The Miami-Dade Public Defenderís Office handles approximately 90,000 cases a
year. It is divided into several major divisions concerning appellate review,
felony litigation, juvenile delinquency litigation and misdemeanor and traffic
court matters. 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. To view our organization chart,
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
Attorneys appointed as 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 Rory Stein, the Executive Assistant Public
Defender & General Counsel; Guy D. Robinson, Chief Assistant Public Defender,
Felony Division and Assistant General Counsel; Richard De Maria, Chief Assistant
Public Defender, Teresa Enriquez, Chief Assistant Public Defender, County Court
Division; Marie Osborne, Chief Assistant Public Defender, Juvenile Division;
Maria Lauredo, Chief Assistant Public Defender, Appellate Division; Kevin
Hellmann, Director of Training and Professionalism; LaEaetrice McMurray, Director of Support Services 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 attorneys 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 assistant public defenders to seminars and trial
practice institutes around the nation.
The office makes available other learning opportunities to our assistant public
defenders, mitigation and placement specialists and investigators by regularly convening
lectures and demonstrations, many featuring speakers from outside the office.
For example, a monthly death penalty forum is held featuring the participation
of experienced capital trial and appellate attorneys from our office and the
private defense bar.
Our formal attorney training program begins with the Orientation Training
Series, a one-week, intensive schedule of lectures and demonstrations on case
preparation and trial practice that is presented to new APDs and interns
participating in our law student intern program. The strength of our office is,
in part, derived from the willingness of our assistant public defenders to share
their knowledge and experience with new members of the staff. 30 Most of our
more experienced assistant public defenders have been instructors in the
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 assistant public
defenders, through discussions about their cases and the law. Our assistant
public defenders 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 with over 600 documents, including letters, memoranda, orders,
motions and affidavits.
In short, while our assistant public defenders 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
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 assistant public defenders 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 clientís 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 appellate judges.
Felony Divisionís Senior Supervising Attorneys
The assistant public defenders in the Felony Division handle cases for which
clients may be sentenced to more than one year in prison. These cases include
capital offenses, such as murder, rape or robbery. For a description of the
felony case process,
The Capital Litigation and Major Crimes attorneys handle the most serious
felonies ó those punishable by life imprisonment or death. In addition to
handling individual case responsibilities, these highly-experienced trial
attorneys mentor our newer assistant public defenders.
The attorney 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
Michelle Rosengarten, 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, release
on own recognizance, release to Pre-trial Services (PTS), the PTS Monitored
Release (electronic bracelet) Program or to the custody of a responsible family
member. The ERU also handles bond hearings (including Arthur hearings) for
clients charged with "non-bondable" offenses.
During the course of this early representation, the Assistant Public Defenders
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
The ERU promotes a more cost-effective and efficient judicial process and saves
Miami-Dade County taxpayers $2 million a year.
Capital Litigation Unit
Edith Georgi, Senior Supervising Attorney
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 assistant public defenders 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,
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 helps to re-integrate troubled children into society.
Our office works to ensure that each childís rights are protected and that the
government meets the childís needs in a system intended to be "child-centered."
To that end, the assistant public defenders, disposition specialists and
investigators not only prepare the defense of the case, but collaborate to
identify and address each childís unique needs.
In response to the large number of juveniles being transferred to adult court,
over 1000 each year in Miami-Dade, the Public Defender has established the
Juvenile Sentencing Advocacy Project (JSAP)
as part of his
JSAP attempts to identify alternatives to sentencing children as adults and
County Court Division
Teresa Enriquez, 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,
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. 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. Most
criminal traffic offenses, such as driving under the influence, driving while
license is suspended and fleeing a police officer, are also misdemeanors. For
additional information about traffic violations, visit the Clerk of the Courts
Domestic Representation Unit
Robert Coppel, Senior Supervising Attorney
The assistant public defenders assigned to the Domestic Representation
Unit represent people who are charged with misdemeanor crimes involving domestic
violence in domestic violence court.
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 more serious domestic violence cases are handled by our Felony Division.
Specialized Representation Division
Paul Kaminsky, Senior Supervising Attorney
The Specialized Representation Division is composed of:
- Felony Mental Health
- Drug Court
- Civil Mental Health Unit
- Indefinite Civil Commitment Unit
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
assistant public defenders 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 clientsí rights are protected while they are patients in mental
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 Familiesí 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 Defenderís Office to
defend indigent people (respondents) that the State of Florida is seeking to
commit for an extended period for care, treatment and control.
The Indefinite Civil Commitment Unit (ICCU) was formed to provide the necessary
defense of individuals who qualify for confinement under the statute.
Felony Mental Health: The attorneys and paralegal assigned to the Felony
Mental Health Unit (FMH) represents 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 theyíve 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 Defenderís Office, SAO
and the Court. The former Miami-Dade Public Defender Bennett H. Brummer was a
founder and champion of drug court. Miami-Dadeís 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 Nol Pros (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
. For more information regarding The Drug Court process, please
Richard De Maria, Chief Assistant Public Defender
- Mitigation and Placement Unit
- Investigations Unit
- Intake Interviewers Unit
Mitigation and Placement Unit
Katrina Munajj, Supervisor
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.
Ron Condom, Chief Investigator
The Public Defender recognizes that capable, well trained, professional
investigators are crucial to the defense function.
The investigatorís 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
Ron Condom, 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 Defenderís 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.