This is the first year for the Criminal Jurisprudence and Practice committee. Previous to the realignment of the committees by the state bar these were in reality two separate and distinct committees. The Criminal Jurisprudence Committee was combined with the Defender Systems and Services Committee. The charge of the new committee is not in reality much different than when these were two separate committees. The absorption has not been difficult process as both groups are seeking the same result, a properly functioning criminal justice system. The first meeting was organizational in scope, but one of insight for the two combined committees. It was decided that one of our long term projects would revolve around the issue of video taping statements and confessions. There was a concern about false confessions. The committee is working on finding reasonable and cost effective options for mandating the use of recording equipment when an individual is being questioned by the police in connection with a crime. This is not a simple matter since the logistical issues are complex.
However, it was decided that our main focus would be on the Model Plan for an Indigent Defense Delivery System for the state. The committee endorsed the work of the Gideon Task Force to date and recommended that a commission be established as suggested by the task force. This will also be a work in progress. It is anticipated that any commission formed will be broad based in its composition and scope.
The old legislature was winding down and a new one about to start. There was concern about the magnitude and breath of the legislation that would be produced. Once again term limits would impact the new legislature for the next two years. The amount and diversity of the proposed legislation would provide insight as to the direction the Legislature would be embarking on. Some of the bills discussed involved stalking and domestic relations, issues relating to magistrates and the district court, videotaping statements of a vulnerable witness, drunk driving (.08), and juror compensation.
The Supreme Court was highly productive in proposing changes to both the Court Rules and the Michigan Rules of Evidence. Highlighting a few:
- Testimony of Expert Witnesses
- Enforcement of Bench Warrants in Support Cases
- Use of Facsimile Machines to File Pleadings and Other Papers
- Changes to the Filing Times in the Appellate Process
The amount of legislation being processed currently indicates a busy year ahead. The committee is looking forward to another fascinating year analyzing house and senate bills impacting the criminal justice system.
Resources provided by the State Bar of Michigan in support of committee work: help in providing a meeting room at the Michael Franck Building as well as lunch for the committee. The State Bar also provided e-mail communications, fax service, and mailings to the committee members.