Ruby Lenora Green worked in the Broward County Public Defender’s Office for 8 and a half years but her passion for the work goes back further. She spent two years in the Jacksonville Public Defender’s Office and before becoming an Assistant PD, she served as an investigator, volunteer, legal fellow, and legal intern. She was just elected president of the Broward Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Her entire professional life is about defending the poor, so it made sense when she ran for the post of 17th Judicial District Public Defender with long-time Public Defender Howard Finkelstein stepping down.
Finkelstein backed another Assistant Public Defender, Gordon Weekes, for the role. Last night’s election netted Weekes around 48 percent of the vote to Green’s 32 percent. That should mark the end of the campaign cycle and a return to the business of fighting in the trenches of criminal justice. Instead, Green was unceremoniously fired:
If this smacks of a wildly unprofessional retaliatory firing, that’s just because you have a basic sense of what wildly unprofessional retaliatory firings look like. It would still be inappropriate, but Finkelstein could have at least put together a genteel letter explaining that “in light of the election and the need for the new Public Defender to enjoy a clean slate yadda yadda yadda rival candidates would be getting several months to wrap up work.” That Finkelstein couldn’t put in the modest effort required to dress up his petty vengeance is astounding. You’d think a public defender would have thicker skin.
In a comment provided to the Sun-Sentinel, Finkelstein didn’t mount much of a denial that he fired her for campaigning against his preferred candidate:
It was because of inappropriate, unprofessional and dishonest comments that she made about this office and its commitment to the underserved and people of color,” he said.
Paging Dr. Freud. Dr. Freud, you’re needed in the Projection Clinic.
While it’s true that Green’s campaign did criticize the current state of the office for flagging morale and high attorney turnover driven by training shortfalls and lack of management support, that isn’t so much a knock on the office’s “commitment” as its follow through. It’s also remarkably tame as campaigns go… Kamala Harris called Joe Biden a segregationist sympathizer, like, six months ago. There’s no other way to read this than a naked effort to chill criticism from within his office.
After a campaign focused on suspect management and an indifference to retaining experienced attorneys, firing a veteran attorney for raising the issue only seems to prove that point. Hopefully, the next Public Defender is capable of picking up on this.