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Criminal Appellate & Post-Conviction Services

Attorney General Schuette Appoints Bursch Solicitor General

Attorney General Bill Schuette named John Bursch as Michigan’s Solicitor General. Former Solicitor General Eric Restuccia will continue on as deputy. John Bursch is very highly regarded appellate attorney from the civil firm of Warner, Norcross, and Judd. Eric Restuccia previously served as Michigan’s solicitor general from 2008-2011. During his tenure, the U.S. Supreme Court granted six petitions filed by the State of Michigan. While I firmly respect John Bursch’s skills, Eric is regarded as a gentleman and a truly top legal mind by both criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors alike. Given his nearly unprecedented victory rate in front of the high court, one has to question this repositioning.

New Parole Board Announced

As was noted earlier, Governor Snyder issued an executive order reorganizing the Parole Board and moving them from an executive level position to a position under the Department of Corrections. Because of this, a new Board was appointed. The MDOC issued a press release yesterday containing the composition of the new Board. Many of the old Board members will remain, but Tom Combs is now the chair. Barb Sampson is now just an ordinary Board Member. The new appointments seem to come mostly from law enforcement. It is unclear how this will effect the policies of the Board.

Governor Snyder Reorganizes Michigan Parole Board & Abolishes Clemency Advisory Council.

On February 7, 2011, Governor Snyder signed Executive Order No. 2011-3 which effectively restored the state of the Michigan’s Parole and Commutation System to where it was before 2007. The order moves the Parole & Commutation Board (now renamed the “Parole Board”) back to the Department of Corrections, places it under the control of the Director of the Department of Corrections, and abolishes the Executive Clemency Advisory Council. The order also reduces the size of the Board from fifteen to ten members and makes them all reapply for their jobs. Prior to 2007, the Board was also at ten members.

It is unclear what other policy changes are lurking under this change, but this could mean that the current administration is deemphasizing community reintegration as part of its corrections strategy. The extra five members were added to the Board could keep up with its increased workload. The downsizing in staff could mean a corresponding downsizing in the amount of paroles and clemencies.

Update: I just found an article on this order by Paul Eagan of the Detroit News. His article makes a couple of points. First, it quotes Governor Snyder saying that “we need to let the professionals in the Corrections Department determine whether it’s appropriate to release prisoners.” This could mean that Snyder is intending to be more deferential to his Corrections Director’s policies. That Director still needs to be named. Second, it could be a SOP to prosecutors who complained that Governor Granholm’s accelerated process was too accelerated. Mr. Eagan ran a similar article yesterday, but it seems to have similar content.

Grand Rapids Press stated that Governor Snyder was actually doing this with the intent to do de-politicize the process. It cited to a commitment by the Snyder Administration to continue to “right size” Michigan prisons. Their article cited to a National Council of State Legislature’s expert who stated that Michigan was holding prisoners too long and that that prisoners should be presumptively entitled to parole after serving 120% of their sentence.

Last month, I commented on
New York Governor Cuomo’s decision to right size New York prisons and the fighting he was facing from their unions and politicians. For those who are interested, here is a link to the Governor’s Press release. It doesn’t appear to add anything new. Stay tuned.

Illinois Still Waiting on Death Penalty Decision

Illinois Governor Quinn has in front of him the monumental bill which would abolish the death penalty in Illinois. Despite passing both houses, the Governor wishes to hear from the public before making this decision. After a ten year moratorium and doubts about actual innocence regarding more than half the people on Illinois’s death row, you would think that this would not be a difficult decision. Unfortunately, despite all the research too many Americans still believe in the death penalty.