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Lawmakers to look at legal aid for poor defendants

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Michigan's public defender system is consistently rated one of the worst in the country.

But this week, the House Judiciary Committee will consider creating a commission to establish standards for indigent defense.

Marcela Westrate is with the Michigan Campaign for Justice.

She says there are a host of reasons why poor criminal defendants don't always receive good legal help in this state.

"We don't have any statewide training requirements right now," said Westrate. "There's also things like consistency, where the same attorney represents a client until the completion of a case."

The commission would set the standards for Michigan's 83 counties - which each have their own public defender systems. Westrate says she hopes the commission could have new standards in place by the end of next year.

Sarah Hulett is Michigan Radio’s Director of Enterprise & Longform, helping reporters to do their best work.
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