DeWolfe v. Richmond

Citation434 Md. 444,76 A.3d 1019
Decision Date06 November 2013
Docket NumberNo. 34,Sept. Term, 2011.,34
PartiesPaul B. DeWOLFE, in his official capacity as the Public Defender for the State of Maryland, et al. v. Quinton RICHMOND, et al.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland

434 Md. 444
76 A.3d 1019

Paul B. DeWOLFE, in his official capacity as the Public Defender for the State of Maryland, et al.
Quinton RICHMOND, et al.

No. 34, Sept. Term, 2011.

Court of Appeals of Maryland.

Sept. 25, 2013.
Order Denying Motions Nov. 6, 2013.

[76 A.3d 1020]

Julia Doyle Bernhardt, Asst. Atty. Gen. (Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General of Maryland, and William F. Brockman, Deputy Solicitor General, Baltimore, MD), on brief, A. Stephen Hut, Jr. (Aaron B. Goetzl and Ashley Bashur of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, Washington, D.C.), on brief, for Appellants/Cross–Appellees.

Jessica Weber, Esq., Thomas Davies, Esq., Francis D. Murnaghan, Jr. Appellate Advocacy Fellow, Baltimore, MD, for Amici Curiae brief of Public Justice Center, International Cure, Alternative Directions, Inc., and Justice Policy Institute for Appellants.

Michael Schatzow (Mitchell Y. Mirviss of Venable LLP, Baltimore, MD; Douglas L. Colbert, Maryland School of Law Access to Justice Clinic, Baltimore, MD), on brief, for Appellees/Cross–Appellant.

Daniel P. Westman, Esq., Morrison Foerster LLP, McLean, VA, for Amicus Curiae brief of Society of American Law Teachers for Appellees.

Howard Schiffman, Esq., Andrew P.C. Wright, Esq., Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP, Washington, D.C., Daniel L. Greenberg, Esq., Ronald B. Risdon, Esq., Brian C. Tong, Esq., Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP, New York, NY, for Amicus Curiae brief of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in Support of Appellees and Affirmance of the Order of the Circuit Court.

Christina M. Gattuso, Esq., Kilpatrick Townsend and Stockton LLP, Washington, D.C., Gia L. Cincone, Esq., Kilpatrick Townsend and Stockton LLP, San Francisco, CA, for Amici Curiae brief of National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, The American Civil Liberties Union, The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, The Center for Constitutional Rights, and The National Legal Aid and Defender Association in Support of Appellees.

A.J. Bellido De Luna, Esq., Michael Pinard, Esq., University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, Baltimore, MD, for Amici Curiae brief of Faculty Members of The University of Baltimore School of Law and The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law in Support of Appellees.

Joshua I. Civin, Esq., Washington, DC, John Payton, Esq., Debo P. Adegbile, Esq., Christina Swarns, Esq., Johanna B. Steinberg, Esq., NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., New York, NY, Steven F. Barley, Esq., Andrea W. Trento, Esq., Lindsay S. Goldberg, Esq., Hogan Lovells US LLP, Baltimore, MD, for Amicus Curiae brief of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. in Support of Appellees.

Baruch Weiss, Esq., Dirk C. Phillips, Esq., Jeremy W. Hockberg, Esq., Rubina S. Madni, Esq., Daniel M. Friedman, Esq., Ingrid A. Epperly, Esq., Arnold & Porter

[76 A.3d 1021]

LLP, Washington, D.C., William T. Robinson III, Esq., American Bar Association, Chicago, IL, for Amici Curiae brief of The American Bar Association in Support of Appellees.

Argued before BARBERA, C.J., HARRELL, BATTAGLIA, GREENE, ADKINS, BELL,* and JOHN C. ELDRIDGE (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.


[434 Md. 447]In an opinion and order filed in this case on January 4, 2012, but not officially published because of motions for reconsideration, Judge (now Chief Judge) Barbera for the Court referred to “the complex procedural history of this case.” Since that time, the case's procedural history has become a great deal [434 Md. 448]more complex. Despite the historical complexity, however, the case both then and now has presented a single broad legal issue: whether an indigent criminal defendant is entitled to state-furnished counsel at the defendant's initial appearance before a District Court Commissioner pursuant to Maryland Rule 4–213(a).


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. They named as defendants the District Court of Maryland, the Chief Judge of the District Court of Maryland, the Administrative Judge of the District Court in Baltimore City, and several other District Court officials in Baltimore City. 1 The plaintiffs asserted that the initial appearance proceeding, during which a District Court Commissioner determines whether there is probable cause for the defendant's arrest if the arrest occurred without a warrant and whether an arrested individual is to be detained, or released on bail, or released on his or her own recognizance, is a critical stage of the criminal proceeding requiring state-furnished counsel under the provisions of the Public Defender Act, Maryland Code (2001, 2008 Repl. Vol., 2012 Supp.), § 16– 204(b)(2) of the Criminal Procedure Article. They also relied upon the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 21 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. In addition, they argued that the failure to furnish counsel violated the due process protections of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and [434 Md. 449]Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment and an injunction to enjoin the defendants from violating the plaintiffs' right to representation at initial appearances before District Court Commissioners.

Plaintiffs Quinton Richmond, Jerome Jett, Glenn Callaway, Myron Singleton, Timothy Wright, Keith Wilds, Michael LaGrasse, Ralph Steele, Laura Baker, Erich Lewis, and Nathaniel Shivers were each separately arrested for unrelated criminal activity occurring in Baltimore City. Each plaintiff was arrested for a “serious offense”

[76 A.3d 1022]

as defined in the Public Defender Statute, § 16–101(h)(1)–(4). Each plaintiff was detained at the Central Booking Jail in Baltimore City and brought before a Commissioner for an initial appearance pursuant to statute and Maryland Rule 4–213.2

While the Rules indicate that a defendant's first appearance must be before a “judicial officer,” the Rules also provide that a “judicial officer” may be either a District Court Commissioner or a Judge. Maryland Rule 4–102(f). In each criminal case involving the plaintiffs in this civil case, the judicial officer was a District Court Commissioner. The parties agree that it is general practice that Commissioners, rather than District Court Judges, preside over initial appearances. A Commissioner need not be a lawyer. SeeMaryland Code (1974, 2013 Repl. Vol.) § 2–607(b) of the Courts and Judicial [434 Md. 450]Proceedings Article; Rule 4–102(f); State v. Smith, 305 Md. 489, 501–505, 505 A.2d 511, 517–519,cert. denied,476 U.S. 1186, 106 S.Ct. 2925, 91 L.Ed.2d 552 (1986).

The District Court Commissioner determines at the initial appearance, pursuant to Maryland Rule 4–216, whether a plaintiff is eligible for pretrial release. If a defendant was arrested without a warrant, the Commissioner determines whether there was probable cause for each charge and for the arrest. If there was no probable cause, the defendant is released with no conditions of release.

If the Commissioner finds that there was probable cause, Rule 4–216(f) details the numerous factors a Commissioner must take into consideration when imposing “on the defendant the least onerous condition or combination of conditions of release” that serves the purposes of “ensur[ing] the appearance of the defendant,” “protect[ing] the safety of the alleged victim,” and “ensur [ing] that the defendant will not pose a danger to another person or to the community.” These factors include, among other things, the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, the defendant's prior record of appearance at court proceedings, and the defendant's family ties, employment status, financial resources, reputation, character, and length of residence in the community and in the State. The recommendation of the State's Attorney and any information presented by the defendant or defendant's counsel also must be considered.

If a Commissioner does not release an arrested individual following this initial appearance, the defendant must be presented to a District Court Judge “immediately if the Court is in session, or if the Court is not in session, at the next session of the Court.” 3 As this Court pointed out in its

[76 A.3d 1023]

January 4, [434 Md. 451]2012, opinion, the Commissioner's initial bail decision is not often changed during subsequent review, with the bail set by the Commissioner being maintained by the Judge in nearly half of the bail reviews.

As numerous briefs to this Court pointed out, the failure of a Commissioner to consider all the facts relevant to a bail determination can have devastating effects on the arrested individuals. Not only do the arrested individuals face health and safety risks posed by prison stays, but the arrested individuals may be functionally illiterate and unable to read materials related to the charges. Additionally, they may be employed in low wage jobs which could be easily lost because of incarceration. Moreover, studies show that the bail amounts are often improperly affected by race.

In Baltimore City, an arrestee's initial appearance occurs in a “tiny narrow booth” in Central Booking Jail, which does not allow the public to attend the proceeding.4 A record of the proceeding is not made. The Commissioner is separated from the arrested individual by a plexiglass partition, and all communications take place through a speaker system. There are no prohibitions against attorneys participating in these proceedings, but, in practice, arrested individuals are rarely represented by an attorney during an initial appearance before the Commissioner. The State's Attorney, however, maintains a 24–hour “war room” in Central Booking for the purpose of making recommendations to the Commissioner...

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20 cases
  • Wynne v. Comptroller of Md.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 5, 2020
    ...available at The other decision was DeWolfe v. Richmond , 434 Md. 403, 76 A.3d 962 (2012) and 434 Md. 444, 76 A.3d 1019 (2013), which established a right to counsel for criminal defendants at initial bail hearings and which would potentially increase expenditur......
  • Motor Vehicle Admin. v. Deering
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    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • May 21, 2014
    ...Court could hold that the State constitution confers such a right, even if the federal Constitution does not. Cf. DeWolfe v. Richmond, 434 Md. 444, 76 A.3d 1019 (2013) (holding that an indigent defendant in a criminal prosecution is entitled, under Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of ......
  • Holly v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 26, 2019
    ...v. Rutherford , 296 Md. 347, 358, 464 A.2d 228 (1983). Holly's argument is principally based upon the case of DeWolfe v. Richmond , 434 Md. 444, 464, 76 A.3d 1019 (2013) ( DeWolfe II ), in which the Court of Appeals held that "under Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, an indig......
  • Smallwood v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 4, 2018 counsel and did not knowingly and intelligently waive the right to counsel, is fundamentally unfair." DeWolfe v. Richmond , 434 Md. 444, 460, 76 A.3d 1019 (2013) (" DeWolfe II ") (quoting Rutherford v. Rutherford , 296 Md. 347, 360–61, 464 A.2d 228 (1983) ) (emphasis removed). Additional......
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1 provisions
  • Chapter 489, HB 72 – Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2015
    • United States
    • Maryland Session Laws
    • January 1, 2015
    ...20. AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That, in implementing the holding of the Court of Appeals in DeWolfe v. Richmond, 434 Md. 403 (2012) and 434 Md. 444 (2013), if attorneys are appointed in a county to provide legal representation at an initial appearance before a District Court commissioner, i......

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