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Embattled former public defender facing 6-month suspension from practicing law

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Former Jacksonville public defender Matt Shirk is facing a six-month suspension from practicing law.

According to a conditional guilty plea filed with the Florida Supreme Court, Shirk violated several rules of the Florida Bar, including the Rules of Professional Conduct, violation of the oath taken by a lawyer to support the constitutions of the US and Florida, providing competent representation to a client and others.

If he wants to get back into law, it will require “proof of rehabilitation” prior to reinstatement.

The suspension would take effect 30 days from the date of the final order, so he could close out the practice of law and protect the interest of existing clients.

He would have to pay the disciplinary costs.

The suspension stems from Shirk’s time as a public defender from 2009-2017.

A grand jury investigation into his actions in office eventually got sent to the Florida Commission on Ethics, which led to public censure, reprimand and a $6,000 civil penalty.

The ethics commission found he violated statutes by hiring or directing the hiring of three young women in a way that went outside normal hiring practices, then fired them for the sake of himself, his wife and their marriage.

It also found he violated state statute by serving or consuming alcoholic beverages in a city building, and by revealing information relating to the representation of a former child client through an interview he gave to a documentary crew.

According to the conditional guilty plea, Shirk’s misconduct was “due, in part, to personal or emotional problems” and that he’s “deeply remorseful for his unprofessional behavior while serving as Public Defender.”