Criminal Defense Lawyers Raise Civil Rights Concerns with Online Proceedings

One issue that is gaining traction in the Michigan criminal justice system is the concerns of criminal defense attorneys having a defendant’s constitutional rights violated. The matter has been raised amid COVID-19, and our courts move to many online hearings. To gain insight into this issue, we spoke to several of the top criminal defense lawyers in our state.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates, which is known as the top criminal defense firm in the state of Michigan. When asked about the concerns of online proceedings, Grabel stated, “There is a lot of constitutional rights being bent right now. There are major limitations to what can be accomplished online and what cannot. There is an outcry from public defenders in New York with in-custody clients, and that has spread directly into our circuit courts. We are definitely in a wait and see the pattern.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo is known as the top criminal defense lawyer in Washtenaw County and provided commentary on the subject. Amadeo said, “This is a nightmare for all involved. The defendant may be compromised, and when we are back to business, as usual, we will be busier than ever before. There are severe limitations to what can be accomplished virtually. We certainly cannot do jury trials or preliminary exams this way. We need to work as a team to develop outside of the box solutions. Our court clerks and staff need to be treated with more respect than ever before; they will be the ones to the right the ship when the dust clears.”

Nancy Eaton-Gordon is a partner at Jackson Eaton-Gordon and Associates in Adrian, Michigan. Eaton-Gordon is a top criminal defense lawyer in Lenawee County, Michigan, and added commentary to this situation. “We are in a time of the unknown. In Lenawee, we are trying to work with the court to develop different scenarios to preserve judicial economy. While things such as sentencings or probable cause conferences can be accomplished online, other hearings must be done in person. As someone that does a lot of estate planning, we are seeing that our senior citizens are suffering a lot during this period. The concept of online hearings does cause these people a lot of undue stress. The senior citizens are the ones that have my most concern with our court system at the moment.”

While the concept of online hearings is a way to keep dockets down, there is a grave concern when one’s freedom is at risk. The right to properly cross-examine and provide zealous representation is at a very vulnerable time. Traditional solutions may not be an option for a very long time.

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