State Reform


Michigan is one of the worst states in the country in public defense implementation, costing local taxpayers millions of dollars in wrongful conviction settlements. Reform is desperately needed. Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s Indigent Defense Advisory Commission provided its recommendations for reform, including a state-level public defense commission and statewide standards, paired with requirements for state funding for public defense to help counties meet those standards. On June 13, Michigan’s House and Senate passed bipartisan legislation to create the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, Michigan’s first statewide, independent indigent defense system.

Learn more by visiting the Campaign for Justice.

New Mexico

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez recently signed into law the public defender commission bill that creates an independent public defender’s office. This reform was critical – previously, a public defender was appointed by the governor and could be terminated at the governor’s will, creating political instability for the office. Under the new law, an independent 11-member public defender commission will oversee the New Mexico Public Defender Department.

Learn more by visiting the Sixth Amendment Center.


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers may file a lawsuit against the state of Utah if the state fails to enact meaningful public defense reforms. Utah is one of only two states in the country that provides neither funding nor oversight to counties charged with organizing and implementing a system for defending poor people in criminal court. The state’s Judicial Committee is currently looking at ways to improve the state’s patchwork system of public defense.

Learn more by visiting the ACLU Utah.

To learn more about public defense around the country, visit the news coverage page.