Representatives from the State Attorney’s office for the 20th Judicial Circuit – Lee – Hendry – Glades – Charlotte and Collier Counties – have made the trek to Tallahassee to ask Legislators for more funding. So have representatives from the Public Defender’s office. Two new county judgeships and two new circuit judgeships have been created - now prosecutors and defenders are scrambling to find lawyers to fill their courtrooms. Debbie Stranbro is Assistant Executive Director for the State Attorney’s Office.
“Years when the 20th circuit could have gotten more money because of large growth there were actually budget cuts and I think the public defender lost out and so did we – in years we could have gotten additional funding just because of 911 – and other things that happened – it was how the growth and the budget cuts went – and so I think the 20th circuit – and then you look at our tremendous growth – I think both agencies are way behind the curve – without a doubt”
Stranbro also says the office is looking for money to increase the pay for prosecutors – to help retain qualified staff. The turnover rate at both the State Attorney’s and the Public Defender’s offices is significant. Recent law school graduates often fill those positions moving into the more lucrative private sector once they’ve gotten some experience.
But not everyone. Take for example Robert R. Jacobs II. The Public Defender for the 20th Judicial Circuit. He joined the office in 1973 – when there were only 7 full time attorney’s. Now there are more than sixty. Jacobs, along with two other attorneys in the office, handles all the “Capitol Murder Cases” that is, those that could result in the death penalty. He spoke to WGCU’s Valerie Alker about the challenges of defending clients charged with such heinous crimes.
Friday, 17 March 2006 00:00
Public DefenderWritten by Valerie Alker