ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — As Maryland faces a court-ordered deadline to begin providing defendants in criminal cases with a lawyer at every bail hearing, Gov. Martin O'Malley on Tuesday ordered that a panel study pretrial reform.
The Governor's Commission to Reform Maryland's Pretrial System will look at best practices from around the country and assess the use of a risk-assessment system to help determine who should be detained and who should be released before trial. Lawmakers failed to agree on a solution to address the court ruling in the last legislative session.
"The commission will foster the consensus we need to move comprehensive pretrial reform forward," O'Malley said in a statement announcing the new panel. His order directs the panel to identify ways to reduce detainment times and develop and issue legislative recommendations.
The commission will issue recommendations for reform to the governor by Dec. 1.
The Court of Appeals ruled 4-3 last year that having an attorney at the initial bail hearing is a constitutional right.
The governor's executive order was issued on the same day the Court of Appeals set a July 1 effective date for the ruling to go into effect requiring an attorney to be present at initial bail review hearings before a district court commissioner.
Lawmakers set aside $10 million in the state budget, in case the state would be required to pay attorneys at initial appearances.
Michael Schatzow, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the case, has been calling for the ruling to go into effect immediately. However, he said he was pleased a date has been set.
"We are glad that there's a definite date for the implementation," Schatzow said.