Pretrial Cost-Shift To Counties Raised Again For FY16

Last year, the costs of appointed attorneys to provide pretrial representation before District Court Commissioners was accompanied with a troubling provision requiring any cost-overrun in the program to be paid by county governments. The same notion has been re-raised by the legislative staff agency, and recommended as an addition to the budget reconciliation legislation that effects statutory changes for the budget.

The recommendation was made as part of the Department of Legislative Services’ substantial “Summary, Provisions, and Recommendations” related to the budget plan.

From that document, on page 65:

Continued Implementation of Richmond Decision

Provision as Recommended by DLS:

Continues the authority to implement the holding of the Court of Appeals in DeWolfe v. Richmond, 434 Md. 403 (2012) and 434 Md. 444 (2013) and

provides that if the costs of compensating attorneys that provide legal representation at initial appearances before a District Court commissioner extend beyond the amount restricted for that purpose, the costs shall be billed to the county in which the representation is provided.

Agency:

Judiciary

Type of Action:

Cost Control

Fiscal Impact vs. Current Law:

None.

Background/Recent History:

There was $10 million in the Judiciary’s budget restricted in fiscal 2015 to provide legal representation for indigent defendants at initial appearances before District Court commissioners. Chapter 464 of 2014 (the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act) required that in fiscal 2015, the cost of compensating attorneys beyond the amount restricted for that purpose in the budget would be billed by the appointing authority to the county in which the representation was provided. Currently, expenditures for fiscal 2015 project that the program will be below the total appropriated amount. The fiscal 2016 Judiciary budget includes $10 million to continue to provide legal representation at initial appearances in accordance with Richmond.

State Effect:

The $10 million in funding for legal representation is currently in the fiscal 2016 budget for the Judiciary.

Local Effect:

If the costs for providing legal representation at initial appearances extend beyond the county’s prorated share of the $10 million appropriation, the county would be responsible for the cost of representations.

For more background, see previous Conduit Street coverage.