State High Court Hears Arguments on Bail Implementation

The clock is ticking for the State to get the necessary mechanisms in place to implement the Maryland Court of Appeals ruling establishing the right for attorney representation at initial bail hearings.

Arguments heard Tuesday, May 6 in front of the High Court addressed what if any action the Court should take to revise the injunction and what if any revisions should be made in light of any changed circumstances including legislative action. As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Maryland Court of Appeals had issued a stay on its ruling requiring the right to an attorney at bail review in order to allow the General Assembly time to enact legislation to address the issue. As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

The arguments Tuesday ended without any hint as to what the Court of Appeals might do next. Despite the court system’s commitment to get a system up and running, a number of practical issues must be resolved.

The defendants will be represented by private attorneys paid by the court, rather than staff from the public defender’s office. [Judge John P.] Morrissey said he has been rounding up attorneys and is seeking more, but could not say Tuesday how many have signed on.

Any costs beyond the $10 million will be charged to the county where the lawyer was provided.

Leslie Knapp Jr., legal and policy counsel at the Maryland Association of Counties, said the organization was not told ahead of time about the idea and that local governments are worried about the cost.

“This is an open-ended expense,” he said. “We don’t really know how much it’s going to be.”

The next step is a meeting Friday at which officials will discuss new court rules to accommodate lawyers at bail hearings. The rules will go to the Court of Appeals for final approval.

After the rules are in place, Morrissey said, he will begin training the state’s nearly 300 bail commissioners who are used to operating under the existing system. The effort will take about 10 days.

With those issues unresolved, plaintiffs said in court that they are seeking an injunction to force District Court officials to commit to a timeline. The officials say that is unnecessary because the court will comply voluntarily.

The article also states that Judge John P. Morrisey, incoming Chief Judge of the District Courts charged with implementing the ruling, has noted that the $10 million established by the General Assembly will be available July 1 and the Court should have any outstanding issues worked out by then.

Oral arguments from Tuesday’s hearing may be viewed on the Court of Appeals website (Docket No. 105 Title: Ben C. Clyburn, et al. v. Quinton Richmond, et al.)

Information on the Friday, May 9 meeting to discuss new rules to accommodate lawyers at bail hearings can be found on Conduit Street.

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