Our Constitutional Responsibility
Mission & Vision
Our Commitment to
Litigation and Advocacy
The Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office handles approximately 75,000 cases each
year, with approximately 10,000 cases open at any given time. It is divided into
several major divisions concerning appellate review, felony litigation, juvenile
delinquency litigation, misdemeanor and criminal traffic litigation. Office
operations are divided into an executive office, business office, office-wide
training, management information systems unit and several specialized
litigation-related units: capital litigation, early representation, domestic
representation, indefinite civil commitment, civil mental health, mitigation and
placement and investigations.
The Public Defender is an elected official who has a constitutional duty to
provide legal representation to persons in jeopardy of losing their liberty who
cannot afford to hire a private attorney. To carry out his constitutional duty,
the Public Defender is assisted by
Assistant Public Defenders
Mitigation and Placement Specialists
Secretaries, receptionists and clerks
Paralegals and interviewers
Management information systems personnel
Budget and finance personnel
Law school, college and high school interns.
All Public Defender employees serve at the discretion of the Public Defender.
The Public Defender is assisted by Executive Chief Assistant Public Defender for
Administration Richard De Maria, Executive Chief Assistant Public Defender for
Recruitment and Litigation Teresa Enriquez, General Counsel and Chief of the
Felony Division Guy D. Robinson; Chief Assistant Public Defenders Marissa Altman
Glatzer (County Court), Marie Osborne (Juvenile Court), Maria Lauredo (Appeals);
Kevin Hellmann, Director of Training and Professionalism; LaEatrice McMurray,
Director of Support Services, Diane Yanez, HR Director, and Esther Lew, Director
of Finance and Accounting. The administrative team assists in the formulation
and implementation of office policy.
Training and Professionalism
Kevin Hellmann, Director
The office enjoys a national reputation for excellence by setting the highest
professional standards for recruiting and training attorneys and support staff.
We have a nationwide recruitment program that emphasizes training and
The Training Director is responsible for recruiting volunteers and certified
legal interns and training all staff, including Assistant Public Defenders (APDs).
He also assigns and supervises certified and non-certified legal interns and
coordinates the presentation of in-house seminars and training workshops.
Our office keeps up with the latest developments in the legal and scientific
fields and shares that knowledge with staff through a law library and a formal
office-wide training program, considered one of the finest in the country. As
part of our continuing legal education, we regularly hold in-house lectures and
demonstrations and send our APDs to seminars and trial practice institutes
around the nation.
The office makes available other learning opportunities to our APDs, mitigation
and placement specialists and investigators by regularly convening lectures and
demonstrations, many featuring speakers from outside the office.
Our formal attorney training program begins with
an intensive one-week schedule of lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on and
interactive training for new lawyers and participants in our law-student intern
program. The strength of our office is, in part,
derived from the willingness of our APDs to share their knowledge and experience
with new members of the staff. Most of our more experienced APDs have been
instructors in the program.
For attorneys, the program continues with the assignment of an experienced trial
lawyer, as a Training Attorney, to provide one-on-one assistance to the new
lawyer. This supportive environment affords the new lawyer the opportunity to
gain knowledge and develop skills at an advanced rate.
Yet, despite our impressive formal training program, perhaps our most effective
training tool is the informal exchange that occurs among our attorneys, through
discussions about their cases and the law. Our APDs share a strong commitment to
providing quality representation to our clients.
The Automation Training Unit (ATU) trains employees and volunteers to use the
information system. ATU develops training and reference materials to provide the
resources necessary for optimizing efficiency. ATU has developed an extensive
forms bank, including letters, memoranda, orders, motions and affidavits.
In short, while our APDs handle their own caseloads with a good deal of
autonomy, we aim to provide the learning experiences and environment necessary
for them to do so in a highly competent and professional manner.
Maria Lauredo, Chief Assistant Public Defender
The Appellate Division handles appeals arising from felony, misdemeanor,
juvenile and mental health cases of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit and County
Court of Miami-Dade County, and the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit Court in Monroe
County. The Appellate Division also handles direct capital appeals before the
Supreme Court of Florida. In addition, the appellate attorneys file
extraordinary writs where appropriate.
The APDs assigned to the Appellate Division primarily represent clients
appealing their convictions and sentences. The appellate attorneys review the
transcripts of trial court proceedings to identify and research possible legal
errors that may have violated the client’s rights during pre-trial, trial or
sentencing proceedings. The attorneys prepare written briefs and submit them to
the state and federal appellate courts. They also present oral arguments to
Guy Robinson, Chief Assistant Public Defender
Senior Supervising Attorneys (SSAs):
Damaris Del Valle
The APDs in the Felony Division handle cases for which clients may be sentenced
to more than one year in prison if convicted. These cases include capital
offenses, such as murder, rape or robbery. For a description of the felony case
The Capital Litigation and Major Crimes attorneys handle the most serious
felonies — those punishable by life imprisonment or death. In addition to
handling individual case responsibilities, these highly-experienced trial
attorneys mentor our newer APDs.
The attorneys in our Felony Mental Health Unit represents clients found to be
incompetent to proceed due to mental illness, incompetent to proceed due to
mental retardation or not guilty by reason of insanity.
Felony Early Representation Unit
Aileen Penate-Hernandez, Senior Supervising Attorney
The Public Defender created the Early Representation Unit (ERU) to better serve
clients between arrest and arraignment, reduce costs associated with pre-trial
incarceration and begin critical case preparation.
This specialized unit intervenes early in the process by representing clients at
their first appearance. The attorneys often argue for bond reductions, releases
under the person’s own recognizance, release to Pre-trial Services (PTS), the
PTS Monitored Release (electronic bracelet) Program or to the custody of a
responsible family member.
During the course of this early representation, the APDs interview clients to
begin preliminary investigation into defenses while also advising clients about
upcoming matters. The APDs also review arrest forms, begin the case
investigation and in appropriate cases ask prosecutors to drop charges based on
testimony from witnesses, case law and other factors. This effort assists in
having cases and/or counts not filed, reduced to misdemeanors, or reduced to
lesser degree felony counts. Such early intervention also helps to identify
clients with medical or mental health needs who require immediate attention, and
in some cases, the staff refers clients to our Mitigation and Placement Unit.
The ERU promotes a more cost-effective and efficient judicial process and saves
Miami-Dade County taxpayers in excess of $2 million a year.
Capital Litigation Unit (CLU)
Capital Litigation Unit Coordinator
The Capital Litigation Unit (CLU) provides competent, effective representation
in the trial and sentencing phases of criminal cases in which the prosecution
seeks the death penalty.
Professional standards, including those of the American Bar Association and
National Legal Aid and Defender Association, dictate the extraordinary
preparation required for effective representation in death penalty cases. To
implement those standards, CLU is directly or indirectly involved in all capital
cases in the office.
Marie Osborne, Chief Assistant Public Defender
The APDs in our Juvenile Division represent children under 18 years of age who
are charged with committing a delinquent act, that is, an act that would be
considered a criminal offense if done by an adult. For a description of the
juvenile case process, click
The juvenile delinquency laws are designed to protect the public by providing an
individualized mix of discipline and treatment appropriate for the child. Such
an approach is intended to help to re-integrate troubled children into society.
Our office works to ensure that each child’s rights are protected and that the
government meets the child’s needs in a system intended to be "child-centered."
To that end, the APDs, mitigation specialists and investigators not only prepare
the defense of the case, but collaborate to identify and address each child’s
County Court Division
Marissa Altman Glatzer, Chief Assistant Public Defender
The judges in County Court appoint the Public Defender to represent people
charged with misdemeanor offenses who are not represented by private counsel and
face the possibility of incarceration. For a description of the misdemeanor and
criminal traffic case process, click
Misdemeanors are crimes punishable by less than one year in jail. Misdemeanor
offenses include prostitution, resisting arrest without violence, shoplifting,
animal cruelty, trespassing and charges considered to be domestic violence
offenses. Most criminal traffic offenses, such as driving under the influence
and driving while license is suspended are also misdemeanors. For additional
information about traffic violations, visit the Clerk of the Courts
Domestic Representation Unit (DRU)
Bonita Jones-Peabody, Senior Supervising Attorney
The APDs assigned to the Domestic Representation Unit represent people who are
charged with misdemeanor crimes involving domestic violence in domestic violence
Misdemeanor domestic violence offenses are assaults or batteries, stalking and
violation of injunctions between husbands and wives, people who live together,
romantic couples, or people who have a child together.
Under Florida law, domestic violence includes any assault, aggravated assault,
battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking,
aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense
resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by
another who is or was residing in the same single dwelling unit.
The felony domestic violence cases are handled by our Felony Division.
Gale Lewis, Senior Supervising Attorney
The Specialized Representation Division is composed of:
Felony Mental Health
Civil Mental Health Unit
Indefinite Civil Commitment Unit
Juvenile Sentencing Advocacy Program
Felony Mental Health: The
attorneys assigned to the Felony Mental Health Unit (FMH)
represent clients who have been found incompetent to proceed (ITP) or not guilty
by reason of insanity (NGI). Prior to the finding of ITP or NGI our Felony
Division attorneys represent these clients and FMH attorneys are available to
consult on the mental health/legal issues. ITP and NGI clients may be committed
to the Department of Children & Families (DCF) for treatment or training in a
forensic state hospital or they may be conditionally released for treatment or
training in the community. FMH attorneys represent ITP clients at hearings to
determine whether they’ve regained competency to proceed; whether they continue
to meet commitment criteria; whether they have violated a conditional release
plan; or whether because of on-going incompetency the charges should be
dismissed. The FMH attorneys represent NGI clients at hearings to determine
whether they continue to meet commitment criteria; whether they have violated a
conditional release plan; or whether the court should terminate jurisdiction
because they no longer need court supervision. They also represent these clients
at involuntary treatment hearings.
Drug Court: The
Drug Court concept was pioneered in Miami-Dade County in response to the crack
cocaine epidemic of the 1980's and the resulting explosion of drug cases. It was
a collaboration between the Public Defender’s Office, State Attorney’s Office
and the Court. Miami-Dade’s Drug Court is so successful it has been the model
for establishing some 600 drug courts across the country and around the world.
Rather than a traditional trial court, Drug Court may be more properly regarded
as a treatment program. No one is adjudicated in Drug Court. If a person has no
prior criminal history and successfully completes the program, his or her case
is Nolle Prossed (an announcement that the State is no longer going to prosecute
the case). If the person has a prior criminal history and successfully completes
the program, he would receive a withhold-of-adjudication on the
charges. Depending on the prior criminal history, the person may be eligible to
have their record sealed or expunged.
Civil Mental Health Unit attorneys
are responsible for protecting the liberty interests of clients subject to
involuntary placement proceedings who are not facing a prison or jail sentence.
However, the client faces the deprivation of his liberty by being held in a
locked psychiatric hospital unit against his will.
The Public Defender established this innovative unit to safeguard the liberty
interests of clients who suffer from mental illness or mental retardation.
Dedicated, experienced attorneys, on long-term assignment, work in the division
because these cases are complex and require specialized legal knowledge. Our
APDs handle nearly all civil involuntary commitment and involuntary placement of
persons with mental retardation cases within our jurisdiction, making sure that
judicial hearings are prompt and that no one is held without due process and
judicial review. These attorneys also try to ensure that their clients’ rights
are protected while they are patients in mental health facilities.
The attorneys assigned to the Civil Mental Health Unit are also involved in
community activities and projects. The Public Defender believes that educating
the public on the rights of our clients is essential to properly representing
them in court. Among other things, the attorneys in this division work with such
groups as the Association for Retarded Citizens, the Advocacy Center for Persons
With Disabilities, the local Florida Department of Children and Families’ Health
and Human Services Board, the Florida Supreme Court Commission on Fairness, and
the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Miami. The attorneys also give
presentations on the Baker Act and patient's rights to legislators, physicians,
social workers, medical students and other groups of professionals.
Indefinite Civil Commitment Unit: Florida
law provides for the indefinite civil commitment of juveniles and adults who
have served their sentences and who are classified as sexually violent
predators. This law, commonly known as the Jimmy Ryce Act, authorizes judges to
appoint the Public Defender to defend indigent people (respondents) that the
State of Florida is seeking to commit for an extended period for care, treatment
The Indefinite Civil Commitment Unit (ICCU) was formed to provide the necessary
defense of individuals who qualify for confinement under the statute.
Juvenile Sentencing Advocacy Program (JSAP):
In 1998, in response to the large number of juveniles transferred to adult
court, over 1000 each year in Miami-Dade, the Public Defender established the Program
(JSAP). Highly experienced attorneys are assigned to JSAP to represent clients
“direct filed” to adult court. The JSAP attorneys also represents clients
previously convicted when they were under 18, who are now eligible for relief
under the Miller, Graham, and related court decisions.
Mitigation and Placement Unit
Teresa Enriquez, Executive Chief Assistant for Recruitment and Litigation
Elisa Quesada, Coordinator
Mitigation and Placement Specialists are part of the defense team that
supports attorney representation of our clients, including the Juvenile
Sentencing Advocacy Project. In many of the cases our office handles each year,
the clients have substance abuse, mental, developmental and emotional problems
that can be successfully treated if properly identified and addressed by
The Mitigation and Placement Specialists conduct in-depth client interviews,
assess client needs and interview relatives, school personnel and the staff of
programs previously attended by the client. The disposition specialists can make
referrals to psychologists, psychiatrists and other experts, develop and
coordinate rehabilitative treatment plans, and prepare treatment and sentencing
Our Mitigation and Placement Specialists identify and evaluate community
programs and refer clients and their families to the most appropriate ones.
This comprehensive approach provides clients with treatment options and the
opportunity to become productive, law-abiding citizens. Judges and prosecutors
also benefit because they are provided with a more complete picture of the
clients and sentencing alternatives that will benefit the community. Appropriate
treatment reduces the likelihood that clients will re-offend and is less
expensive than jail or prison.
Mitigation and Placement specialists are assigned to the felony, misdemeanor,
and juvenile delinquency courts assisting our lawyers to identify and address
issues such as: mental retardation, mental illness, physical disabilities,
learning disabilities, substance abuse, dual diagnosis (substance abuse and
mental illness), homelessness, physical or sexual abuse, illiteracy and other
special education needs, unemployment, parenting skills, anger control and
In County Court, the Mitigation and Placement Specialists assist in diverting
mentally-ill clients from jail to a treatment program or facility.
Richard De Maria, Executive Assistant Public Defender
- Investigations Unit
- Intake Interviewers Unit
Irma Bryant, Chief Investigator
The Public Defender recognizes that capable, well trained, professional
investigators are crucial to the defense function.
The investigator’s primary responsibility is to gather information from
individuals and institutions and conceptualize the raw data into a form that is
meaningful and useful to the attorney. Our office encourages its investigators
to be independent thinkers who will apply common sense, training and life
experiences to the resolution of problems in the preparation of the defense of a
Intake Interviewers Unit
Tenzy Blanco, Supervisor
The Public Defender recognizes that capable, well trained, professional
interviewers (also called paralegals) are crucial to the defense function,
particularly at the earliest stages, shortly after appointment of the Public
The intake interviewer's primary responsibility is to interview our clients
and gather crucial information during the first 72 hours of a person's
incarceration. This information is vital for the initial preparation of our
client's defense. The interviewers gather factual, biographical, medical and
other information for the assistant public defender to review and act upon.
The Public Defender demands his investigators and paralegals to conduct
themselves according to the highest standards of professionalism, a fundamental
sense of fair play and respect for the dignity of others.
Robert Yergeau, Director
The Information Technology unit maintains the computer hardware, software and
network system of the Public Defender’s Office. From the beginning, automation
has been viewed as the key to enhanced employee productivity. To view a
description of our integrated management information system, click
For the Spanish version, click
Our office, in accordance with state guidelines, has created an Information
Resource Plan that describes our current system and projects our future needs.
This plan is revised annually to reflect the rapid changes in automation
technology that affect the course we take.
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Constitution of the United States
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and
public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime
shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained
by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be
confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for
obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his
To view Florida statutes relating to public defenders, click on the links
2005 FLORIDA STATUTES
Title V – Judicial Branch
Chapter 27 – Part III
27.51 Duties of public defender.
27.512 Order of no imprisonment.
27.52 Determination of indigent status.
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To effectively and zealously
represent court-appointed clients
who are at risk of losing their life or liberty.
We strive to be a law firm that:
- Is a national model
- Provides quality legal representation
- Treats clients with dignity and respect
- Is a guardian of liberty, justice, civil liberties and human rights
- Recruits and retains talented, diverse staff
- Has employees committed to life-long learning, personal and professional
We strive to be engaged beyond the courtroom advocating for:
- Laws that foster rehabilitation
- The abolition of the “schools to prison” pipeline
- Parental assistance that does not require court involvement
- Creating a criminal and juvenile justice system focused on prevention
- Appropriate and effective education, treatment and services for troubled
- Constructive sentencing alternatives, and meaningful rehabilitation
opportunities that could result in fewer defendants and victims
- Effective re-integration of the formerly convicted into our community
- Safe schools where children learn and have hope for a bright future
- Educating the public about the value of rehabilitation and crime
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In 1963, the Florida Legislature responded to the landmark United States
Supreme Court decision in
Gideon v. Wainwriqht,
granting defendants the right to counsel in felony cases, by creating the Office
of the Public Defender. In
Gideon, the Supreme Court held that the right of an indigent defendant in a
criminal trial to have the assistance of counsel is a fundamental right
essential to a fair trial, and that Gideon's trial and conviction without the
assistance of counsel violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, emerged the first
statewide public defender system in the nation.
Our country’s highest court has also upheld, as a fundamental right essential to
a fair trial an indigent person receiving the assistance of counsel in juvenile
In re: Gault, and in misdemeanor cases,
Argersinger v. Hamlin.
James C. Henderson was the first Public Defender for Miami-Dade County, followed
by Robert L. Koeppel, Hughlan Long, Phillip A. Hubbart and Bennett H. Brummer.
On January 6, 2009, Carlos J. Martinez, became Miami-Dade County’s Public
Defender. From humble beginnings Carlos’ personifies the classic migrant story.
His route to the top is a tale of hard work and dedication that ends, or perhaps
begins, with his unopposed election as the top defender.
From a staff of 16 attorneys in 1971, the Miami-Dade Public Defender’s Office
has expanded into the largest criminal defense law firm in the State of Florida.
We take pride in our record of trial and appellate work, as well as the number
of our alumni who are judges and
respected members of the private defense bar.
To learn more about the earlier history of the right to counsel on the web page
of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association,
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