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Maryland High Court Affirms Right to Public Defender at Bail Hearings Statewide (NACDL News)
By Jack King
NACDL News columns.
The Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, made clear on Jan. 4, 2012, that as a matter of state law every person brought before a bail commissioner is entitled to have a lawyer argue for her release before bail is set, regardless of the individual’s financial situation. The case is DeWolfe v. Richmond, No. 34.
Plaintiffs filed a civil lawsuit in the Baltimore City Circuit Court in 2007 claiming that, under Maryland’s Public Defender Act, they were entitled to a public defender at their initial bail hearing because they faced pretrial detention in jail. The defendants in the suit included the Chief Judge of the District Court of Maryland and the Baltimore City Commissioners who hold the hearings and set bail. The plaintiffs claimed that the hearings are held at the Central Booking Jail and “public defenders are never present.” The Baltimore public defender office, which claimed it had neither the staff nor the funding to provide counsel at the Central Book
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