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Meet your Public Defender
Kathleen A. Smith
In 2008, Ms. Smith was elected Public Defender for the 20th Judicial Circuit serving the citizens of Charlotte, Collier, Hendry, Glades, and Lee Counties.
Ms. Smith obtained her BA and Law Degree from The University of Florida, and recently earned her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Florida Gulf Coast University.
Ms. Smith began her law practice as an assistant Public Defender in 1990. She currently specializes in representing client’s living with mental illness and is a past
recipient of Advocate of the Year awarded by Lee Mental Health Inc. Furthermore; Ms. Smith was honored with a Florida Senator’s Proclamation for her advocacy on behalf of
mentally ill clients. Because of her passion to assist clients living with and recovering from mental illness and substance abuse issues, Ms. Smith was appointed on behalf
of the Florida Public Defender Association to serve on Florida Supreme Court’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health task force.
In addition to Ms. Smith’s role as Public Defender for the 20th Circuit, she is very involved in the community. She is an adjunct professor at Florida Gulf Coast University
teaching Constitutional Criminal Procedure. She has served on the Board of Directors for the PACE School for Girls in Lee County, Southwest Florida Addiction Services, Lee
Mental Health Inc., and the Institute for Youth and Justice Studies through Florida Gulf Coast University. Lastly, Ms. Smith is also a member of Elk’s Lodge 2596 in Cape Coral.
FL. and currently serves in the role of Justice of the Forum.
Putting her Public Administration degree to good use, Ms. Smith’s office has been a recipient of the prestigious Prudential Davis Productivity Award recognizing major
government improvement initiatives for 2011, 2012, and 2013.
Florida's Public Defenders
This page is dedicated to Clarence Earl Gideon, the pioneer of Public Defender clients.
Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963)
Early Resolution Court
The Early Resolution Court involves
the early resolution of nonviolent felony cases. The client is given an
offer that is extended by the State Attorney’s Office on the first ERC court
date. The majority of cases resolved on the Early Resolution Court deal
with controlled substances, grand theft, felony traffic offenses and burglaries
to structures or vehicles.
attorney enters into negotiations with the State Attorney’s Office in order to reach
a favorable resolution for the client.
Clients may enter a plea of guilty or no contest on the Early Intervention
docket and the clients usually choose whether
they want state probation or a jail sentence.
Other clients on the docket with a limited criminal history are offered Pre Trial Diversion or Pre Trial
Intervention. Clients who participate in the Pre Trial Diversion or Pre
Trial Intervention programs are supervised by the Department of Corrections, pay
fees, and attend counseling or classes. Pre Trial Diversion and Pre Trial
Intervention are very similar to State Probation, but if a client successfully
completes the Pre Trial Diversion or Pre Trial Intervention program, the State
Attorney’s Office drops the charge(s) against the client.
Other clients on the Early Resolution Court are referred to
Felony Drug Court or Mental Health Court in order to address these clients’
Cases that are not resolved on the ERC
docket are placed on a felony trial docket where a client may exercise his or
her right to a jury trial.
Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963)
Concepts: Right to Counsel/Rights of the Accused v. State Rights
Facts: Clarence Earl Gideon was arrested in 1961 and charged with breaking and
entering a pool hall with intent to commit petty larceny (a felony). He did not have
enough money for a lawyer and asked that one be appointed to defend him. The judge denied
the request saying that under Florida state law counsel can be appointed only in a capital
offense. Gideon was sentenced to five years in prison. He then filed a writ of certiorari
(petition of appeal) to the Supreme Court of the United States asking for a case review.
The Court granted Gideon's request and appointed Abe Fortas to represent him.
Issue: Whether the state of Florida violated Gideon's Sixth Amendment right to counsel, made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, by not providing him with the assistance of counsel for his criminal defense.
Opinion: The Court ruled unanimously in Gideon's favor and held that the Fourteenth Amendment included state as well as federal defendants. The Court said that all states must provide an attorney in all felony and capital cases for people who cannot afford one. Through the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause, the Sixth Amendment guarantee of the right to counsel applies to the states. [Gideon was retried in Florida and found not guilty.]
Quotation from "Gideon's Trumpet"
"It has become almost axiomatic that the great rights which are secured for all of us by the Bill of Rights are constantly tested and retested in the courts by the people who live in the bottom of society's barrel ."
"In the future the name 'Gideon' will stand for the great principle that the poor are entitled to the same type of justice as those who are able to afford counsel. It is probably a good thing that it is immaterial and unimportant that Gideon is something of a 'nut,' that his maniacal distrust and suspicion lead him to the very borders of insanity. Upon the shoulders of such persons are our great rights carried."
"If an obscure Florida convict named Clarence Earl Gideon had not sat down in his prison cell...to write a letter to the Supreme Court...the vast machinery of American law would have gone on functioning undisturbed. But Gideon did write that letter, the Court did look into his case... and the whole course of American legal history has been changed."--Robert F. Kennedy