Monroe County Public Defender’s Office
Years in current role: 13
What do you enjoy most about your role?
In the past several years, there has been a significant infusion of state resources into the Public Defender’s Office. I have enjoyed the challenge of determining how to employ those resources to maximize the enhancement of the quality of services we provide to our clients. This has led to a significant increase in our staffing (a 40% increase in the last two years), and working with my senior management team to find highly qualified, diverse persons who wish to work in our office has been very rewarding. I have incredible, dedicated staff and they are wonderful to work with every day.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve dealt with over the past year?
Due to the COVID pandemic, we were faced with the problem of continuing to provide high-quality representation to our clients while transitioning to virtual court proceedings. With little notice, our office needed to implement new procedures and obtain new technology to allow our staff to continue their responsibilities in a virtual world. This required us to rethink how we could provide excellent representation to our clients, all of whom are poor, in a virtual setting. I am very proud of our staff who, despite these challenges, continued to zealously advocate for our clients — virtually — throughout the pandemic.
What are you most looking forward to doing as COVID restrictions ease?
Returning to personal interaction with our clients, judges, prosecutors and other “players” in the court system. The most significant downside of virtual proceedings is the tendency to dehumanize people on our computer screens. Our system of justice works best when all those involved are able to interact in person during a court proceeding, and not as disembodied heads on a computer screen. Virtual proceedings may have their place in a post-pandemic legal system, but we should never lose sight of the negative impact they have on clients who are seeking their “day in court.”