In 1994, the Michigan State Constitution was amended to provide that a defendant who pled guilty would be allowed to appeal only by leave of court and not by right or as a matter of course. Following the amendment, some state judges engaged in the practice of denying the appointment of appellate counsel to indigent defendants who pled guilty. In 2000, the Legislature codified this practice by passing a statute which prohibited (with certain mandatory and permissive exceptions) the appointment of appellate counsel for indigent defendants who pled guilty. This statute was scheduled to go into effect on April 1, 2000.
On March 2, 2000, Plaintiffs filed this §1983 suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in order to challenge the constitutionality of the appointment procedure codified by the statute. The suit was filed against the state attorney general and three state judges. Plaintiffs included two attorneys and three indigent criminal defendants who had been denied appellate counsel after entering guilty pleas. Plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan, claimed that the appointment procedure was violative of the due process and equal protection clauses of the United States Constitution and sought declaratory and injunctive relief against the practice and the statute.
On March 23, 2000, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. On March 31, 2000, one day before the statute was set to go into effect, the District Court (Judge Victoria A. Roberts) issued an order denying in part Defendants' motion to dismiss and declaring the challenged appointment practice and statute unconstitutional under the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Tesmer v. Granholm, 114 F. Supp. 2d 603 (E.D Mich. 2000). The District Court did not, however, grant Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, stating that §1983 did not permit injunctive relief against judicial officers unless the officers had violated a declaratory decree. Tesmer v. Granholm, 114 F. Supp. 2d 603, 605 (E.D. Mich. 2000).
On May 9, 2000, Plaintiffs filed another motion for injunctive relief, this time arguing that state court judges had failed to abide by the District Court's March 31 declaratory decree. Also, by motion of March 30, 2000, the plaintiffs sought to certify a class of circuit court judges as defendants.
On June 30, 2000, the District Court (Judge Roberts) granted Plaintiffs motion for an injunction, stating that such injunction was necessary to enforce of its prior declaratory Order. The Court thereby enjoined Michigan state judges from denying appellate counsel to indigents who pleaded guilty. Tesmer v. Kowalski, 114 F. Supp. 2d 622 (E.D. Mich. 2000). The District Court denied, however, Plaintiffs' motion for certification of a defendant class on grounds that such certification would constitute expansion, and not mere enforcement, of its prior Order. Tesmer v. Kowalski, 114 F. Supp. 2d 622, 629 (E.D Mich. 2000).
On April 10, 2000, Defendants filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. On July 2, 2002, a panel of the Sixth Circuit (Judges Alice M. Batchelder, Alan E. Norris, and Eugene E. Siler, Jr.) issued an order reversing the District Court. Tesmer v. Granholm, 295 F. 3d 536 (6th Cir. 2002). The panel first held that Younger abstention barred suit by the indigent-plaintiffs but that the attorney-plaintiffs had third-party standing to assert the rights of the indigents. In turning to the merits of the suit, however, the panel held that the statute was constitutional.
On July 10, 2002, Plaintiffs filed a petition for rehearing en banc. The plaintiffs' petition was granted by the Sixth Circuit on September 20, 2002. Tesmer v. Granholm, 307 F.3d 459 (6th Cir. 2002). On June 17, 2003, the en banc court issued an opinion reversing the panel decision. Tesmer v. Granholm, 333 F.3d 683 (6th Cir. 2003). The en banc court agreed with the panel that the attorney-plaintiffs had standing, but concluded that reversal was nevertheless appropriate because the statute was, in fact, unconstitutional. Tesmer v. Granholm, 333 F.3d 683, 686 (6th Cir. 2003).
On January 20, 2004, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari. Kowalski v. Tesmer, 540 U.S. 1148 (2004). On December 13, 2004, the Supreme Court reversed the en banc decision of the Sixth Circuit. Kowalski v. Tesmer, 543 U.S. 125 (2004). The Court resolved the matter by concluding that the attorney-plaintiffs lacked standing and, therefore, did not reach the question of whether the practice and statute were constitutional.
On April 21, 2005, the suit was finally dismissed.Vidhya Reddy - 02/12/2008