Senate Continues Debate on Public Defender Bill

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has been considering emergency legislation to address a recent Court of Appeals decision mandating the use of public defenders for bail hearings before district court commissioners and district court judges.  The fiscal cost for local governments to meet this mandate would be significant.  One of the potential solutions is to override the Court’s decision with respect to district court commissioner but require individuals appear before a district court judge within a certain amount of time.  This would require some form of weekend court.

A February 27 article discusses recent Senate deliberations:

A Senate vote on an emergency bill to amend the Maryland Public Defender Act was postponed for a second day Monday so lawmakers could hear from judges unhappy with a provision to open courts on weekends for bail hearings.

“The district court judges are complaining they will have to come in on weekends,” said Sen. Brian Frosh, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  He said that judges were one of the few professions that didn’t have to work on weekends.  …

One provision of the bill expands police authority to issue citations for offenses that carry a sentence of 90-days or less — and would eliminate more than 70,000 commissioner hearings each year.

The Senate plans to take up the bill and its 11 amendments Tuesday.

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