Public Defenders

Judge Warns PD Action Will Bring Md. Criminal Courts to ‘Grinding Halt’

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The Maryland Office of Public Defender has warned state judges that starting next week it will no longer pay private lawyers to represent defendants in conflict-of-interest cases.

Brian Denton, chief public defender for Prince George’s County, said in a letter that the action was being taken because of a directive to cut $1.3 million from the office’s budget, the Washington Post reports.

William Missouri, chief administrative judge for the Prince George’s Circuit Court, said the cutoff would “bring the criminal justice system to a grinding halt.”

Budget problems aren’t confined to Maryland’s public defender’s office. In a story published earlier this month, USA Today reported that public defenders in several states are refusing to take on some cases because of budget cuts and growing caseloads.

Budget problems have prompted public defenders to go to court seeking permission to refuse cases in Florida and Kentucky. In Missouri, public defenders in two jurisdictions have notified courts they will reject new cases.

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