Counties and Courts To Work Together On Bail Plans

This week Chief Judge of the District Court of Maryland Ben C. Clyburn, incoming Chief Judge John P. Morrisey and representatives of the state Judiciary met to discuss bail implementation with MACo President Tom Duncan and county representatives.  Joining Council Member Duncan were Terry Kokolis, Superintendent, Anne Arundel County Detention Facilities; Angela Lane, Talbot County Finance Officer; and MACo staff Michael Sanderson and Natasha Mehu.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, MACo sent a letter to Chief Judge Clyburn, to urge coordination with county governments and county-funded agencies. MACo also pledged its assistance to the judiciary as it develops the required rules and policies to help ensure that county voices are heard and that the most just and effective system is implemented.

Judge Morrisey has been charged with implementing the ruling and administering the $10 million established by the General Assembly to fund the appointment of panel attorneys to represent indigent defendants at their initial bail hearing–all by July 1 when the funds are expected to be available.

MACo and Judiciary representatives discussed the Judiciary’s proposed implementation plan:
• To ensure that attorneys are available for the more than 160,000 initial hearings each year, the Judiciary is reaching out to private attorneys, pro bono organizations and law schools to compile a list of attorneys to represent defendants at a cost of $50 a case.
• Using the numbers of initial hearings in FY 13 per county and a set fee of $50 a case, the Judiciary projected a distribution of the $10 million dollars that presumably (barring any changes in volume) would cover the full costs of attorneys at  hearings in each county.
• To provide enough attorney coverage so defendants can continue to see commissioners within the mandated 24 hour time frame and so that any delay in seeing a commissioner are mitigated, the 5 larger jurisdictions will require multiple attorneys per shift, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For smaller jurisdictions, who may only see 3 hearings a day, a set time frame for hearings would be established each day to ensure that there is fiscally feasible coverage.

The target, however, is still moving. The Court of Appeals must still issue their final ruling following the oral arguments heard on May 6 on 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. And the Rules Committee must finalize amendments to court rules (subject to the approval of the Court of Appeals). This moving target means the Judiciary’s plan is subject to change and remains a forecast for what can be done.

What is clear is that the implementation process and next steps for after the $10 million appropriation will require assistance from the counties, local jails, police and other stakeholders to establish a long-term solution. MACo committed to working with the Judiciary in any productive role possible, acknowledging many unresolved details for invoicing the funds, supplying the attorneys, and other technical processes such as issuing of commitment orders to for certain local jails to detain individuals while they await appearance.

While many questions and kinks still remain, the discussion was fruitful. The judiciary was appreciative of MACo’s outreach and committed to continued talks as details of the implementation process are ironed out.