Cletus Smith joins state board 2014.07.02

A Lenawee County resident is among 15 people appointed to the newly created Indigent Defense Commission.

Adrian resident and county commissioner Cletus Smith was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder last week to join the commission that will work toward improve legal representation for low-income criminal defendants.

In October 2011, Snyder issued Executive Order 2011-12, establishing the initial Indigent Defense Advisory Commission, responsible for recommending improvements to the state’s legal system. These recommendations served as the basis for legislation to address this need as well as called for the 15-member commission.

“A key principle of the judicial system is that every citizen has a right to competent legal counsel,” Snyder said. “I am confident these appointees will serve our state well as they work toward the next steps in ensuring all Michiganders have the judicial representation they deserve.”

The 15-member board collects and compiles data necessary for the review of indigent defense services in Michigan, creates standards to ensure all systems providing indigent defense meet constitutional obligations for effective assistance of counsel, and develops requirements by which a person may establish a claim of indigence so those truly in need of a public defender will have one.  

Smith brings extensive experience in the law enforcement field following his career with the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Department. He also credits his role as chair of the Michigan Association of Counties Judiciary and Public Safety committee with bringing his name up for an appointment on the board.

“It’s quite an honor for me to be picked by the governor,” Smith said. 

The problems relating to representation for the indigent is well known, Smith said, but not carried out consistently.

“It’s a been a problem throughout Michigan because counties are not handling the situation the same.”

After the initial one-year terms, members will serve four-year terms with the commission.