Maryland Courts

Office of Communications and Public Affairs
2011-D Commerce Park Drive
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
410-260-1488

For Immediate Release
 
 
 
 

Maryland District Court Launches Appointed Attorneys Program
to Assist Low Income Marylanders

(ANNAPOLIS, Md. – May 22, 2014) The District Court of Maryland has launched a statewide campaign to recruit attorneys to provide legal counsel to indigent criminal defendants during their initial appearances conducted by District Court commissioners.

The Appointed Attorneys Program, with an anticipated start date of July 1, will provide compensation of $50 an hour, plus mileage and tolls, to attorneys who contribute their legal expertise and time to assist low-income Marylanders. The campaign was launched this month in order to comply with the DeWolfe v. Richmond opinion issued by the Maryland Court of Appeals, which held that criminal defendants have a state constitutional right to legal representation when appearing in front of a commissioner. This program is the first of its kind in the nation.

“The program will provide an indigent defendant the opportunity to speak with an attorney before appearing in front of a commissioner, which will enable the attorney to argue the terms and conditions of the defendant’s release,” said Judge John P. Morrissey, who was appointed to serve as Chief Judge of the District Court effective June 1.

There are more than 153,000 hearings across the state that will require attorney staffing. District Court commissioners operate 24 hours a days, 365 day a year, including holidays.

“This recruitment effort for attorneys will be ongoing to ensure that the District Court has a sufficient number of attorneys present for all initial appearances,” said Judge Morrissey. “This is a great opportunity for either a seasoned attorney who wants to work an occasional shift or a young attorney who would like to establish a criminal practice in a tough economic market.”

To be eligible for the program, an attorney must be licensed to practice in the state of Maryland, in good standing and not subject to any pending disciplinary proceedings. Attorneys must also comply with the program’s training requirements, certify that the rules on initial appearances have been reviewed, and complete an application form and sworn statement.

Staffing needs may vary according to each jurisdiction. In larger jurisdictions, multiple attorneys will be needed during day, evening, and overnight shifts. In smaller districts, attorneys may simply need to be available several hours each day. Attorneys can serve in multiple jurisdictions. The appointment and scheduling of attorneys will be coordinated from District Court Headquarters in Annapolis.

In lieu of compensation, attorneys may choose to donate their hours and receive pro bono credit.

Interested attorneys may download an application at www.mdcourts.gov/district/appointedattorneys/index.html, email their contact information to appointedattorneys@mdcourts.gov, or call 410-260-1230.

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