Source:  Baltimore Sun Sunspot

                   O'Malley makes plan for court reform
                    Stick figures part of explanation sent to state's top judge; `Looking for

                    By Caitlin Francke
                           Sun Staff

                    Answering state judges'
                    demands that he present
                    them with his plan for
                    reforming Baltimore's
                    courts, Mayor Martin
                    O'Malley yesterday
                    sketched out his proposal to
                    save the city justice system.


                    His 10-page plan, sent to
                    Maryland's Chief Judge of
                    the Court of Appeals
                    Robert M. Bell, comes
                    complete with stick figures
                    used to illustrate the new
                    process O'Malley hopes will
                    turn around the beleaguered
                    court system, which has
                    been under siege for the
                    past year.

                    The plan was accompanied
                    by a letter listing seven top
                    officials -- including Gov.
                    Parris N. Glendening --
                    who were said to support it.
                    But a Glendening aide and two others contacted yesterday said they
                    had not seen it before it was sent.

                    The first four pages are drawings of the steps O'Malley believes
                    criminals should go through when they enter the justice system. He
                    wants half of all cases disposed of within 24 hours of arrest at the city
                    jail so that prosecutors, swamped with minor cases, have more time to
                    focus on violent, repeat offenders.

                    In an interview, O'Malley said he was not trying to be "cute" by
                    presenting what appeared to be mocking drawings to the state's top

                    "I was not looking for humor, I was looking for clarity," O'Malley said
                    yesterday. "The last plan they [the judges] said wasn't clear enough, so
                    we are just trying to be as clear as we possibly can be."

                    The first picture depicts an arrest. (The policeman is identified by a
                    shield penciled into his otherwise blank triangular torso). Then a
                    prosecutor is shown reviewing the charges lodged by police to see if
                    they will stand up in court. (The criminal figure has prison stripes
                    drawn across his chest).

                    The last picture is a courtroom scene in the city jail where the suspect
                    either pleads guilty after the case is discussed with the prosecutor and
                    the suspect's lawyer, has a bail set or is sent to jail to await a trial.
                    (One door pictured leads to jail; the other displays an exit sign).

                    But if the stick figures were meant for clarity, the letter that
                    accompanies them can only be seen as another shot fired in the
                    continuing battle between O'Malley and state judges. O'Malley has
                    labeled the judges, in particular Chief Judge of the District Court
                    Martha F. Rasin, as "obstructionist" and the only real impediment to
                    putting his proposal in place.

                    The letter suggests that Rasin, who called O'Malley's recent testimony
                    in Annapolis about the court system a "tantrum," contact her top clerk
                    in Baltimore if she has questions. O'Malley provides the phone

                    "If Judge Rasin finds this simple version of a three-year-old proposal
                    lacking in sufficient operational details, I would encourage her to
                    consult with Mr. Lonnie Ferguson, [Administrative] Clerk of the
                    District Court of Maryland for Baltimore City," the letter states.

                    Rasin, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.

                    Ferguson, contacted yesterday, said he knew nothing about the letter.
                    Told of its contents, he responded: "Judge Rasin is my boss. I don't
                    think she needs any expertise from me."

                    O'Malley said Ferguson's boss should consult with him. "He's a smart

                    O'Malley uses the stick figures as the introduction to his plan, which he
                    says will save millions of dollars and lead to more effective

                    He said the plan will be disseminated to people who don't understand
                    the ins-and-outs of the justice system and the figures will help them
                    grasp it.

                    "It needs to be broken down and demystified," O'Malley said.

                    But the fact that he chose to send such pictures to the top judge
                    shocked government officials yesterday.

                    "I don't believe this," said Raquel M. Guillory, spokesman for
                    Glendening. "Nothing surprises us anymore from that area. He's just a

                    Guillory said Glendening had not seen the letter or the plan.

                    "We have not had a copy sent over to our office to review it before he
                    put our name on it," Guillory said. "Until the governor is able to see it
                    and see what he is proposing to [Judge] Bell, I can't say that he is in
                    100 percent agreement."

                    LaMont Flanagan, the commissioner of pretrial detention and services
                    who oversees the city jail, said he had not seen the plan, which lists
                    him as a supporter, until yesterday.

                    He said he likes O'Malley's idea of disposing of cases quickly to keep
                    the inmate population down, but he was not sure of the specifics of
                    O'Malley's plan.

                    "There are many aspects of the plan that are meritorious but require
                    extensive discussion and review for their workability and feasibility,"
                    Flanagan said.

                    The plan states that O'Malley has funded prosecutors to staff the
                    courtroom. It also asks the state to provide money to the public
                    defender's office, which represents the majority of defendants in
                    Baltimore, for 18 more lawyers and 43 more support staff members.
                    In addition, it seeks $650,000 to revamp the courtroom.

                    And the pictures?

                    "The illustrations in this show that it is not nearly as complicated as
                    some may believe it is," O'Malley said.

                    "The important thing is that we move forward."

                    Originally published on Feb 29 2000