The Office of Public Defender was created in 1971 (Chapter 209, Acts of 1971). Through twelve district offices, the Office provides legal representation to defendants who cannot afford to hire a private attorney without incurring undue financial hardship. Assistance of counsel is extended to qualified indigent adults (who may be incarcerated or not) and juveniles in proceedings before Maryland District and Circuit Courts, and during juvenile hearings, while in police custody, and at related collateral hearings.

The Public Defender represents defendants throughout the legal process: while in custody, during interrogation, and at the preliminary hearing, arraignment, trial, and appeal. The Office also provides counsel to parents in Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) proceedings and civil contempt proceedings for nonsupport before a judge where there is the possibility of incarceration. For indigent persons facing civil commitment to Maryland psychiatric hospitals, the Office provides representation as well.

Appointed by the Board of Trustees, the Public Defender must be an attorney-at-law who has been admitted to practice in Maryland by the Court of Appeals and engaged in the practice of law for a period of five years prior to appointment. The Public Defender, with the approval of the Board of Trustees, appoints the Deputy Public Defender and, for each district of the District Court, appoints one District Public Defender who must possess the same qualifications as the Public Defender. With the advice of the District Public Defender, Assistant Public Defenders may be appointed by the Public Defender (Code 1957, Art. 27A, secs. 1-14).

Appointed by the Governor, the Board of Trustees of the Public Defender system consists of three members who serve three-year terms. Two members must be practicing attorneys-at-law.

Within the Office of Public Defender are five divisions: Appellate; Capital Defense; Children in Need of Assistance; Collateral Review; and Mental Health.


William Donald Schaefer Tower
6 St. Paul St., Suite 1302
Baltimore, MD 21202

In 1975, the Appellate Division was created. The Division has statewide responsibility for all appellate litigation involving Public Defender clients in the Court of Special Appeals, the Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. It provides research and consultation on legal issues for staff and panel attorneys throughout the twelve Public Defender Districts. The Division also publishes a monthly Digest with summaries of all reported Maryland appellate court and U.S. Supreme Court opinions relating to criminal law, as well as articles on procedure, trial tactics, and changes in rules of procedure and criminal statutes.


Maryland Bar Center
520 West Fayette St.
Baltimore, MD 21201

The Capital Defense Division began as the Death Penalty Defense Unit in 1988, and adopted its present name in 1989. The Division provides legal services statewide in capital murder cases for which indigent defendants may be sentenced to death. The Division also assists public and private attorneys representing these defendants in Maryland courts. In capital cases, the Division advises on appointment of counsel, provides for investigations, and arranges for expert witnesses. It also provides data on sentencing in homicide cases, and trains staff and attorneys in capital litigation at the trial level.


110 St. Paul Place, Suite 201
Baltimore, MD 21202

Created in 1991, the Children in Need of Assistance Division provides representation for parents and legal guardians in cases where allegations of abuse and neglect have been made against them and removal of the children by the State is a possibility.

[photo, 300 West Preston St., Baltimore, Maryland]


300 West Preston St., Room 213
Baltimore, MD 21201

The Collateral Review Division, originated in 1975 as the Inmate Services Division and received its current name in 1993. The Division offers legal assistance to all indigent inmates who have legal problems concerning their incarceration. The Division provides representation in a wide range of collateral post-trial proceedings, including post-conviction applications, parole revocation, habeas corpus proceedings (including extradition), interstate and intrastate detainers, and requests for credit for time spent in prison prior to trial and sentencing.

Informally and without recourse to litigation, the Division also helps resolve inmate complaints and personal problems that arise from imprisonment. Referrals are made to the Prisoners Assistance Project, and the Inmate Grievance Office of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

300 West Preston St., Baltimore, Maryland, December 2000. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

[photo, District Court/Multi-Service Center, Ritchie Highway, Glen Burnie, Maryland]


District Court/Multi-Service Center
7500 Ritchie Highway, Suite 206
Glen Burnie, MD 21061

Since 1975, the Mental Health Division has functioned within the Office of Public Defender. At hospitals throughout the State and in related court proceedings, the Division furnishes counsel to persons involuntarily committed to Maryland psychiatric facilities. Representation is provided to indigent clients upon admission to the hospital, at their periodic reviews, and when seeking judicial release from psychiatric institutions. Criminals in cases involving mental health and similar issues also are represented by the Division. For these, Division staff assist every district and division in the Public Defender system and appear in cases from the district and juvenile courts through the circuit courts to the Court of Appeals.

District Court/Multi-Service Center, 7500 Ritchie Highway, Glen Burnie, Maryland, January 2001. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

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November 5, 2002   
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