E-Alerts & Press Releases

PJC Brief Argues Right to Counsel at Bail Hearing

On September 12, 2008, Murnaghan Appellate Advocacy Fellow Gregory Care filed an amicus brief on behalf of the PJC in the Maryland Court of Appeals case Richmond v. District Court of Maryland, No. 54, September 2008. The brief supported a certified class of indigent plaintiffs who, after arrest, had asserted their right to counsel in their initial bail hearings before a commissioner at Baltimore’s Central Booking. The trial court ruled that there was no right to counsel at this stage of a criminal proceeding. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that their right to counsel at initial bail proceedings was secured by the Maryland Public Defender Act, the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and Article 24 of the Declaration of Rights. The PJC’s amicus brief focused on the significance to the accused of the deprivation of counsel at bail hearings as well as the broader social ramifications from this denial as these considerations relate to whether due process requires the provision of counsel to indigent arrestees. Specifically, the brief argued that when an arrestee cannot afford legal representation at initial bail proceedings, it is overwhelmingly likely that the arrestee will be detained subject to the posting of bail. The negative consequences of this unnecessary incarceration are legion, including: health hazards, threats to physical safety, job loss, and vulnerability of family and other dependents who rely on the liberty of the arrestee. Further, the brief highlighted the fact that the cost of providing attorneys to represent arrestees at initial bail proceedings pales in comparison to the savings in detention costs that would be realized by the government. Not only is the cost of appointing an attorney less than the cost of housing a detainee, but the wide array of indirect costs to society that flow from the significant over-incarceration resulting from absence of counsel at initial proceedings will also be stemmed. International CURE, Justice Maryland, Alternative Directions, Inc., and the Justice Policy Institute joined the PJC as amici on the brief.

« Back