From the 2010 News Archive
Prof. Colbert Op-ed Calls for End to Pretrial Injustice
Professor Douglas Colbert
published an op-ed in the Sept. 6 edition of the Baltimore Sun, calling for new measures to limit the number of individuals charged with nonviolent offenses who are incarcerated for weeks and months because they cannot afford bail.
"It probably comes as a surprise that the first judicial bail hearing before a commissioner is held inside a jail, where the public and an accused person's family cannot attend, and where no defense lawyer or pretrial investigator is present to provide background information to the commissioner," wrote Professor Colbert.
"With scant reliable information about the defendant, commissioners' bail rulings result in more than 2,500 people remaining incarcerated every day on nonviolent charges. Detainees stay there for an average of 40 days because they cannot afford bail."
Read Professor Colbert's op-ed, “Justice Before the Trial."
In 2006, students in Professor Colbert’s "Access to Justice Clinic: Effective Assistance of Counsel at Bail"
course filed a class action lawsuit
on behalf of indigent defendants who do not have access to legal counsel at initial appearances before appointed district court commissioners, who decide whether to set bail, and, if so, how much it should be. The Maryland Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case, Richmond v. District Court of Maryland
, earlier this year before remanding it to the trial court for a decision, which is expected shortly.
Professor Colbert has written extensively about indigents' right to counsel, bail reform, the Thirteenth Amendment, race discrimination in jury selection, affirmative action, police misconduct, politically sensitive trials, and legal scholarship. Professor Colbert was the lead counsel in the Napanoch prison rebellion and represents plaintiffs in civil rights litigation. Prior to entering teaching, he was a senior trial attorney in the criminal defense division of the NYC Legal Aid Society. Professor Colbert's recent scholarly activities have focused on reforming states’ pretrial release systems and guaranteeing counsel at the bail stage. He founded and directed the Lawyers at Bail Project, which represented 4,000 indigent defendants at bail hearings. Professor Colbert regularly contributes opinion articles and engages in public education about many criminal justice issues. Currently, he serves on the Board of Directors of the Public Justice Center and the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys Association. He is a past chair of the Maryland State Bar Association's Section on Correctional Reform.