When you get past the unfortunate picture of our colleague Mr. Denaro, who is leading the FIDA efforts detailed on the blog earlier this week, you come away with a feeling of distaste for the whole mess. This is not about Mr. George personally. But beyond the issue of the whole ROC system, people have raised questions about his qualifications to run the what is the second public defenders office in the largest and busiest circuit of the State.
From the Article:
Some critics note that Crist’s newly appointed director of the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel in Miami hasn’t worked a criminal case since he was a law student 22 years ago and has never tried a case of any kind before a jury. According to the appointment application obtained by the Daily Business Review, newly appointed director Joseph P. George Jr. wrote that none of his cases during his 13-year law career involved jury trials. George said Wednesday that he tried criminal cases as an intern clerk as part of his practice program at Samford University’s law school, and in his career has done some work involving the Baker Act — the civil state law that allows for the involuntary committal of mental patients. ...
Addressing critics who assert he lacks sufficient criminal experience for the Conflict Counsel job, George said: “I don’t think it gives an appropriate context. When people have their civil rights taken away [under the Baker Act], I think it disserves them to think that they’re a second thought.” “All I can do is the best I can do, and that’s going to be trying to hire the best people the most qualified people, and I’ve already taken steps in that direction,” he said. George conceded he initially failed the Florida Bar exam after he graduated law school in 1985. He worked as a legal investigator in the 16th Judicial Circuit in Key West until he passed the bar in 1994, after being told he needed a bar card if he wished to keep his job.
Rumpole responds: Try telling "I did my best" to the parents of an 18 year old boy who gets a life sentence because the lawyers were inexperienced. This is the real game here. The legislature is passing minimum mandatory sentences as fast as they can get out of the bar and vote, and State Attorneys Offices are enforcing the law. Is this really the appropriate place to start learning about voire dire, much less the other parts of a criminal trial? We would tell Mr. George to take his good intentions, get a job with Mr. Brummer's office, get some training under supervision of lawyers who know what they're doing, and then apply in five or ten years. Or in other words- do like the rest of us have done and get the training and experience necessary before saying you are competent to run a criminal defense office where you will be litigating against the very best prosecutors who may very well be trying to have your client executed.
In late August, Crist appointed George, who is white, director to the Conflict Counsel Office in Miami. The five Conflict Counsel Offices cover regions based on the state courts of appeal. Crist passed over Tampa attorney Belinda Noah, who holds a doctorate in law, to pick George. Noah, who is black, said she believes she is the victim of racial discrimination. “I feel it was a miscarriage of justice. It’s totally unjust what happened,” she said.
Rumpole says: We've said this before. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. We are tired of hearing about Mr. George's good intentions. In all honesty he would not hire someone like himself to represent a family member who was charged with murder or drug trafficking. Why would he seek to force his inexperience upon the poor of Dade County who don't have a choice in legal representation? The real honorable thing would be to decline the appointment and let someone who knows what they are doing run the office. That would really show his good intentions. We are left to conclude that Mr. George is merely a rank opportunist willing to balance his own personal ambitions upon the backs of clients who will suffer because of his ineptitude.
See You In Court, where the more we think about this, the angrier we get.
PS. When soemone decodes Mr. George's defense of his exprerience as reported int he DBR, please let us know. If that is the best he can do defending himself, prosecutors will be lining up to try cases against him and his office.