A satisfied client just posted a five-star review. There were a lot of ins and outs of this case including criminal charges. Ultimately my client followed my advice and we were able to get his child returned to him. Juvenile neglect and abuse cases are about 25% of my caseload. It’s great when we can have a good outcome. If you or somebody you know finds themselves involved in a CPS case, I am the lawyer to call.
Rare dismissal, because the government could not prove an essential element of the case (proof of certified mail). It did not meet the threshold for admission. I knew it and lay in the weeds. Because the jury was already seated and sworn, the case was dismissed and it is double jeopardy. That means the government cannot retry the case. To the naysayers out there, this shows you that the Constitution is still alive and well. It felt good to get this outcome that I have never been able to achieve in almost 34 years of practice. Almost as the hood is the fact we picked a jury. I haven’t since May 22. My mentor James Burdick always told me the best trial lawyers were the ones that did not go to trial. My trial judge said it was the first time she dismissed a case this way. Thanks for letting me share.
This is your MIDC (Michigan Indigent Defense Commission) in action. As a former Board Member of CDAM, I, and many others, had a hand in the creation of the MIDC. One thing we wanted to ensure was that a person had a lawyer at arraignment (bail hearing) and that there would be one there every day of the year (weekends and holidays). Getting locked up on Christmas is extra terrible. Softened by the fact that a compassionate and knowledgeable attorney can be there to fight for bail. Grateful to work Christmas Day so others can be with their loved ones.
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As America celebrates its freedom today, it is not lost on me, as I appear for bail hearings, how important it is to be the accused before a magistrate. And to have that accused represented by counsel. In the years of being ruled by a monarchy, citizens languished in Colonial jails for months without being charged, and many, even after being charged, were not afforded, counsel.
I am proud to say I was a member of a team of shareholders that radically altered how services are rendered to the accused. In Oakland County MI, there is an attorney and magistrate available 365 days a year.
This is what expedient due process looks like!
32 years ago today, I formally opened my law office.
I was young and full of vim and vigor. While my passion and worldview have changed (I am less aggressive, and arrogant, and not all cops are pricks), some things remain true. On a day-to-day basis, I get to follow my dream. I get to aggressively keep the government in place and get to touch people in ways that no other can.
I proudly wear the title of Attorney and Counselor and make every client human. I am a combination of passion and compassion As many will attest, my clients have unfettered access to me and I make sure to come at them with love and compassion. Years before becoming a lawyer, I decided to approach things holistically That meant not only attacking the problem but getting into the essence of things, so that we could, together, create means to ameliorate the issues for the future.
That is where my spiritual center has come into play. I want to close by giving thanks to all the clients, friends, family, and colleagues who have shared this road with me. Without your belief, love, and support of me, none of this would have happened. I still, almost every day, say I cannot believe I get paid to do a job I love so much
I take a lot of pride in representing some of the most marginalized people in society. One area of specialty has been dealing with the truly mentally ill (not what segments of our society like to label to rationalize the actions they take) and developmentally disabled folks. Autism falls into the latter To that extent, I have had my share of clients who fall on the spectrum and do not get that diagnosis until they are adults. The Detroit Free Press just did an article yesterday on the subject https://www.freep.com/story/news/education/2023/05/08/adult-autism-diagnosis-michigan/70169698007/
One of the God sends of the diagnosis is, for the first time, is getting an answer to things. And also a clear path of how to cope.
From my first meeting with A.H. I knew I was dealing with an autistic adult. His mannerisms, lack of eye contact, clenching of his hands, etc. He was charged with domestic violence and the so-called victim was a “family” member. That family member preyed upon A.H.’s idiosyncrasies and pushed him too far. A.H. reacted with some assaultive behavior. Not atypical of people on the spectrum. As an aside, A.H. had some other interactions with the law and frankly, his previous lawyers should have known they were dealing with someone who was “off.”
I informed A.H. that he needed to be tested for autism. Many doctors will not test adults because the syndrome is best detected in childhood. But as the above Freep article provides, that is changing.
Dealing with A.H., was the product of my trying to educate myself on autism as it intersects the criminal law. I read lots of journal articles in the field where law and psychology intersect. I learned, for example, autistic individuals when interviewed by the police, will agree with the accusations and even make statements in support. It is called accommodation. They want to please their inquirer and not upset him or her. Hence rendering a false confession. Some studies show that they process information differently and will adapt in a way to compensate
There can be a large degree of substance abuse as autistic individuals get older. It is to deal with the discomfort of being in society or social settings. So a DUI charge or possession is not unheard of.
In A.H.’s case, the diagnosis came back as suspected autism. Based on that, after a lengthy email outlining how autism would explain my client’s behavior and his statements, I was able to prevail upon the city attorney to reduce the charge to disturbing the peace with a delayed sentence. Upon completion of the period, the case would be dismissed. The judge that took the plea, referred my client to the wellness and behavior court. A voluntary program, which allowed treatment monitoring and medication compliance. Many autistic individuals take medications to deal with the mood disorders and anxieties that come with the disorder.
We returned to court today. I was not surprised that the evaluator was able to find criteria to have my client be placed in this program. The difficulty is that autism, while it may have symptoms that appear to be akin to mental health issues, it is not a mental illness under the Michigan Mental Health Code. So I advised the judge that it was basically a non-starter for us to put him in their program because he does not have a mental illness. Trust me, I wish it was. It would allow me to have a statutory defense for my cases. I had a developmentally disabled individual go to prison because DD is not in the Code and I could not even bring before the jury that my client processes information differently than others. Getting back to A.H., he consented to the program. Of course, he did, because he is an accommodator. A.H. is also able to work a job (many DDs and autistic people do. Autistic individuals tend to work alone and many employers make accommodations for them. A. H. is intelligent and an asset to his employer) and told the court he was anguished when he had to leave work to deal with probation or go to testing while the case was pending. It pended, in part, for a long time because we had to find the right assessor to diagnose his condition
The outcome was awesome. A.H. came to court and, sadly, his autism was on full display. He had to excuse himself from the court because of the anxiety We got through it. The judge, probation and I met separately. She specifically made of finding he was of no harm to himself or others She ultimately decided he was treated in the community and did not need this specialty court. Fines and costs, case over.
I had my first exposure to mentally ill individuals when I worked as a court reporter, doing MH hearings, back in Maryland in the mid 8os. I handled this docket as a young lawyer at the beginning of my career. I feel we, who are in the criminal justice system, have to be educated on these cases. When it comes to dealing with folks with developmental disabilities we have to know their characteristic, how they might impact a case, and explain behaviors that may look criminal in nature but are not. We must prevent the police, the prosecutor, or the bench from trying to characterize them as mental health cases, even if the temptation is there. This is not a place for us to cut corners to just get the case over with. Sorry, not sorry. Great outcomes can be achieved.
Today was another day, in many, where my mission on why I became a lawyer was validated. This is not about me. My client had an individualized outcome. He has gotten better treatment to address his issues and justice was served.
We assigned counsel to get a crappy rap. We are assigned by the MIDC and are independent of the court. So I got an assignment in my inbox today 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐚 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐭 𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐓𝐡𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐝𝐚𝐲 𝐚𝐟𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐧𝐨𝐨𝐧. My immediate task after downloading the assignment sheet (we need certain case ID numbers to properly do further inquiry) is to fire off an email to the prosecutor discovery division to get the police report(s) and demand the recordings. I actually have a saved form for this purpose.
On the positive, the prosecutor’s office is pretty good at getting us the police reports. Now with the assignment sheet and the report, I am now ready to speak to the client. Note the MIDC requires us to interview our clients within a reasonable time if on bond and within 3 business days if incarcerated. I work every Sat doing client-on-bond interviews. I go to jail within a day of assignment because I fought hard to help create the MIDC and feel that someone sitting in jail must know they have a lawyer.
So today, at the end of the interview, the client says what about ********? I am like who and the client says *****, the full name. Me: Oh you hired so and so. Client: Yeah and I am feeling a little confused. I probe a little further and his confusion is why this state-assigned lawyer is contacting him and he hasn’t heard boo from the dude he paid. The process of getting your discovery from the prosecutor’s office in the entire metro area is very simple.
This paid lawyer has the firm overview criteria for assessing what a good criminal defense attorney should be. One is a personal relationship between the judge and the prosecutor. I see my friend Neil Rockind cringing. Yes, I have had cases with judges who were once prosecutors. Some of us had our kids in activities together, etc. But that does not mean we are pals. Same with prosecutors. We work together and occasionally see each other in social settings. But in the courtroom we are adversaries. My dad of blessed memory taught me to “kill people with kindness” Another criterion, is being a former prosecutor. While several of my colleagues are former prosecutors, there is quadruple the amount of us who never did a day in the office. We continuously train and hone our skills and we fight There were many other criteria the lawyer posted.
My thoughts are if you take on the case, you damn better be ready. I have turned down plenty because of the calendar. And if you take a case on, you damn better be ready to discuss the matter cogently shortly after retention. If you are so connected as this lawyer claimed to be, you better be making those calls. Many of us have access to the warrants division or to a special unit prosecutor
I have no issue with lawyers retaining me. Hell, I have done it multiple times myself. Be ready Don’t make yourself look like a fool. A know because of the MIDC, a lawyer is going to be assigned because we have to be ready to go (discovery acquisition and client interview) in a very short period of time.
So when hiring a criminal defense attorney, maybe the real question is whether he or she is familiar with the particular process to get the necessary information and when can we expect it. I, on a client who is paying me, am firing off that email, for the above material, as they are finalizing the Engagement Fee “paperwork” Mine are now all electronic, but I digress.
Side note As a defense lawyer, I look forward, in light of Donald Trump’s indictment, to seeing our glorious criminal justice system on full display…
John James, you love to tout your military service. You supposedly fought for our freedoms. One of them was to have a judicial system that assures the rights of the accused. Carl Marlinga, Carl Marlinga did that job as a federal and state prosecutor (elected by the People of Macomb County for almost 2 decades), as a judge, and as a defense attorney. John Adams, made his career as a defense attorney, notably defending British soldiers, who were accused of crimes against colonists. He did so honorably. He became President of our Nation.
Mr. James, you attack Mr. Marlinga for whom he represented. The man could write a primer on the Constitution. Enshrined in that Constitution is the presumption of innocence. It is the starting point that the prosecution and defense begin a case. I have proudly stood as a buffer between the accused and the Government. I stand proudly with my sisters and brothers in the trench. We have acquitted some of the most maligned. Why, because the government, with all its resources, could not meet the heavy burden of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Mr. James, you are an affront to the men and women of this Nation who valiantly fought for those freedoms. Many died in doing so. Stay in your lane sir . . .
Michael L. Steinberg (P43481)
A trench defense attorney for 32 years
Member Board of Directors, Criminal Defense Attys of MI (2002-present)
As a criminal defense lawyer of 32 years standing, I am here to say the actions of the Judge, in this case, were an assault on our Constitution and more of a threat to our democracy than the so-called actions of these men. The Judge limited cross-examination to an inexplicable time frame (the defense was allowed to cross-examine in the time period the prosecution used on direct). Conspiracies involving federal agents are complex and the reasons to doubt are bigger that the neat and erroneous package the government puts together in its case in chief. Second, the Court precluded the defense from calling witnesses. Enshrined in the 5th A, is the absolute right for the accused to present a defense. Last, there was a seriously suspect juror on the panel and the Court precluded the defense from being present as the court conducted its inquiry. Even the air of impropriety is enough to toss the juror. There was an alternate there, who heard the testimony. I am reminded the SCOTUS has instructed lower courts, that the law leans heavily to protect the accused’s rights. My money is on a reversal of the egregious actions of the trial court
And before, I hear but but but criminal. No, the Constitution protects all of us, regardless of accusations. We celebrate our judicial system. One where convictions are obtained free of improper judicial interference.
I have just finished my final two hearings of the year. 2021 is in the bag for the Law Offices of Michael L. Steinberg. Been a good year as we have had to mitigate the spikes and crests of Delta and now Omicron variants of COVID More and more in-person hearings, still plenty of Zooms. Also, hybrid, where I have been in a courthouse and on zoom at the same time. It has been interesting to see my fellow defenders in an empty conference or in a quiet section of the hall, doing a hearing on a phone app. I recently purchased a tablet, so I don’t have to schlepp my laptop or so I can be on more than one hearing at a time.
I have really adapted to the “new” normal. I have involved myself in what is called MIDC (Michigan Indigent Defense Commission) work. This assures that Counsel is provided from lockup to sentencing In application, I am doing countywide arraignments at a courthouse where we are remotely connecting with the jail and the local lockups. This has been on weekends and holidays and rotates. I do countywide arraignments, in rotation, during the week That is my zoom. These have been excellent as we are being able to make bond arguments I am also handling large misdemeanor dockets, some in person, some on zoom. In one court, we were able to eliminate a massive backlog from a judge that had suddenly left the bench. In another court, we are tackling a huge backlog inherited by a newly elected judge. I have involved myself in tweaking the MIDC and have been advocating at the regional level. I also was successful in changing how discovery (police reports and recorded evidence) is acquired in Royal Oak We know get it electronically almost immediately and with the departments turning to upload their recorded media to servers, we now get it within a day or so. The longstanding process that existed was cumbersome and burdensome. One issue I have been working on is the effective means of getting our client contact information at the appointment stage Good ideas have been generated, at the several meetings we have held, from myself and other shareholders in the process. The MIDC has mandates on when client contact must be established and we are working hard to get there.
I am still doing all levels of cases and will be trying a Murder case in March. I have a few felonies with trial dates looming before that.
I have had some great success on the felony cases this year. One was tried as a bench trial and was granted a directed verdict (a rare feat where the court determined that the prosecutor had not met the burden of getting the case to the trier of fact). In another felony case, I turned my client, through a thorough review of the evidence, into a stalking victim rather than a stalker. A felony where some significant injury was sustained, will end up as a low-level misdemeanor at the end of an 11 month period. One of my great successes was getting a non-sex offender offense for an autistic young man, who had some inappropriate touching with a relative years earlier. That was the culmination of a year and a half of advocacy and mitigation. We also were able to get him into a treatment program tailored to his needs Several charges of domestic violence, one involving a fight between a father and his teenage, were reduced to disturbing the peace or dismissed. Also a drunk driving acquittal at a bench trial.
In May, I got to celebrate 31 years of licensing, and on July 1st, I celebrated the 30th anniversary of opening my solo law practice. 2021 also marked my 30th year of membership in the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan In the Spring of 2022, I will have served on the Board of Directors for 20 years. I continue to be senior faculty for the Evidence Boot Camp. This is a specific skill set and we met the challenges of doing it on zoom. Fortunately, in October we returned in person Our conferences had been virtual in the spring and returned to in-person in the summer
2021 has been a good year for the Law Offices. Justice was continued to be served in these trying times.
For all my clients, thank you for entrusting me with your cases. Thanks for your willingness to work with me.
Happy New Year and here’s to a great 2022