History and Governance


Michigan's State Appellate Defender Office (SADO) was formed in 1969 as a result of a grant submitted by the Michigan Supreme Court to the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), through the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice. After receiving the grant, the Court issued Order 1970-1, formally establishing SADO’s governing board, the Appellate Public Defender Commission.  The order was a recognition of the need to provide quality, efficient legal representation to indigent criminal defendants in post-conviction matters, on a statewide basis.  In 1979, legislation took effect to formally establish the office, which was charged with handling approximately no less than 25% of statewide appellate assignments, and with providing legal resources to the criminal defense bar.  The legislation set intake limits, providing that SADO may accept only that number of cases that will allow it to provide quality defense services consistent with the funds appropriated by the Michigan Legislature.  The 1979 legislation also ratified the seven-member Appellate Defender Commission, placing it within the State Court Administrator's Office, and charging it with developing and supervising a coordinated system for regulating the assignment of counsel for all indigent criminal appeals in Michigan.  MCL 780.711 et seq. 

Pursuant to that charge, the Commission held public hearings and determined that a mixed system of full-time defenders and assigned private attorneys would best serve the long-term interests of the entire system.  It created the Michigan Appellate Assigned Counsel System (MAACS) in 1985 to provide appellate training and maintain the roster of appointed counsel, and to coordinate case assignments between the private bar and SADO.  The Appellate Defender Commission also developed standards for administration of the system and for performance of criminal appellate counsel, which were adopted by the Michigan Supreme Court in 1981. 412 Mich lxv.  Administrative Order 1989-3 mandated that all circuit courts comply with Section 3 of the standards regarding appointment of appellate counsel.