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first_imgPDs don’t enjoy the same immunity as state attorneys April 15, 2002 Regular News PDs don’t enjoy the same immunity as state attorneyscenter_img Public defenders do not have the same “judicial” immunity against lawsuits enjoyed by judges and state attorneys but they still are covered by sovereign immunity statutes, the Florida Supreme Court has said.The court addressed the issue in a March 21 case involving a former inmate who sued his public defenders for malpractice after his conviction on rape charges was thrown out on appeal for ineffective assistance of counsel, and the prosecutors nolle prossed the case. Schreiber v. Rowe, case no. SC95000.The public defenders argued, among other issues, that they should have the immunity from lawsuits granted to judges and extended to state attorneys in Office of State Attorney v. Parrotino, 628 So.2d 1097 (Fla. 1993).But the court disagreed, citing reasoning of the First District Court of Appeal in Windsor v. Gibson, 424 So. 2d 888 (Fla. 1st DCA 1982). That opinion said that judges and prosecutors are different from public defenders and their ultimate loyalty is to the administration of justice. Public defenders, the Windsor court said, are primarily advocates for their clients.“We agree with this analysis,” the opinion said. “Certainly public defenders have unique responsibilities that are not shared by other defense lawyers in our criminal system. Nevertheless, on the spectrum of criminal law actors, the role of public defenders is more analogous to the role of private attorneys than to that of state attorneys. Thus, we decline to extend judicial immunity to public defenders in this state. We note, however, that in 1984, in response to Windsor, the legislature extended the waiver of sovereign immunity to public defenders, thereby exempting public defenders and their employees from personal liability pursuant to section 768.28(9)(a).”On related issues in the case, the court held that a criminal defendant must obtain post-conviction relief before filing a malpractice complaint against a public defender, and that the statute of limitations does not begin to run until that relief is obtained. The justices also agreed with the Fourth DCA ruling in the case that the defendant alleging malpractice must, by greater weight of the evidence, show his or her actual innocence to prevail.Chief Justice Charles Wells and Justices Major Harding, Harry Lee Anstead, Barbara Pariente, and Peggy Quince concurred in the per curiam opinion. Justice Leander Shaw concurred with most of the decision, but dissented on the immunity issue.“I am convinced that the office of the public defender has evolved to the point that there is no reason in logic not to extend to it the same quasi-judicial immunity enjoyed by the office of the state attorney,” Shaw wrote. “Both are integral parts of our criminal justice system with constitutionally mandated duties that subject them to possible civil liability. I fail to see why one should enjoy quasi-judicial immunity and not the other.”last_img read more

first_imgAs she prepares to step down from leading DOD’s community and family programs before moving to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Rosemary Freitas Williams underscored the crucial role nonprofits and community-based organizations play in supporting service members, their families and veterans.“You have heard me say countless times how important it is to close the gap between DOD and VA, now more than ever,” Williams, who has served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy since July 2013, said in an email newsletter obtained by Military Times.“DOD is leaning forward with new ideas like access to Military OneSource for 365 days after transition. Meanwhile, VA is going through a remarkable transformation. But no matter how forward the two agencies reach towards each other, there will always be a gap. And that is where the community-based providers, state programs, non-profits — large and small, schools, churches, synagogues and mosques come in,” she said.William said in her new position she plans to help integrate the support offered by Veterans Affairs with that offered by local groups.“I intend to join VA’s mission of transformation and to help where I can to help weave that net of community-based support in concert with VA,” she said.Williams will become VA’s assistant secretary for public affairs, effective at the beginning of April, according to the story.In her current post, Williams has been responsible for policy, advocacy and oversight of all community support to service members and their families, quality-of-life issues, child care and youth programs, family violence prevention and intervention, casualty and mortuary affairs, morale, welfare and recreation programs, commissaries and exchanges, military spouse career advancement and voluntary education programs for service members. Dan Cohen AUTHORlast_img read more