Wicomico County State’s Matthew A. Maciarello has asked the County Council for $56,000 to hire another full-time assistant state’s attorney.
The amount doesn’t include benefits, said Maciarello, who explained the additional assistant prosecutor is necessary because of the Richmond vs. DeWolfe opinion.
That case that went before the state Court of Appeals in 2011, concerned whether “an indigent criminal defendant is entitled to state-furnished counsel at the defendant’s initial appearance before a District Court commissioner.”
“Plaintiffs in this case filed a complaint in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City alleging that they were denied public defender representation during their initial appearance proceedings before a District Court commissioner,” according to the opinion.
The result is that, effective July 1, everybody who is arrested and held to go before a court commissioner must be represented by a lawyer, putting a greater workload on the State’s Attorney’s Office.
“They’re entitled to their amendment right of counsel because liberty is at stake,” Maciarello said.
“The person has a right to have an attorney present when the argument is made whether or not he should be released on recognizance or if the bond amount should be upheld,” he explained.
He said Delegate Mike McDermott sponsored a bill that Maciarello hoped would be “a legislative fix,” and that while it was debated in the Maryland General Assembly, there was an 18-month reprieve, but the bill didn’t pass.
“So, now, the lay of the land is, the defendant is entitled to have a lawyer present at a court commissioner’s hearing,” he said.
The state’s attorney called it “a waste of resources … the way it’s being implemented” and said there is probably a less expensive way.
In District Court, if three courtrooms are open, assistant state’s attorneys handle about 150 cases every day, and that doesn’t include Circuit and Juvenile courts.
“We have four District Court attorneys. When they are not in court, they are preparing for the cases they have … what’s happening is, if they have to come out for four hours that is cutting into their preparation time.
“I think we’re going to see an increase in the drain on our office,” he said.
Reach Susan Canfora at firstname.lastname@example.org.