Snyder signs bill to improve indigent defense

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation aimed at improving legal representation for low-income criminal defendants.

The bills signed Monday create a permanent 15-member state commission to establish standards ensuring that poor defendants get effective legal representation.

Local governments will have to pay for court-appointed defense at average levels spent before the creation of the commission. The state is supposed to cover new costs for counties to improve their public defense systems, a cost Snyder estimates in the millions of dollars.

Michigan is among just seven states that provide no state funding for trial-level public defense services.

Snyder says every citizen has a right to competent legal counsel and Michigan for too long has been behind the curve.