Despite the Supreme Court ruling which established defendants’ constitutional right to counsel during the first appearance before a judicial officer at which they’re formally accused, public defenders and assigned lawyers remain missing from initial bail hearings in numerous state courts, according to a new report from The Constitution Project in Washington, DC.
Maryland had a long history as one such state, as Professor Douglas Colbert, well knows. Colbert, who fought to win counsel for Maryland defendants at pretrial bail hearings, served as reporter to the bipartisan committee of criminal justice experts that authored the report. He also moderated a two-hour discussion marking its March 18 release which included Senior Judge Andre Davis ’78, of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and a member of the Maryland Carey Law Board of Visitors.
“Professor Colbert's scholarship, expertise and enthusiasm for this project have made this report possible,” said Virginia Sloan, president of The Constitution Project. “We are grateful for the many hours he spent researching, drafting and assisting the Committee in crafting its recommendations.”
Don’t I Need A Lawyer: Pretrial Justice and the Right to Counsel at First Judicial Bail Hearing lays out numerous recommendations by a bipartisan committee of professors, current and former judges, legislators, prosecutors, defense counsel, police and victims’ advocates. The group offered strategies on how to appoint lawyers for indigent defendants at publicly held hearings as well as how to provide the resources that defendants and attorneys need for effective representation.
In addition to Professor Colbert and Judge Davis, the panel discussion included Avis Buchanan, Director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and Lisa Foster, Director of the Access to Justice Initiative at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Since 1997, Colbert and his students in the Access to Justice clinic at Maryland Carey Law have been working to ensure low-income Maryland residents have access to counsel during pretrial bail hearings. The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled favorably in 2012 and in 2013 on an access to justice case that the clinic stewarded through the appeals process, even after the Maryland General Assembly introduced legislation to block the court rulings. New procedures for representation went into effect in Maryland on July 1, 2014.