Public Defense: Right or Privilege?

Event Date and Time: 
January 17, 2011 - 1:00pm - 3:00pm
Michigan Union - Pendleton Room
Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP)

Public Defense: Right or Privilege?

Mark Fancher, ACLU of Michigan
Peggy Raben, Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan
Amit Weitzer, Michigan Campaign for Justice
Ruth Harlin, Sister of Michigan Exoneree

On January 17, 2011, Martin Luther King Junior Day, the Prison Creative Arts Project and the Michigan Campaign for Justice will host a panel presentation and discussion addressing the disparate impact of Michigan’s failing public defense delivery system. Public defense reform is one of the most pressing civil rights concerns of our time. The lack of resources provided to the indigent defendants has led to overrepresentation of people of color in prisons. A U.S. Department of Justice survey showed that, nationally, public defense attorneys represented 77 percent of African Americans and 73 percent of Latinos in state prisons.

Recently, Michigan was singled out as having one of the worst public defense systems in the entire country, and we hope that our panel will be a step in the movement to bring change to the state. The presentation will kick off with an overview from Mark Fancher, the ACLU of Michigan Racial Justice Project Staff Attorney. He will contextualize the importance of public defense and the role that it plays in making the United States a nation of mass incarceration. Peggy Raben, the former President of Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (CDAM), will speak to the structural challenges that stand in the way of public defenders doing their jobs successfully. Ruth Harlin, the sister of a Michigan exoneree, who will speak to the personal impact of Michigan’s failing public defense system. Amit Weitzer will discuss current legislative reform efforts and how to get involved. Following the presentation, there will be an opportunity for questions and taking action!

This event is co-sponsored by the following organizations:
The Criminal Law Society,The Prison Rights Organization for Students (PROS), The
Michigan Law School Chapter of the ACLU, The Michigan Journal on Law and Race, and The
University of Michigan Undergraduate Chapter of the ACLU