Legislative Update and Upcoming Events

Yesterday, for the first time ever, OPD’s frontline staff participated in the legislative Budget hearings. Three members of the Maryland Defenders Union (AFSCME Local 423) testified before our State Senators and Delegates and advocated for our budget priorities. MDU President Marci Johnson (Attorney) talked about caseloads, telling the legislature “we need help now"; MDU Secretary Treasurer Cheryl Hughes-Redd (Paralegal) explained the need for a career ladder for core staff because “prices are going up, and core staffers are finding it necessary to work two jobs to keep up with providing the necessities for their families”; and MDU Member Katie Cook (Social Worker) advocated for more PINS to meet the needs of clients across the state, saying “almost every public defender client would benefit from having a social worker assigned to their case, but unfortunately very few have that opportunity.”  Click the links above to watch their time-stamped videos.

To see the entire joint budget hearing, including the OPD budget analysis and testimony from management, click here.

Next up, MDU members will be testifying for SB757 and HB1277, the bills introduced in the Maryland General Assembly to convert OPD attorneys from at-will to merit employees. The bills are sponsored by Delegate Shaneka Henson in the House and Senator Jill Carter in the Senate – herself a former Maryland public defender.

All assistant public defender job titles are classified as “special appointees,” even though they are not directly appointed by the Governor, or the Board of Public Works.  As at-will special appointees, APDs can be fired at any time and for no reason.  Like thousands of other state employees with merit employment status, with the passage of SB757/HB1277 APDs would receive the full rights and protections of the State Personnel and Pensions Article in state law, including access to the grievance procedure, disciplinary appeals process, anti-discrimination, and fair hiring practices, and new attorneys would only be on probation for a maximum of one year instead of indefinitely.

SB757 hearing (Senate Finance Committee) Thursday, March 4 at 1:00pm  watch here.

HB1277 hearing (House Appropriations Committee) Thursday, March 11 at 1:30pm – watch here.

Follow us on Twitter for live updates.

Register for the MDU general membership meeting this Wednesday, March 3, at 7pm.

Join our social-distanced Love Your Defenders Rally on Tuesday, March 9, in Annapolis. Email MDU for more info. 

Email your legislators to voice your support for APD merit status, SB757 and HB1277. 

Sign up for MDU’s Legislative Committee! We meet Sundays at 5:30. Email us to check out a meeting.

Haven’t joined the union yet? Join here, and invite your friends to join.