Before being elected as Public Defender of Hillsborough County in 1993, Julianne Holt served as special court appointed public defender from 1987-1992 and was in private law practice from 1981-1992. In this role, Holt manages the largest criminal defense entity in Hillsborough County, Florida, with 223 employees. She also directs the representation of over 60,000 cases annually. She and her office have consistently donated their time, financial support and talent to aid organizations, students and citizens, both locally and nationally. On March 20, 2015, Julianne M. Holt, Public Defender of Hillsborough County, spoke to WMU-Cooley Law School students, honoring the 40th anniversary of the Gideon v. Wainwright decision.
John Adams once said, “No man in a free country should be denied a right to counsel and a fair trial.” In Gideon, the Supreme Court decided that states under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution have an obligation to provide counsel to those being tried in a criminal case who do not have the financial ability to afford an attorney. The ruling paved the way for a public defender system in this country.
Holt pointed out that public defenders are the first line of defense. Public defenders help to ensure that those who are unable to afford counsel can be given a fair trial. Ensuring a fair trial becomes difficult when the crimes committed are so horrible that public calls for swift justice. In her presentation, Ms. Holt recounted a time in American history, after the Boston Massacre, when an attorney defended some of the British soldiers. As a result of this representation, the attorney lost half of the clients he represented in his practice. How often do we, in our personal lives, determine an individual’s guilt based on the court of public opinion or based on the opinion of the new media?
Through Gideon, a line of defense was created. This line of defense, known as the public defender, helps ensure that each of us is never denied a right to a fair trial. The public defender defends this right, even when it takes great courage to do so.
Watch, in full (34:46 min.), the May 21, 2015 presentation Gideon: A Retrospective – Julianne M. Holt, Public Defender, 13th Judicial Circuit Court, Hillsborough County, Florida.