Michigan receives federal grant to create system for juvenile appeals in court

Photo of Chris Carr
FILE—Photo of a court room gavel.

FILE—Photo of a court room gavel.

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The Michigan Appellate Assigned Counsel System has received a three-year federal grant from the United States Department of Justice to establish a Juvenile Defense Project in the state.

The Counsel System, which is a division of the State Appellate Defender Office, received the grant to design, implement and oversee a statewide roster of attorneys to defend children as they appeal their juvenile adjudications.

“This is a real game changer for juvenile indigent defense in Michigan,” Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridge Mary McCormack said in a statement. “It will expand a successful formula for private assigned appellate counsel and could lay the foundation for further reform.”

The Juvenile Defense Project is currently planning to hire a Project Director to begin operations in early 2022, according to the MAACS.

“Michigan’s current service delivery for delinquency representation is inadequate to ensure constitutional guarantees for children,” the National Juvenile Defender Center wrote in a June 2020 report.

According to the MAACS, the project will focus on three components of a juvenile defense system:

• Access to counsel for juveniles
• Independence in selection and oversight of the counsel and
• Quality of representation.

“It’s very exciting to be involved in something like this from the start,” MAACS Administrator Brad Hall said in a statement. “The grant will allow us to help a lot of youth while planting seeds for something much bigger.”