MD. Bills Would Eliminate Burdensome Juvenile Justice Fines and Fees

Jessica Feierman, Nadia Mozaffar, The Baltimore Sun •

Maryland is poised to play a critical leadership role in the fight for smart and fair youth justice by considering House Bill 694 and Senate Bill 823 to eliminate juvenile justice system fines and fees.

A key provision of the legislation, which will have hearings tomorrow in the Maryland House of Delegates and next month in the Maryland Senate, would end the practice of charging indigent youth and families for the cost of public defenders or court-appointed attorneys. This should be a no-brainer. In the landmark 1963 decision “Gideon v. Wainwright,” the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that courts must appoint lawyers free of charge for individuals facing criminal charges who could not afford them. Just four years later, in “In re Gault,” the court extended this right to children, emphasizing that it was particularly important for youth, who need the “guiding hand of counsel” to navigate the complexities of the juvenile justice system.

About the Expert

Jessica Feierman oversees Juvenile Law Center’s projects and programs. Feierman currently leads a national effort to end fines and fees in the juvenile justice system and is engaged in litigation aimed at eliminating solitary confinement and other abusive practices in juvenile facilities.

Nadia Mozaffar is a staff attorney at Juvenile Law Center. Her work focuses on advancing educational rights and opportunities for children in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, economic justice issues, and protecting the rights of young people in the adult justice system.