ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland's highest court will not reconsider its decision that defendants have a constitutional right to legal counsel at their earliest bail hearings.
Judge Lynne Battaglia said during oral arguments Friday that the matter was settled. But she said the Court of Appeals would consider the state's request to push back the implementation date.
Assistant Attorney General Julia Bernhardt said the state doesn't have enough public defenders to staff all the hearings and hasn't budgeted money to hire them.
"The entire system is built around and designed not to have counsel at that setting," Bernhardt said. "Facilities were designed with the expectation that counsel would not be provided."
Officials have said that having lawyers on hand for the 177,000 bail hearings statewide could cost as much as $30 million per year. Suspects, unless released on their own recognizance, will remain in jail until a bail hearing, which could take days in some cases.
When Bernhardt started to raise the question of constitutionality, Battaglia stopped her.
"This court has already determined that issue," Battaglia said. "And all we're here for are the procedural aspects."
Bernhardt then asked for a one-year extension before the court order takes effect. She said complying would be almost impossible under present circumstances.
With the extension, the legislature could restructure the bail hearing system so the state can comply with the court order at a lower cost.
Judges Glenn Harrell Jr. and Sally Adkins suggested waiting to see what the legislature comes up with.
The court did not make a decision on the one-year extension Friday, but it did push back the court order start date until the end business Tuesday.