Commission: Put Public Defenders at Bail Hearings

The latest meeting of the Governor’s Commission to Reform Maryland’s Pretrial System focused on narrowing down proposed subcommittee recommendations to include in the Commission’s report to the Governor. A large portion of the meeting’s discussion centered on the management of attorneys at initial appearances.

Commission members came to a consensus that the Office of Public Defender, not the Judiciary, should be responsible for providing attorneys at initial appearances. Supporters stressed the public defender’s role and expertise in representing indigent individuals and how the change would allow for continuity of counsel between the initial appearance stage and remaining parts of the process.

Since July 1, 2014 the Judiciary has been managing the appointed attorney program under a $10 million budget appropriation. The stopgap measure was put in place to ensure the state complied with the Maryland Court of Appeals’ DeWolfe v. Richmond decision establishing the right to indigent representation at preliminary bail hearing.

The Commission got through about half of the subcommittees’ recommendations on the agenda for the day, voting on three of the seven proposed subcommittee recommendations. The commission will be voting on the remainder of the recommendations at the next meeting tentatively scheduled for November 11, 2015. The commission must submit a final report its recommendations to the Governor by December 1, 2014.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the purpose of the commission is to bring together experts and interested parties to comprehensively examine the State’s pretrial system and to provide recommendations for reform.

For more information and meeting materials please visit the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP)’s website. For additional coverage of the commission meetings read the article in The Daily Record (subscription required) and previous coverage on Conduit Street.