Date of Defense

Spring 4-20-2011


Political Science

First Advisor

J. Kevin Corder, Political Science

Second Advisor

Ashlyn Kuersten, Political Science

Third Advisor

Mark R. Beougher, Political Science


impoverished, poor, equality, court procedure


Does Michigan’s public defense system operate in accordance with the decisions made by the Supreme Court in cases like Gideon v. Wainwright, Powell v. Alabama, and Argersinger v. Hamlin? If not, how can we reform the system? The right to counsel for those accused of a crime in the United States is a constitutional right. After the decision issued in Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) the federal government mandated that all states were responsible for providing representation for indigent defendants. The states provide these services either through public defender programs, appointment of court cases to private attorneys, or through contracts with private attorneys. Michigan ranks 44th of the 50 states in public defense funding and makes public defense an unfunded mandate. Unlike other states, Michigan does not have a uniform method of criminal defense. For a variety of reasons, including lack of funding throughout Michigan, speed is emphasized over quality and due process. Many counties in Michigan have public defense systems that are operating far under the standards set by the constitution and Supreme Court Decisions. Historically, there have been several proposed solutions. While some solutions may solve the problems of many individual counties, the disparities between the counties make a statewide solution unrealistic. This study focuses primarily on problems experienced in Southwest Michigan and possible solutions. Through this study, I will first look at the background of the existing problem. Next, I will demonstrate through the review of selected literature and interviews the problems that are specific to Southwest Michigan. Lastly, I will explore proposed solutions that are currently under consideration and provide an evaluation of these solutions.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access