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Judiciary forms task force on bail hearings

Justice System

The Maryland judiciary has formed a special task force to examine the implications of a Court of Appeals ruling that people charged with crimes should have access to public defenders at all bail hearings.

The panel will be led by Baltimore District Judge John R. Hargrove, Jr., the judiciary said Friday.

The state's justice system is reckoning with several aspects of the decision, including the potential that Maryland's busy public defenders will have to attend as many as 180,000 additional proceedings each year.

"I am delighted about the opportunity to serve in this capacity," Hargrove said in a statement. "This is a timely issue that all respective branches of government are examining, and to assume a leadership role at this time is exciting."

Earlier this week, the state's top court held that poor people who are arrested have a right to a public defender from their first interaction with the court system. After being arrested, people suspected of crimes are presented to a court commissioner who sets a bail amount, decides to release them or holds them without a bail.

The General Assembly passed a law providing for poor defendants to have a lawyer present at the next stage of the process, but the court said that measure did not go far enough.

Hargrove was previously the administrative judge for the Baltimore District Court. He will be replaced in that role by Judge Barbara Baer Waxman but continue to hear cases while working on the bail team, which will also examine other aspects of the jail system.

Also Friday, the courts announced that Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Paul A. Hackner will become the administrative judge for the 5th Judicial Circuit, which includes Anne Arundel, Carroll, and Howard counties. Hackner will also serve as the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court administrative judge.

He will replace Judge Nancy L. Davis-Loomis when she retires Jan. 1, 2014.

iduncan@baltsun.com

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