In this edition of the newsletter:

  • A recap of the 2021 legislative session – what went well, what we wish had gone differently, and our exciting plans for the upcoming year!
  • News you can use regarding OPD's leave policy for religious observances!
  • A call for a core staff volunteer to join the MDU Executive Board!
  • And a fond farewell to two departing coworkers and MDU members, Cindy "CC" Christiani and Claire Glenn.

* * *


MDU fought hard in the Maryland General Assembly and made significant progress in our inaugural year in Annapolis. We are disappointed that our bill to give public defenders merit status did not pass. Although the bill passed the House of Delegates with unanimous Democratic support (and a veto-proof majority), it failed to pass the Senate Finance Committee. But real change takes time.

And we assure you that MDU will be back fighting for our rights and our clients in the 2022 Legislative Session. We're excited to announce that we won't just be pushing for merit status – we're preparing to fight for collective bargaining rights for core staff, social workers, and attorneys! Stay tuned in the coming months as we introduce our campaign and ask for your participation.

We wanted to take one final look back at the 2021 Legislative Session, and go over four main takeaways.

  1. MDU built relationships with and gained the support of legislators throughout the state. However, it was apparent that most legislators have no idea what we do and how at-will attorney employment harms all our work. We educated many legislators about the precariousness of attorney employment; about the agency's culture of retribution and fear, characterized by firings without cause and by involuntary transfers and demotions; and about the way that at-will status can interfere with our duties to our clients. Despite not getting the merit bill across the finish line this year, we made great progress on the work of building relationships in the General Assembly and educating legislators about OPD – from the workers' perspective.
  2. MDU workers testified forcefully about our agency's urgent budgetary needs. By contrast, when OPD management testified at the same hearing, they didn't seek higher salaries for underpaid core staff or more resources for attorneys and social workers; instead, they looked out for the private Bar and asked for more money for panel attorneys. It was only because of MDU's advocacy that the Legislature committed to conducting a compensation study, comparing salaries of OPD workers with comparable public defense employees in DC, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. We eagerly await the results and are excited to keep advocating for the material benefit of OPD workers.
  3. MDU mobilized allies and community members who recognize the value of our work. Hundreds of people made calls, sent emails, and signed petitions on our behalf. We will keep working to broaden and deepen our community ties in advance of next session.
  4. But these connections go both ways! MDU worked with other groups across the state to advance agendas that help us and our clients. In solidarity with our sibling locals inside AFSCME Council 3, we helped pass HB73, a bill that will make telework available more equitably across state workplaces, allowing more employees to take advantage of the safety and flexibility of telework. And MDU joined the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability in the fight for police reform. Because of the hard work of the Coalition and other groups, the Legislature repealed the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, which gave police officers special protections to avoid accountability for misconduct, and codified limits on police use of force and no-knock warrants.

The upshot is this: while the Maryland legislature is only in session for 90 days, MDU's legislative work lasts all year. If you have any interest in getting involved in that work, email Isabel Lipman at [email protected]. Please join us as we strategize this summer, advocate on budget issues this fall, and prepare to fight again next spring – for us and our clients – in the 2022 Legislative Session.

* * *


Many OPD workers observe religious holidays that fall onto standard workdays. When those workers have asked about taking time off for such observances in the past, they've received confusing and contradictory answers with one basic theme: they must use their own annual leave or personal leave for religious holidays.

But thanks to the persistence of a union member, MDU can confirm that is not the case. Instead, OPD workers can earn comp time in advance of a religious holiday by working additional hours on top of their regular schedule, then using those hours rather than working on the day of the holiday. Given the lack of clear communication on this topic in the past, we thought it best to spread this information as widely as possible. Let your coworkers know, and keep saving that annual and personal leave!

* * *


Are YOU a core staffer or social worker who loves MDU and wants to help keep it growing, advocating for our clients, and fighting for ourselves? Or do you know someone who is? Then let us know! The MDU Executive Board currently has a vacant seat for a non-attorney member, and we're looking for volunteers to fill it! If you're interested or want more information, email us at [email protected].

* * *


Two incredible attorneys and MDU members recently left OPD. Since starting with the agency in 2005 (originally as a law clerk, then as an attorney a year later), Baltimore City attorney CC Christiani has been an incredible advocate for her clients and a fantastic coworker and peer. And while Prince George's County attorney Claire Glenn has not been at the agency as long, her impact has been no less profound, with her dedication to our clients and to the cause of indigent defense on constant display. They were each instrumental in getting the MDU off the ground, and we wish them both the best!