Reform for an office in need.

Brevard County Public Defender Candidate.   Seminole County Public Defender Canidate.
Reform is Needed

SAVING TAXPAYERS $15,000,000.   Read more.

The reforms I want to implement are substantial however they will be put in place in a gradual, considered way.
I will consult with the existing attorneys and staff, the Judges, the Clerk of Court, law enforcement, and the
State Attorney’s office. The reforms will benefit not just the Public Defender’s Office but the legal system as a

Less than one percent of Public Defender cases go to jury trial. We do not have a jury trial system but rather
a plea bargain system. The Public Defender’s office should be reorganized to reflect this reality. It is a basic
management concept to handle a piece of paper once, make your best decision, and then move on. I will apply
this concept to the Public Defender’s Office. More resources should be put into cases up front to resolve them
quickly. These early resolution programs have had great success for criminal cases in other places. Because
Public Defenders, State Attorneys, and Judges only handle a case once, costs plummet. Jail costs drop as
inmates are released or sent to prison where they become a state expense not a local one.

The Public Defender’s Office directly competes with private attorneys for clients. More should be done
to encourage defendants to hire private counsel instead of using the Public Defender. I often speak with
defendants who could, especially with the help of family or friends, afford private counsel. But they make
the decision to use the Public Defender, as it is more convenient and practically free.

Currently the Public Defender charges clients the lowest amount allowed by law, $50 for a misdemeanor and only $100 for a felony.  If elected, I will charge the highest fee allowed by law, which is the actual cost of services, up to a cap of $3,500.   this will encourage defendants to make every effort to hire a private attorney and drive down the total number of Public Defender clients.

If elected Public Defender, I will be more aggressive in making sure clients qualify for Public Defender services and that
they really have no ability to hire private counsel.

Many Public Defender clients are court ordered to pay thousands of dollars in court costs, fees, and restitution. So there is no reason they cannot contribute to their defense costs as well.  I will push the limits of what the law allows to cut costs to taxpayers. Creative thinking could move many defendants off the public dole and into the private sector. Without a free attorney so readily available the crime rate may even drop.

Additionally, reducing the number of highly paid administrators can create substantial savings. The current Public Defender
has been in office since 1980. Two top administrators would want to move on when there is a new Public Defender. Those positions would not be replaced and instead I would take an active role in running the office.  This will result in a yearly savings of over $200,000 in salary and benefits.

Most modern law offices use paralegals to help them compete in a tough business environment. The Public Defender’s Office currenly has 64 attorneys but only one paralegal.  Paralegals can perform many of the tasks that attorneys perform at less than half the cost. I will employ paralegals to do the legwork while the Public Defender attorneys do the legal work. Paralegals can interview clients and witnesses,do legal research, draft pleadings, and organize files. The Public Defender’s Office has a high rate of employee turnover
and as attorneys leave some would be replaced with paralegals. A slow but steady transition will save money and free up attorneys to be in the courtroom disposing of cases.

High rates of employee turnover is a persistent problem for the Public Defender’s Office. Many attorneys come to the Public
Defender’s Office to gain a few years of training and experience. They then move into private practice. As with any organization, losing a high percentage of the workforce is expensive for the Public Defender’s office. Current turnover rates are around 30% per year.  New hires have to be trained and supervised. New attorneys cannot handle cases with the same speed and efficiency as experienced attorneys.

I would reduce turnover by treating the attorneys like the professionals they are and demand clients be
respectful toward the attorneys. My job will be to run the office and the attorneys will have responsibility over
their cases. Top down directives to file demands for speedy trials or to try a certain number of cases would end.

Many petty rules will be eliminated. I want the attorneys working under me in the Public Defender’s Office to
be ethical, prepared, and to get the job done as they decide is best. Public Defender attorneys are some of the
best attorneys working. Every effort should be made to retain these dedicated public servants.
These are large changes but many small changes can add up to save money also. An automated phone
answering system would save a few thousand dollars a year. I will pay a bonus to employees whose ideas save
money. I will meet regularly with the heads of other government agencies, the State Attorney, Clerk of Courts,
and law enforcement to make sure cooperation is smooth and efficient. The government is not known for
being frugal with the taxpayers’ dollars. Under my leadership clients will get a good defense and taxpayers will
get a good deal.

The Public Defender should be a community leader and not just an agency head. The office is a powerful platform that should be used to talk to school children, civic groups, and churches. Prevention is key and the Public Defender is ideally positioned to help attack the terrible trinity of drugs, violence, and crime. With my up-bringing in difficult circumstances,  I am ideally equipped to speak to children and young adults and help them learn to make good decisions.  I will serve the public and be an active, energetic Public Defender.

SAVING TAXPAYERS $15,000,000.   Read more.