Matt Shirk's memo to Public Defender's Office staff

From: Matthew Shirk <>
Date: December 30, 2014 at 11:49:16 AM EST
To: All Staff <>

I hope this email finds everyone well following a peaceful holiday season. I also hope it finds you ready for a joyous new year.

As you know, the Grand Jury has completed its investigation of certain actions during the Summer of 2013 and has concluded no charges will be filed. Today we expect a Presentment to be released in which the Grand Jury has made both comments and recommendations. I fully anticipate the Presentment to place my family and this office once again in the limelight. While I do not agree with many of the factual findings in the Presentment, I respect the process and the work performed by the Grand Jury. I have no intention on getting into a public debate with their findings. 

However, I do want to take this time to express my most sincere apologies to each of you, as I have done with my family. Each of you work too hard and give too much time and effort to once again see your office under a microscope. For that, I am truly sorry.

For six years I have held the office as Public Defender. Together we have defended the Constitution and the rights of our clients as well as any Public Defender's Office in this great state. For six years we have defended those who can not defend themselves. We have developed programs to assist our Veterans, we have expanded the use of Drug Court to help eradicate addiction from so many lives, and we have kept at bay the prosecution of those who should not be prosecuted. Every day our office is victorious, from the small victories to the big. Every day when we come to work and make sure our clients are clothed in the Constitution, we are victorious. 

As we usher in the New Year, I would like to begin with a quote given over fifty years ago by Attorney General Robert Kennedy:

If an obscure Florida convict named Clarence Earl Gideon had not sat down in his prison cell with a pencil and paper to write a letter to the Supreme Court, and if the court had not taken the trouble to look for merit in that one crude petition, among all the bundles of mail it must receive every day, 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; he was retried with the help of a competent defense counsel, found not guilty and released from prison after two years of punishment for a crime he did not commit--and the whole course of American legal history has been changed.

Each of you is on the front lines of that change. Thank you for your support of my family during this past year. But more importantly, thank you for your support of each and every Clarence Earl Gideon who has come through the system since. Hold your head high and be proud to be part of this change in history and I look forward to working with you to protect the Constitution and the rights of the citizens of the Fourth Judicial Circuit in 2015.