Pretrial Appointed Attorneys Still in Courts Budget, For Now

Despite recommendations from a special Commission, funding for the “appointed attorneys” to represent arrestees for initial pretrial hearings remain in the Judiciary budget, rather than in some entity in the Executive branch budget. Stakeholders expect some legislative debate about the long term resolution for this troubling issue, including legislation to move the program out of the Judiciary budget and into either the Office of the Public Defender or some other entity within the executive branch.

A fair and effective resolution to these issues is one of MACo’s top legislative initiatives for the 2016 session, as counties seek to prevent unfair overflow funding onto the counties, and to stave off system problems causing backups and added costs in local jails.

The “appointed attorneys” are funded as contractual services in the Judiciary budget, which is submitted independently of the Governor’s executive branch budget. The allowance for contractual service within the District Courts 2016 Operating Budget, set at $17.2 million, seemingly includes funding for the court’s continued operation of the court’s Appointed Attorney Program.

In 2015, the court’s appropriations for contractual services totaled approximately $16.5 million. This $10 million increase from 2014 actual spending of $6.4 million accounted for the creation and operation of the Appointed Attorney Program to comply with the DeWolfe v. Richmond decision establishing the right to an attorney at an initial appearance before a District Court Commissioner.

For more information read previous Conduit Street coverage:

The Latest on Pretrial and DeWolfe v. Richmond Implementation
Commission Releases Report on Maryland’s Pretrial System
And So It Begins: Attorney Representation at Bail Hearings