Are Michigan’s public defenders improperly pushing the poor into copping pleas? The Michigan Supreme Court will consider that question this spring when it hears a case challenging how publicly appointed lawyers represent poor criminal defendants.

At issue is whether cash-strapped public defenders are violating the constitutional rights of defendants by allegedly too eagerly encouraging plea bargains, as opposed to vigorously fighting the charges. Indigent defendants in three Michigan counties — Muskegon, Berrien and Genesee — are suing the state over what they claim is an underfunded and inadequate public defender system.

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