In this exciting edition of the Maryland Defenders Union newsletter:

  • Some history on the selection process of the head Public Defender and why it's so important that frontline workers have a voice in that process!
  •  call to action on the MDU's workload/caseload survey!
  • The relaunch of the Organizing Committee for our collective bargaining push!
  • A training date for MDU's Legislative Lobby Nights!
  • And a 5K race/jog/walk for an ultra-deserving organization!

* * *


On Thursday, September 2, Paul DeWolfe announced that he would not be seeking a third term as Public Defender after his current term expires on June 30, 2022. The Maryland Defenders Union would like to thank Mr. DeWolfe for his three decades of service to the Office of the Public Defender. The selection of the next Public Defender presents an opportunity for OPD to elevate the quality of representation that we provide to our clients. MDU intends to be heard throughout this process to ensure that this opportunity is not wasted.

A new Public Defender hasn’t been appointed since 2009, after the OPD Board of Trustees fired Nancy Forster due to “dissatisfaction with the rate of growth in the office and its focus on assisting clients beyond their immediate legal needs.” The OPD Board of Trustees is a group, appointed by the Governor and Legislature, whose main duty is the appointment of the Public Defender. At that time, the Board of Trustees was composed of just three members, including the chair, T. Wray McCurdy. Mr. McCurdy is a former prosecutor whose website proudly notes that he is “one of the lawyers the Fraternal Order of Police names if they are asked for a Baltimore County criminal defense lawyer recommendation.” He is still the chair of the Board of Trustees.

Today, the Board is made up of thirteen Trustees. Twelve of the thirteen are attorneys in private practice, and more of them are former prosecutors (four) than are former public defenders (three). Despite their role in the agency’s future, many of them seem uninformed about the nature of OPD’s work. When MDU met with the Board of Trustees this spring, many Trustees were shocked to hear about the staffing shortages, unmanageable workloads, and high employee turnover that we face across the agency.

The Schaefer Building in Baltimore, where OPD management is headquartered.

The Office of the Public Defender has a critical duty: to fight for people in need. But upper management has not always enhanced our ability to perform that duty. Just this spring, Mr. DeWolfe testified to legislators at the OPD budget hearing. He didn’t ask for more resources for core staffers, social workers, or line attorneys – instead, he asked for more money for panel attorneys. If we want management that will always fight for our agency and our clients, we must play a role in this selection process. It is too important to be left to the thirteen Trustees alone.

MDU will work in coordination with our allies in the Legislature and continue our dialogue with the Board of Trustees to ensure that the next Public Defender will build a strong agency that has the resources and staffing to fight for our clients inside the courtroom and out. But our input is limited by our size. If you have not yet joined the MDU, you are ceding the responsibility for our future to people who will never understand the challenges OPD faces like we do.

A stronger union means better working conditions for us, better representation for our clients, and management that truly values our mission. The time to act is now: join the MDU today.

* * *


Thanks to budget cuts, frequent turnover, and ever-expanding responsibilities, OPD workers are overwhelmed and the representation we provide our clients is suffering as a result. To that end, MDU recently launched a survey designed to evaluate the caseloads and workloads of OPD employees across the agency. This survey will help us understand the extent of OPD’s workload crisis and advocate for changes in the Legislature and beyond. No individualized or identifiable information will ever be shared with management or anyone else outside the union.

Please complete the survey today! And once you do, send the link (bit.ly/MDUWorkload) to your coworkers and office mates and encourage them to complete it as well!

* * *


If we want to make lasting change for ourselves and our clients, we need collective bargaining. Collective bargaining is what allows us to get binding commitments from the state and OPD management about things like caseloads and workloads, salary increases, and office health and safety. It's going to require a major push in the legislature and inside OPD over the next several months, and that's where you come in!

Flo, lifetime member of the MDU Organizing Committee.

The MDU Organizing Committee is a group of people who are working together to build this union and accomplish our goals. There's no set commitment – whether you have a little capacity or a lot, there's a place for you on the OC. Maybe you were previously very involved in the MDU; maybe you've never even heard about the union until this email. Either way, we want you on the OC! Email MDU President Marci Johnson or [email protected] to learn more.

* * *


We’re already getting ready to fight for change in the 2022 legislative session, and we need your help! On September 29 from 6pm to 7pm, MDU is having a Lobby Night training and we’d love to see you there! Lobby Nights are quick meetings where legislators hear from union members about our priorities in the legislature, and they’re a great way to accomplish our goals. If you’d like to get involved, sign up for the training here or send an email to [email protected]!

* * *


Marian House is a supportive housing program for women that serves many of our clients and the broader community by reducing incarceration and addressing complex social issues with housing and support. They host an annual "Race to Embrace Independence 5K" to raise funds for that important work, and MDU is pitching in! We’re just $59 short of our $500 goal – join our team and complete your five kilometers between the 18th and the 25th, or just donate what you can, and thanks!