The Washington Post says the firing last week of Maryland’s chief public defender stemmed in large part from philosophical differences over how to represent the state’s poorest criminal suspects. The head of the board that oversees the agency said that in lean times, public defenders must scale back efforts outside the courtroom, such as employing social workers or helping clients find proper housing. “The tighter the budget, the closer you must get to your core mission: having prepared attorneys in the courtroom,” said T. Wray McCurdy, who led the effort to sack Public Defender Nancy Forster.
The board voted 2 to 1 last Thursday for the firing. Forster, 51, is among those who say the efforts of social workers — to get certain clients into drug or mental health treatment, for example — free lawyers to do courtroom work and keep clients from committing more crimes, saving money in the long run. “He is so shortsighted and penny-wise and pound-foolish,” Forster said of McCurdy, “that he will never see the big picture.” Forster said she might sue over the firing, and she has hired two well-known lawyers to represent her. “I want my job back,” she said in an interview.