Letters from the Issue of March 11, 2004

Art and ethnicity and cops with nothing better to do

The assertion that laziness is rampant in the office is grossly unfair. The assistant public defenders in Bennett's office include some of the smartest, most skilled, and most dedicated lawyers -- in both the trial and appellate divisions -- it has ever been my pleasure to work with. I came to the office after working at a top corporate law firm, so my standards for judging good lawyering and hard work are not low.

Dead wood is a problem in any large office, and the public defender's office is not immune. It is also true that public defender offices, like most public sector law offices, have a hard time competing with the more lucrative private sector to retain talented young lawyers, especially those struggling under crushing student loan debts. (It is a tribute to Bennett, however, that many lawyers return to the office after stints in private practice.)

In my experience, however, Bennett was continually striving to improve the office and the quality of the representation it provides. Bennett's track record of effective leadership and commitment to indigent defense have long earned him the respect and support of Miami-Dade voters. He continues to be -- by far -- the best suited to lead the office forward. The role of the public defender is too important to be entrusted to a novice.

Christina A. Spaulding

Berkeley, California

I read, somewhat bemusedly, Rebecca Wakefield's recent, less than favorable article, "Sustained Objections" regarding the Miami-Dade OPD. For many years I have been a criminal defense attorney in the state of New Jersey, representing an indigent clientele. In this capacity, I have had exposure to many indigent defense systems throughout the country. The Miami-Dade OPD and its director, Bennett Brummer, enjoy an outstanding reputation in national defense circles as one of the premier indigent defense organizations in the country. The Miami-Dade OPD is nationally recognized for many cutting-edge innovations in the field, including the Drug Court concept and the Anti-Violence Initiative, among others -- innovations not yet available in other defense systems throughout the country. As a one-time "young lawyer," and now having managed numerous lawyers throughout my career in criminal defense work, I would add the observation that the view from below can be somewhat, by its very nature, limited. Thus, young lawyers doing the basic, daily, important courtroom tasks, are, at times, unaware of the equally important obligations of upper management in building and maintaining the infrastructure that, indeed, allows these young lawyers to do their job well -- not to mention actually pay them! I was bemused by her article in that Mr. Brummer, a lawyer, fluent in the Spanish language, and having spent a lifetime dedicated to the cause of the indigent in the Miami-Dade area, gives public service, in this instance, the good name it deserves.

Jorge C. Godoy, Esq.

Ardmore, Oklahoma

I was surprised by the nature of Rebecca Wakefield's article in the New Times as it pertained to the Public Defender here in Miami, Bennett Brummer. I was a member of that Office for eight years and worked closely with Mr. Brummer. I found Mr. Brummer to be an excellent leader and administrator who surrounded himself with capable and hard-working individuals who cared deeply about the representation of indigents. Every year Mr. Brummer went to Tallahassee and brought us back a sufficient budget to allow us to do our work ... no easy feat, when his job was to ask politicians for money to enable us to defend the poor, the disenfranchised, and the outcasts of our society.

Peter Raben


I read Rebecca Wakefield's article regarding Mr. Brummer's office. I am a Miami resident who worked for the Public Defender and resigned in January 2003 to attend the seminary in Kansas City. The attorneys at the office are well-trained and hard working. Mr. Brummer has done an excellent job managing an office with limited resources. He is extremely dedicated to the clients, to the people of Miami, and to the attorneys who work for him.

One of the first things I learned at the Public Defender's Office was to examine if a person making statements has a bias or interest in the outcome of the proceeding. This article is based upon information from a small group of attorneys who want Mr. Martin to win. There are 400 employees who work for Mr. Brummer and they are not lazy. They work long hours with huge caseloads and work nights and weekends to prepare for trials. There is a real question about the reliability of the information given to the New Times.

I worked as a training attorney there and I can tell you that young attorneys are supervised by senior attorneys. There are training attorneys in every division and regular in-house trainings. Senior attorneys sit in on trials with the younger attorneys and rarely will one attorney go to trial on a felony case alone. Her article mentions the caseloads these attorneys are facing. The article describes that these attorneys have three options: work hard, leave, or misrepresent people. I suggest there is a fourth alternative. There are a small group of attorneys who leave because they are not competent, cannot handle the work, or are not dedicated to indigent defense. Many attorneys in the office have worked there for a long time representing thousands of clients. I credit this achievement to Mr. Brummer's expertise.

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