Public Defender's office marks ruling guaranteeing legal representation to the indigent by serving breakfast to the unhoused
For those under arrest, the legal right to an attorney goes back only 60 years following a U-S Supreme Court decision called "Gideon versus Wainwright." The local public defender's office marked the anniversary of that ruling on Saturday.
"If you were arrested and accused of something and you couldn't afford a lawyer, you were on your own."
The Second Judicial Circuit Public Defender is Jessica
Yeary. She noted poor people had few legal protections prior to the 1963 high scourt ruling. Yeary and her staff were at the Kearney Center Saturday serving breakfast to unhoused people.
"Good morning! How are you today?"
But even now, Yeary said the fight to ensure equal representation in the court system isn't over. Many public defenders face large case loads, low pay and understaffing.
"We've got hearts of gold and hearts of service, but we continue to advocate for the services that we need. We continue to advocate the Florida Public Defender Association at the Capitol for increased funding and resources in order to keep lawyers here."
Yeary said Florida's public defender offices can't compete with what attorneys can make in private practice.