Attorney General’s Office Files to Overturn Bail Ruling

In papers filed with the Court of Appeals, the State judiciary administrators and the Attorney General’s office asked that the court overturn the ruling in DeWolfe v. Richmond requiring that indigent defendants have a constitutional right to representation from a public defender at the initial bail hearing. As reported in the Baltimore Sun:

“The current system strikes an appropriate balance among considerations of cost, public safety, and protection of the rights of the accused,” state lawyers wrote. “The decision … should be overruled.”

The high court is scheduled to hear arguments March 7 over the implementation of the ruling. Typically, the court follows a policy of letting its previous rulings stand, but in the bail case, the judiciary’s attorneys said the decision was so misguided that it should be thrown out.

The high court ruling represented a victory for bail reform advocates, but the state argued in the filing that it could wind up leaving defendants in jail longer because they would have to wait for a hearing at which a lawyer could be present.

For years, advocates for poor people suspected of crimes have been pushing for lawyers to be present at bail hearings before district court commissioners, arguing that they stand a better chance of being released if they have legal representation.

“The reasoning of the decision is based on faulty premises and erroneous factual assumptions, and it now appears likely to produce perverse results, by delaying many arrestees’ opportunity for a prompt release from custody after an arrest,” the lawyers wrote.

For more information, read the full article in the Baltimore Sun.