Tag Archives: Brian Frosh

Don’t suspend drivers’ licenses over fines/fees unrelated to road safety

Sometimes the attorney general of this state takes positions I agree with. WTOP:

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh joined state lawmakers in Annapolis to call for an end to the practice of suspending people’s driver’s licenses because they failed to pay a court fee or fine.

Using drivers’ licenses as leverage to collect other moneys owed can be self-defeating as well as harsh, since it will often cut off debtors from holding the jobs by which they could secure the means of repayment. Glad to see Sen. Chris West (R-Baltimore County), as well as several leading Democrats, co-sponsoring this important bill:

Republican Sen. Chris West said drivers who do commit traffic infractions and can’t pay “would not get off scot-free” under the legislation. West said the state could recover the fees with civil action.

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In miniature, November 17

  • State of Maryland is appealing, to Fourth Circuit, federal judge’s ruling that its law regulating political advertising on social media is unconstitutionally broad [Denise Lavoie, AP/WHSV] As I wrote at the time, “Social media trickery is bad. Chipping away at First Amendment liberties to stop it is worse.”
  • Some overdue national attention for the role of Maryland’s “red flag” gun law in the shooting death of Gary Willis at the hands of Anne Arundel police [Jacob Sullum, earlier]
  • This, from Baltimore musician Jonathan Jensen, had me laughing [Classic FM]
  • Maryland’s Brian Frosh was a key player in national campaign to embed privately paid environmentalist lawyers in state AG offices [Todd Shepherd, Free Beacon; Chris Horner (“Turns out Maryland actually has *two* Bloomberg-funded ‘Special Assistant Attorneys General’ to pursue Bloomberg priorities”); earlier and more here, here, here, and here]
  • “Coincidentally or not, current and former members of the Baltimore Orioles, which the Angelos family owns, were dispatched to the State House for a good will visit while the [Angelos asbestos] bill was under consideration.” [Josh Kurtz, Maryland Matters]
  • Hospital price regulation in Maryland is often depicted as an unqualified policy success. Is it? [Chris Pope, The Hill]

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In miniature, October 19

  • Federal judge rejects four states’ suit challenging Congress’s changes to the SALT (state and local tax) exemption. Maryland AG Brian Frosh wasted the state’s resources and credibility on a suit that should never have been filed [Ilya Somin]
  • While on the subject, it’s worth noting how the state’s drug pricing law went down in flames, although the blame for its indefensibility would in this case be the legislature’s [Josh Kurtz, Maryland Matters]
  • Campaign to raise legal age of marriage to as high as 18 belatedly runs into some serious opposition as ACLU, other liberal groups concerned with youth rights and autonomy join conservatives skeptical of forcing out-of-wedlock births and libertarians who support, well, liberty [Dartunorro Clark, MSNBC] Due credit to the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, which helped block a bad bill of this sort in the 2018 Assembly, pointing out that there are other ways to detect and intervene against involuntary marriages [Scott Dance, Baltimore Sun; an opposing view (i.e., favoring ban) from UMD sociologist Philip Cohen]
  • Yuripzy Morgan took time on her WBAL radio show to discuss my article on the Supreme Court’s consideration of job bias law and you can listen here;
  • Stephen J.K. Walters makes a case for aerial surveillance as a Baltimore policing tool [Law and Liberty] In 2016 my colleague Matthew Feeney expressed libertarian misgivings about the “secret and indiscriminate surveillance” such systems enable;
  • “Maryland’s State Pension May Be Only 35 Percent Funded” [Carol Park, Maryland Public Policy Institute]

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Did Maryland’s lawyer mislead the high court in the gerrymander case?

Prof. Michael McDonald says that’s what happened at oral argument when the state’s lawyer characterized McDonald, an expert for the Republican plaintiffs, as having found the Sixth District “competitive.” [Medium, McDonald on Twitter]

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“Bail reform falling short of goals”

A Capital News Service series published at Maryland Matters confirms that in Maryland, at least, bail reform has had trouble meeting its intended goals. In particular, while the number held for inability to meet bail has dropped sharply since the adoption of reforms in February 2017, Baltimore in particular has seen an offsetting jump in the rate at which judges hold defendants without making bail available. Statewide, “the number of people held with bail decreased from 29.8 percent to 18.4 percent over the past 18 months, while the number of people held without bail has increased from 13.6 percent to 22.6 percent.” [Alicia Cherem and Carly Taylor with sidebar by Kaitlyn Hopkins and James Crabtree-Hannigan] I reported on the same trend in 2017 and again last year.

A second entry in the series examines the adoption of pretrial risk assessment algorithms which can make up for some of the lost functions of cash bail, a county-by-county process still under way across the state [Angela Roberts and Nora Eckert] A third looks at the “trial penalty”: numbers show that “defendants who reject plea bargains and are convicted when they choose to go to trial for many types of crimes face longer sentences – sometimes substantially longer – than defendants who make a deal.” [Shruti Bhatt, Angela Roberts and Nora Eckert]

It’s worth remembering that state ventures in bail reform can lead to quite different outcomes depending on the strategy tried. New Jersey, which has won praise for its careful development of pretrial services, “is approaching two years operating a bail system where people don’t have to pay money to be free from jail. The crime wave some warned about hasn’t happened.” [Scott Shackford, ReasonMarc Levin, Real Clear Policy] [cross-posted from Overlawyered]

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Brian Frosh, Title IX, and the presumption of innocence

Attorneys general from 18 states, including Maryland’s Brian Frosh, have signed a letter arguing against a presumption of innocence for students accused under Title IX, saying it “improperly tilts the process” in favor of the accused. There’s a good argument that the feds should not be dictating colleges’ disciplinary standards at all, but that’s not what’s at issue here; the signers favor strong federal intervention, but on behalf of standards more favorable to accusers.

Conor Friedersdorf has more at The Atlantic.

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In miniature, November 10

Midterm campaign edition:

  • An issue in some races: “Critique of Maryland Congestion-Relief Plan Rests on Very Bad Logic [Austill Stuart] So much for the “Lexus Lanes” epithet: “Congestion pricing is not just slanted toward the elite” [Tyler Cowen]
  • Brian Frosh is part of a state-AG task force that subpoenas and investigates private groups and individuals for having promoted erroneous opinions on environmental questions. Which should have been more controversial during the campaign [Mark Uncapher]
  • Republican mailers assailed Dems on this issue, yet “supervised injection facilities save lives” [Jacob Sullum, Reason]
  • Sen. Ron Young (D-Frederick), at 12:55: stop saying we raised taxes 46 times, I counted and we only raised them 15 times [FNP podcast debate with Craig Giangrande]
  • In Maryland as elsewhere, “single payer in one state” is more of a political stunt than a practical program [Todd Eberly]
  • Poor showings at Tuesday’s polls for many lawmakers rated highly by Maryland Business for Responsive Government could spell trouble ahead on business issues [MBRG]

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In miniature, August 24

  • So embarrassing for Maryland that Attorney General Brian Frosh signed onto this turkey of a lawsuit challenging Congress’s curtailment of the SALT deduction [Howard Gleckman]
  • I was a guest of Jerry Rogers on WBAL to talk about the showdown between conservative religious adoption agencies and LGBT rights groups and you can listen here (background);
  • Baltimore politicos move to save city from non-threat / non-horror of private water supply [Joe Setyon, Reason]
  • Sen. Ben Cardin, sometimes painted as cautious or even moderate, throws red meat to Left on Brett Kavanaugh nomination [Bruce DePuyt, Maryland Matters]
  • “Among the questions about Mr. Elrich is one he raised himself by pledging to invite the president of the largest county employees union into interview and hiring deliberations ‘for any and all department heads’ in the county. That is an extraordinary promise…also unwise.” [Washington Post editorial]
  • How a machine based on the schools lobby ran politics for years in Montgomery County [Adam Pagnucco, The Seventh State]

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What if bail reform leads to higher incarceration?

A campaign to get rid of the bail bond industry is currently in full swing across the country, with support from many liberals and libertarians. I’ve got an op-ed in the weekend Wall Street Journal’s “Cross Country” feature warning that Maryland’s experience over the past year should be a cautionary lesson:

Last fall the state’s attorney general, Brian Frosh, issued guidance that suddenly declared past bail methods unlawful, prodding the court system into an unplanned experiment. Judges may not set financial requirements if there is a reason to believe the defendant cannot pay, and unless they hold a suspect without bail, they must impose the “least onerous” conditions.

Now the results are coming in, and they can’t be what Mr. Frosh had in mind. An early report in March by Kelsi Loos in the Frederick News-Post found that since October the share of Maryland defendants held without bail had increased from 10% to 14%. The Washington Post later reported that from September 2016 to May the figure had jumped from 7% to 15%.

Meanwhile, fewer released defendants are showing up for trial. The Post, confirming anecdotal reports, writes that the “failure to appear” rate in January was 14.5%, up five points from October. Failing to show up for court sets up a defendant for more-severe consequences down the road, which can include being held without bail.

While bail reform is supposed to reduce the number of inmates held in jail, the number has instead increased in some places, though the results appear inconsistent.

If bail is taken away, judges need other tools to do the same job. Decades ago, when Congress steered the federal criminal-justice system away from bail bonds, lawmakers provided practical replacements, including systematic help in assessing a defendant’s risk of flight or re-offense, options for pretrial supervision, and methods of home and electronic detention. Several states have done the same. New Jersey now uses a mathematical algorithm to assess a person’s risk of fleeing or committing another crime. But the Maryland legislature, deeply split over Mr. Frosh’s destabilizing changes, has failed to set up such alternatives.

Maryland’s example doesn’t refute the idea of bail reform. But it does suggest state leaders should work to build consensus for comprehensive changes, instead of charging ahead with moralizing experiments.

On the current campaign to end bail bonds, see American Bar AssociationSens. Kamala Harris and Rand Paul and newspaperspraisingMarc Levin (conservative), ACLU (villainizing insurers), Gary Raney.

Other perspectives: Scott Greenfield (“pre-trial incarceration was a huge factor in obtaining guilty pleas from innocent defendants,” but algorithms, used as replacement in places like New Jersey, have problems too), Joshua Page (some families value bond company’s service), Dan Mitchell. On the uncertain stance of constitutional law, see Pugh v. Rainwater (Fifth Circuit 1977) and more (LaFave et al.), Walker v. City of Calhoun, 2016 (Cato amicus: bail must be individualized) and more (James McGehee).

[cross-posted from Overlawyered]

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In miniature, June 12

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