The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled unanimously on January 4 that criminal defendants are entitled to counsel at bail hearings in Maryland under the Maryland Public Defender Act. Venable partners Michael Schatzow and Mitch Mirviss
, with assistance from associates Shannon Beamer
and Margalit Moche, former associates Alex Hortis and Brien Penn, former summer associates (and current associates) Jessica B. Wack, Nichole Cohen
, and Uyen Pham, and former summer associates (and future associates) Meredith Healy and Eric J. Smith, brought this class action in 2006 on behalf all criminal defendants in Baltimore City. University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law professor Douglas Colbert and students from the school’s Access to Justice Clinic brought the case to Venable and collaborated throughout. The case received national attention and strong amicus curiae support from the a large number of groups, including the American Bar Association, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Public Justice Center, and the ACLU, as well as numerous law professors (both national and local).
News of the Court’s decision was featured in the January 4, 2012 edition of The Daily Record
(subscription required), the Baltimore Sun, and on the University of Maryland’s website. Commenting on the Court’s decision to The Daily Record, Schatzow said, “What the Court of Appeals has done is end the system of incarceration without representation.” Dismissing fears of a financial burden on the state, Schatzow said the Court’s decision “will save the state money, as legal representation will result in fewer defendants spending time in jail. Months or years of pretrial incarceration costs the states more than providing a public defender will.” Schatzow added, “Poor people will be getting a lot more justice…It’s a positive win for everyone: the criminal defendants, the judicial system, which will work more efficiently, and the taxpayers.”