Discretionary appointment of counsel

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Litigation, All Basic Human Needs

In In re Parole of Hill, 827 N.W.2d 407 (Mich. App. 2012), the Michigan Court of Appeals considered whether the trial court had acted appropriately in appointing counsel for a prisoner in the prosecutor's appeal to circuit court of a parole board's decision to grant parole. After noting the statute governing the parole appellate process was silent on appointment of counsel for the prisoner, the court held that


a circuit court has broad authority to facilitate the fair and orderly disposition of cases and controversies such that it has discretion to appoint counsel for indigent inmates responding to an appeal of a Parole Board decision ... Included within a court's inherent discretionary powers is the power to appoint counsel to represent indigent litigants in the face of exceptional circumstances in order to render justice ... As noted, a circuit court has broad authority to manage its own affairs in order to achieve 'an orderly and expeditious disposition of the case.' ...Further, a circuit court can 'direct and control the proceedings before them' and make any order to effectuate their jurisdiction ... 'An exercise of the court's inherent power may be disturbed only upon a finding that there has been a clear abuse of discretion.' ... An abuse of discretion occurs when a court's decision falls outside the range of 'reasonable and principled outcome[s].' ...

The court then analyzed the case before it and determined that the appointment had been an appropriate use of discretion:

The circuit court found that appointing appellate counsel to represent Hill was important for the administration of justice. While no single factor is outcome- determinative when deciding whether to appoint counsel in such cases, in this case, the circuit court noted that Hill was involved in a complex parole proceeding. The complexity of the parole proceeding required review of an extensive Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) file dating back to 1998 that included multiple reports. The appeal also required the circuit court to determine whether the Board adhered to the constitution, statutes, and a myriad of administrative rules and regulations ... Moreover, this case involved an inmate who had a learning disability. It was therefore a reasonable and proper exercise of the circuit court's discretion to conclude that appointing appellate counsel would facilitate the efficient and fair administration of justice. Furthermore, the circuit court used funds which had been previously apportioned for purposes of appointing appellate counsel for indigent defendants. Accordingly, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in determining that appointment of counsel for Hill was an appropriate way to utilize its funds.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no