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Judges and holiday compassion [Letter]

Justice System

While Maryland officials remain at odds about implementing poor people's constitutional guarantee to counsel at first appearances ("Maryland has an opportunity to lead the way in bail reform," Nov. 29), the judiciary can help break the logjam and demonstrate the benefits of taking a humanitarian approach toward the people expected to spend Christmas and New Year's in jail while awaiting trial on non-violent charges.

Maryland law requires every administrative judge to conduct a weekly review of the pretrial jail population. It is done to assess delay before trial and whether continued incarceration is necessary.

What if the judges required defenders, prosecutors, pretrial investigators and corrections to do the same? The search would likely find some pretrial detainees who are deserving of spending this Christmas and New Year's with family rather than remaining in jail because they cannot afford bail. Isn't this an example of the law being carried out in a compassionate and just manner?

Such collaboration bodes well, too, for the future enforcement of the high court's guarantee of counsel ruling and persuading political leaders to see the benefits of working together to enforce constitutional rights.

Doug Colbert, Baltimore

The writer is a professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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