TheOPDS was created to managethe indigentdefense systemwhich handles15,000 assignments of counsel in felony cases. One of the first goals of the OPDS is to encourage the use of investigators and experts when defending cases, because this resource can oftenprovide more equal access to justice for the indigent. When fully operative, the OPDS will manage the process from assignment of counselandlitigation supporttopayment of fees.
In 2020, approximately 75percentof Wayne County'scases were assigned to about 200 private attorneys.The remaining 25percentof cases were assignedto Neighborhood Defender Service Detroit (NDSD), which began operation in 2019.
"Our justice systempromises every defendant the right to quality legal representation regardless of their economic situation," said Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans. "That principal hasn't always been the reality historically, which is why my administration has made improving defense servicesa priority. Under Robin Dillard-Russaw'sleadership, we are continuing to build toward an indigent defense system in Wayne County that can be a national model for fairness and justice."
Ms. Dillard-Russaw is an experienced local practitioner who has practiced law as a criminal defense attorney, assistantprosecutor, assistant attorney general, and judicial magistrate. She most recently served as Deputy Court Administrator and Magistrate in the 46thDistrict Court in Southfield,MI, where she created the Court's "Counsel at First Appearance" process to provide assigned criminal defense counsel at arraignments on the warrant.
She was also instrumental in the creation and administration of that court's plan for compliance with the standards of the MIDC, and in training new magistrates and court personnel. As Deputy Court Administrator, she assisted in the Court's fiscal management, human resources, grant-writing, dispute resolution, performance review process, and policymaking.
"Wayne County's Third Circuit Court is Michigan's busiest criminal court,so managing indigentdefense services is no small task," saidWayne County Corporation Counsel James Heath. "RobinDillard-Russaw's record demonstrates she is the right person for this role."
Both OPDS and NDSD are made possible through the support and generous grants from the MIDC. Going forward OPDS will work with both NDSD and privateassignedcounsel in Wayne County to meet and exceed the MIDC standardsand provide quality legal services to the indigent charged with felonies in the county.