In Michigan, an indigent criminal defendant who wishes to challenge his sentence after pleading guilty (or pursue other possible legal claims) is generally not entitled to appointed counsel, even for a first appeal. Michigan is the only state in the country that denies appointed counsel under these circumstances. The question in this case is whether the Michigan rule violates the Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law.
Update: Dismissed on Dec. 13, 2004 on standing grounds because the Court concluded that the challenge to Michigan’s practice could only be raised by defendants and not by lawyers who are not acting on behalf of specific clients. The ACLU is now representing the petitioner in Halbert v. Michigan, 03-10198, which raises the same issues but without the standing problem identified by the Court.