Public Defender clothing drive
Contributed By: David Porter
More than 10,000 garments were donated by the community to a recent clothing drive conducted by Robert Wesley, Public Defender for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit.
Mr. Wesley’s office represents needy people in Orange and Osceola counties who have been accused of crimes; children in delinquency cases, and people who are facing involuntary commitment for mental health problems and addictions.
“Many of our clients often don’t have anything better than jeans and T-shirts…and that’s not acceptable dress for the courtroom,” Mr. Wesley said. “We want to be sure our clients’ cases aren’t adversely affected by what they’re wearing. It’s also important to show the court respect.”
During the drive held Dec. 6th in front of the Orange County Court House dozens of people – many of them lawyers in private practice – brought carloads of gently worn court- appropriate clothing for men, women and children.
“I am absolutely delighted with the response to our appeal for clothing,” Mr. Wesley said, “We so grateful for the generosity of so many people in our community.”
Four Public Defender’s Office lawyers earn board certification
Contributed By: David Porter
Four lawyers on the staff of Ninth Judicial Circuit Public Defender Robert Wesley recently earned Florida Bar Board Certification in criminal trial law.
They are: Robert Belle, Barrie Click, Christina Shephard and Chelsea Simmons.
Only four other lawyers elsewhere in Florida state earned criminal trial law certification this year.
The certification recognizes these lawyers as experts in their field. Board certification is granted in 24 specialty areas by the Florida Bar. Fewer than 5 percent of Florida’s 99,000 lawyers earn board certification.
To earn certification, lawyers face rigorous testing, peer review and background checks to evaluate their knowledge, skill, efficiency and ethics.
“In our Public Defender’s Office we focus on providing excellent legal representation for our clients,” Mr. Wesley said. “I continually reinforce that standard of excellence by setting board certification as the goal for each lawyer on the day I hire them.”
Photo caption: From the left, with Mr. Wesley are Chelsea Simmons, Barrie Click, Christina Shephard and Robert Belle.
Public Defender’s Summer Camp
By Rosalyn Gist Porter
When one of Lee Marie Collet’s classmates asked what she did for her summer vacation the 15-year-old Orange County girl can respond without hesitation that she “went to court.”
And Lee Marie has reason to give that answer with pride because she was one nearly 100 middle and high school children who participated in the Law Camp conducted by the office of the Public Defender f or the Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit.
The Law Camp was no “Scared Straight” program for troubled teens. The enthusiastic youths who participated in the Law Camp are members of Boys & Girls Club branches in Orange and Osceola counties.
“The people who work in my office really like kids and talking to middle school and high school students was our way of giving back to our community,” said Public Defender Robert Wesley.
“Putting on a law summer camp was an excellent way to educate youth about the criminal justice system,” Wesley continued. “We want to make sure none of these kids become clients of ours, so we taught them life skills, legal lessons and inspired them to continue their education. We want to inspire a new generation of public defenders.”
The Law Summer Camp has been offered for several years, but this summer was the first time it was facilitated by social workers to put strong on self-esteem; dealing with anger, and mental health – issues that can contribute to violence and crime.
Public Defender’s office staff and interns who work with the teens and collaborated with the curriculum development included Catherine Conlon, Faith Sills, Sean Landers, Ana Taitt, Mike Rodriguez, Lauren Simmons, Yesenia Pecina, Claudia Diaz, Kayla Luu and Amy Tam.
“We structured our summer law camp curriculum so that the youth involved could personalize the content discussed with their own lives,” said Tam, the case worker who served as the point person for the project.
“Some of these activities included the balloon activity (therapeutic technique for anger management), pop culture activity (celebrity case studies), and the personality test activity where kids learned about their individualized learning style,” Tam said.
The youth applied the legal lessons on the last day of the camp when they visited the Orange County courthouse in downtown Orlando and participated in the mock trial of mega star Kanye “East,” who was charged with assaulting a paparazzi who got too close to his wife Kim “Kash.”
Coached by members of the Public Defender’s staff, the youth played almost every courtroom role, including prosecutor, defense attorney, paralegals, witnesses and the jury. After a spirited testimony and cross-examination, the jury adjourned for deliberations.
The jury took only 15 minutes to return with a “not guilty” verdict.
Clearly, these youngsters have the stuff to become the next generation of public defenders.