How to Conduct Criminal Proceedings in Washtenaw County Trial Court

Written by Carmen Moyer
Res Ipsa Loquitur
May/June 2007 issue (Volume 37, Number 3)

This and other mysteries of criminal law practice will be revealed through a new mentorship program designed to train and educate new attorneys who wish to receive felony court appointments in Washtenaw County.

The criminal law section of the Washtenaw County Bar Association created the program to assist newer attorneys by pairing them with experienced mentors who can provide one-on-one guidance in how to conduct criminal proceedings in the Washtenaw County Trial Court. The responsibilities of the mentor include providing courtroom and jail house observation opportunities, sharing information and advice, and allowing the mentee to participate in trial preparation. New attorneys will be required to participate in the program and to complete certain requirements before receiving court appointments.

The goal of the program is to enhance the quality of representation to the indigent defendant and to help newer attorneys acclimate to the criminal justice system in this county. More experienced attorneys may be able to waive the mentorship requirements program if they have significant criminal law experience. Waiver will be decided on a case by case basis by the Criminal Assignment Committee.

The Washtenaw County Bar Association Criminal Law section, in tandem with the Washtenaw County Trial Court and the Washtenaw County Criminal Assignment Committee, will administer the program. The Washtenaw County Criminal Assignment Committee is made up of the Washtenaw County Trial Court Administrator, a Circuit Court judge, a representative of the criminal defense bar and a representative from the Public Defender's office. The committee meets one time per year.

The program only involves the 22nd Circuit Court. This is how it works:

  • New attorneys will apply to the Trial Court for court appointments in criminal matters
  • The trial court will send the applicant the requirements packet, outlining what must be completed before the applicant will be given assignments. These items will be accomplished with the assistance of the mentor
  • The Trial Court will notify the WCBA Criminal Law section of specific applications;
  • The WCBA Criminal Law section will match new attorneys with mentors from the mentor list which the WCBA Criminal Law section will create and maintain
  • The applicant will be responsible for contacting the assigned mentor and for completing the requirements
  • The mentor will assist the applicant in completing the requirements packet and providing the Washtenaw County Criminal Assignment Committee with feedback about the progress of the applicant
  • The committee will decide whether to add the new attorney to the court appointment list

The Mentorship Program will begin on Law Day, May 1, 2007. Those interested in the program may contact the Trial Court directly.

Thanks to Robert Carbeck for providing some of the information in this article.