered into a guilty plea of Conspiracy to Commit Arson, and two counts of Arson.  According to the Plea Agreement, during the evening of December 31, 1999, Marie, her then-husband Frank Ambrose, and three others, set a fire to Agriculture Hall on the Michigan State University campus.  The next day, January 1, 2000, they destroyed, by fire, a John Deere Hydro-Ax Shear and commercial flatbed trailer – equipment used in commercial logging – parked on the side of the road near Mesick, Michigan.

Marie and Ambrose were committed environmentalists and had become affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front (ELF).  ELF was a loosely organized movement of individuals committed to the eradication of commercial, research, and other activities that are harmful to the natural environment.  The Agriculture Hall was identified by this small group as a place where records of, and papers relating to, plant genetic research were maintained.

Ambrose filed divorce papers almost ten years later on the day Marie was arrested.  For two years, he spied on activist groups for the FBI, taping incriminating conversations with activists including Marie.  (See and “Green Scares & Marie Mason“, fifth estate, Spring, 2011).  The Feds recommended a twenty year sentence (240 months) for Marie.  In the Defendant’s Sentencing Memorandum Regarding Disparity was a recitation of sentences by defendants committing far more acts of arson and property damage than the four arsons and $4 million of damages Marie plead to.  A sample of these are:

Jacob Ferguson – 21 arsons – over $30 million damages- sentenced to probation.
Stanislas Meyerhof – 11 (or more) arsons – over $30 million damages – sentenced to 156 months.
Kevin Tubbs – 11 arsons – $20 million damages – sentenced to 151 months.
Chelsea Gerlach – 7 arsons – $27 million damages – sentenced to 108 months.

On February 20, 2009, Marie was sentenced to 240 months on the conspiracy charge; 262 months on the arson of the Agriculture Hall; and 180 months to the arson of the logging equipment.  Restitution was also ordered in the amount of $4,139,536.  All sentences to run concurrently.

If that wasn’t already excessive punishment, Marie is currently being held in a maximum security federal prison in Texas, in a special wing with restrictive policies regarding communication.

Needless to say, she didn’t make it to our 30th class reunion.

It is easy to accept that Marie plead guilty to the charges and as punishment should do time.  But her case is one of the  harshest sentences imposed under the guise of eco-terrorism.

Today, at the Cass Cafe, an exhibit of Marie’s paintings created while incarcerated at the Carswell Federal Prison in Fort Worth, Texas, opens.  The exhibit will run through Saturday, June 21st.

– No DCFC soccer this weekend.  At least not at Estadia Cass Techia.  They do play in Cleveland on Sunday, which would make a nice Father’s Day outing.  And if I don’t make that, there’s ten World Cup matches from now through Sunday.

Last week’s match against Erie was awesome.  Once again, the crowd reached sellout proportions, setting another record at 3,234 fans in attendance.  DCFC partnered with the “You Can Play” project to promote inclusivity in sports.  The players wore a special jersey and were given to the highest bidder of a silent auction which took place during the game.  The proceeds of the auction were donated to the Ruth Ellis Center, a Highland Park shelter that serves at-risk LGBT youth.  Sadly, I didn’t win a jersey in the auction, but a limited number of jerseys were available for sale, which I did purchase one of them.  The match itself ended in a 2-2 draw against the hated Erie Admirals.  After falling behind 1-0, Detroit City mounted a comeback with a goal by Shaun Lawson in the 66th minute and a penalty kick conversion in the 72nd minute by captain Josh Rogers.  Unfortunately Erie scored a late equalizer in the 89th minute.





Quote:  (sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle”)
“Come on City score a goal
It’s really very simple.
Put the ball into the net
And we’ll go fucking mental!”

Northern Guard Supporters chant.

How can you represent those people? Part One

“What I’m Thinking About” Wednesday
June 11, 2014

The first time I met Donna Goodwin(1) she was in the Macomb County Jail.  She was charged with obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.  The police alleged that Ms. Goodwin brought a prescription of Vicodin to a local drug store.  The pharmacy filled it, then the next day contacted the doctor on the script to determine its legitimacy.  The office manager identified Goodwin as a patient, but that the prescription was not legitimate.  The frail fifty-five year old, African American woman’s first statement to me was that she was glad to see me and asked me why she was there.

The other day I finished reading a collection of essays edited by Anne Smith and Monroe H. Freedman titled How Can You Represent Those People?  The theme of each essay is a response to the cocktail  party question asked of every criminal defense lawyer.  These lawyers have defended the tough cases – murders, rapes, etc.

The first time I met Eddie Lee was at the district court house for our first pre-trial.  Eddie was in his late forties.  The short African American man who lived in a low income housing project, was being charged with attempted criminal sexual conduct fourth degree.  It was alleged by a fifty-plus year old white neighbor that he tried to touch her lady parts.  He said little to me because of his diminished capacity, but the group of six neighbors who came to court in support of him told me plenty.

As I’ve been reading the book, I pondered how I would answer that question for myself.  I’m no Clarence Darrow or any of the seasoned attorneys writing these essays.  My caseload comes predominantly from court appointments out of Macomb County Circuit and a few district courts involving defendants charged with crimes punishable by five years or less.

The first time I met Scott Young, it was at the district court for a preliminary examination.  He was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to retail fraud third – a felony and a misdemeanor.  It was alleged that he was the “getaway” driver for his accomplice who was attempting to shoplift from a grocery store, and that in the getaway attempt he came very near to driving his car into the plain clothes security officers following his accomplice.  An African American man in his forties, Young couldn’t believe the charges as all he was doing was dropping off and picking up his mother from grocery shopping.

Is it for the money?  Hardly.  Michigan ranks 44th in public defense spending.  In 2012, there were only 4,578 criminal cases filed in Macomb County Circuit Court, a slight increase from the previous year, but the trend has been dropping since 2008 when 6,210 criminal cases were filed (Page 28).  Fortunately for me, my law practice is the gravy for our home budget.  Were I to rely on my court-appointed case income alone to survive, I would qualify for food stamps.

The first time I met Danny Hugel was at court on the preliminary examination date.  He was charged with two counts of failing to comply with the sex offender registry by not providing his phone number and email address.  A thirty-something white male, Hugel said there was no way they could charge him with that.  After he had been arrested Hugel went back to the police station and talked to the dispatcher and learned that it was probably a clerical error.  I looked at his history and how he got on the registry fifteen years earlier and thought there was no way he should have been on the sex offender registry to begin with.

If not for the money, which to some would seem the only reason to go into the practice of criminal defense, then what?  These are ‘bad’ people, right?  Why would I, a ‘good’ person, want to defend them?

To be honest, criminal law was not the area of law I thought I’d practice.  Sure, I read comic books and was immersed in the good guy/bad guy myths which might naturally lead me to seeking employment in the prosecutor’s office.  But I was inspired to go to law school at the advanced age of thirty-seven – fifteen years after I graduated college – by two influences; Ralph Nader and because a bulk of the work in the legal profession involved writing.   I was working in a hotel at the time, on the midnight shift as a night auditor, when new management came in and began a practice of overbooking the hotel.  From what I learned on my own, the practice violated the Michigan Consumer Protection Law.  I was ignored, and soon after, I left the life of midnight shift and applied to law school.   I discovered Ralph Nader’s book, No Contest: Corporate Lawyers and the Perversion of Justice in America.  That was the spark.  I was writing a column for a hockey publication, but having no success with publishing short stories and novels at the time, and learning that being a lawyer required a large amount of time researching and writing motions and briefs, I thought this could be a better way to direct my desire to write.  That was the accelerant.  The fire began.

Also, before entering law school, I realized that Gandhi had been a lawyer prior to his amazing achievements practicing nonviolence in India.  The legal profession as a healing profession felt like a natural place for me.  I then landed a clerk position with the City of Detroit Law Department in the Labor & Employment Section.

Law as a healing profession.  Labor and Employment law.  Mediation.  Labor Arbitration.  Collaborative Divorce.  Exiting law school, I thought this was the path I was on.

Then it took a turn.

(1)  All clients’ identities changed.

To be continued next week.



On the road to Cincinnati, World Cup looming, and the time warp of the four day work week.

Friday, Finally:  May 30, 2014

-Keeping this one brief, as I’m heading south to Cincinnati today.  Our men in rouge and gold travel for their first road game of the season to the big city nearest the home of my little sister and her family.  The last time I made one of these kind of runs was back in the day when the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League traveled to Cincy to beat up on the Cincinnati Cyclones, time and time again.  It appears a few of the Northern Guard Supporters will be making the trip.  Still, if I am the only DCFC fan at the game, it will be more fans than Cincinnati sent up to Detroit back on May 10th.  DCFC has a 3-0-0 record, and have yet to concede a goal.

– Speaking of soccer, it’s less than two weeks away from the start of the World Cup.  Almost a full month of daily soccer starting with 32 teams and concluding with the World Cup Final on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro.  To many, soccer is a religion.  Does this mean we should have a worldwide international holiday during this month?

– Does anyone else experience four-day work weeks like I do?  Due to the Memorial Day holiday, Tuesday felt like Monday to me, but then Wednesday felt like Thursday to me.  I was ready for it to be Friday yesterday morning, but instead, another Thursday happened.  Weird.

– What are you reading this weekend?  I’m close to finishing Ted Morgan’s biography of Somerset Maugham.  I’m also close to finishing the collection of essays, How Can You Represent Those People? edited by Abbe Smith and Monroe H. Freedman.

-Quote for the week:
“Strange as it may seem, I grew to like to defend men and women charged with crime.  It soon came to be something more than the winning or losing of the case.  I sought to learn why one goes one way and another takes an entirely different road.  I became vitally interested in the causes of human conduct.  This meant more than the quibbling with lawyers and juries…I was dealing with life, with its hopes and fears, its aspirations and despairs.  With me it was going to the foundation of motive and conduct and adjustments for human beings, instead of blindly talking of hatred and vengeance, and that subtle, indefinable quality that men call ‘justice’ and of which nothing really is known.”  Clarence Darrow.

Have a great weekend!

Detroit soccer fanatics celebrate a Detroit City FC goal at Cass Tech High School, Detroit, 2012.  Photo by Michael Kitchen
Detroit soccer fanatics celebrate a Detroit City FC goal at Cass Tech High School, Detroit, 2012. Photo by Michael Kitchen
Photo by Michael Kitchen
Photo by Michael Kitchen


50th Anniversary of Gideon’s 6th Amendment Victory

You are driving in your vehicle when a police officer pulls you over.  You resign the fact that you were driving above the speed limit, but didn’t think it was a big deal.  You notice the officer looking in the windows of your car as he approaches.  The officer asks for your drivers license and proof of insurance and you give them to him.  He again looks in your back seat window as he returns to his vehicle.  When he returns, he instructs you to step out of the car and asks you if you have anything illegal on your possession that he should know about.  You tell him that you don’t, to which he asks if you mind if he searches the car.  You don’t have anything to hide and allow him.  He finds a small plastic bag of marijuana in the back seat.  You loaned the car to your son or daughter when they went out with friends the past weekend, and assume it belongs to one of their friends.  But that doesn’t matter because you’re sitting in the back of the squad car, on your way to the police station to be booked and fingerprinted.  You’re now facing a charge of possession of a controlled substance, which is punishable by four years in prison.  You’re given an arraignment date.  When you appear before the judge, you enter a not-guilty plea.  Being financially strapped as you are between jobs or lost one of your part-time jobs, you ask the judge for your Sixth Amendment right to counsel.  The judge declines and you’re forced to take your case to trial all on your own.

That’s what would have happened fifty years ago.

The landmark case of Gideon vs Wainwright was decided by the United States Supreme Court on March 18, 1963.  In 1961, Clarence Earl Gideon, father of six, was charged with breaking and entering with intent to commit a misdemeanor, which was a felony under Florida law.  He asked the court to appoint counsel, which the Florida judge denied.  The judge stated that “Under the laws of the State of Florida, the only time the Court can appoint Counsel to represent a Defendant is when that person is charged with a capital offense.”  Gideon was forced to defend himself.  He conducted his own trial and the jury returned with a guilty verdict.  Sentenced to five years in prison, Gideon petitioned the Florida Supreme Court, appealing his conviction based on the lower court’s failure to provide him counsel arguing it was guaranteed under the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights.  The Supreme Court of Florida denied relief.

Gideon didn’t stop there.  He petitioned the United States Supreme Court, which granted him a hearing.  The Court also appointed counsel to represent him.  Oral arguments before the Court were held on January 15, 1963.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Before 1938, courts would appoint counsel for indigent defendants, however it was sporadic in execution.  In Johnson v. Zerbst, the US Supreme Court held that the 6th Amendment right to counsel was valid in federal court unless the defendant waived the right.  The 6th Amendment Rights – minus the right to counsel – was made obligatory on the States by the Fourteenth Amendment in the 1942 US Supreme Court decision of  Betts v. Brady. In Betts, the court had concluded that because the defendant was a 43-year-old man of ordinary intelligence and ability to take care of his own interests, he was not at a serious disadvantage at trial.

It took only two months for the Court to render its unanimous decision in favor of Gideon.  The Court held that the Betts decision was wrong.  Justice Hugo Black, writing for the Court, stated:

The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours.  From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law.  This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him.

Gideon’s case was referred back to the Florida court, where a new trial was held.  The court appointed counsel and after only an hour of jury deliberation, Clarence Gideon was found not guilty.  After losing two years of his life in prison, Clarence Gideon was released as an innocent man.

Justice Black wrote in the Gideon opinion that, “government hires lawyers to prosecute and defendants who have money hire lawyers to defend are the strongest indications of the wide-spread belief that lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries.”  That doesn’t mean that the states have a public defense budget equal to its prosecutorial budget.  When it comes to per capita spending, according to a 2008 study, Michigan ranks 44th in per capita spending on indigent defense ($7.35 per capita), and is dispensed on a county by county basis, meaning an unbalanced approach to delivery and payment of public defense.

Fifty years ago, it would have been you (or your son or daughter) versus a well-funded, government prosecutor in your case of marijuana possession.  Clarence Gideon’s two-year fight from his prison cell insures that if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.


American Criminal Procedure: Cases and Commentary, Stephen A. Saltzburg & Daniel J. Capra (West Group, 6th Edition 2000)

May It Please The Court…Transcripts of 23 Live Recordings of Landmark Cases as Argued Before the Supreme Court, Edited by Peter Irons and Stephanie Guitton (The New Press, 1993)

National Legal Aid and Defender Association, “Michigan Ranks 44th in the Nation for Public Defense Spending; So-called “McJustice” System Puts Communities at Risk.”

Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963)
Betts v. Brady, 316 U.S. 455 (1942)
Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45 (1932)
Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458 (1938)