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Special Bar committee offers research for legislators

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Hank CoxeFormer Bar Presidents Hank Coxe and Michelle Suskauer will co-chair the new Special Criminal Justice Committee, which will include two state senators and a representative and offer nonpartisan research and advice to the Legislature.

The committee is charged with working “with legislative and criminal justice stakeholders on criminal justice legislation. . . to provide subject-matter expertise without advocating for any particular legislative position.”

The special committee was appointed by Bar President John Stewart and comes as a follow up to the Criminal Justice Summit Suskauer convened in October 2018. The panel, which has had two preliminary teleconferences, is set to meet in person October 17 at the Bar’s Fall Meeting.

Michelle_SuskauerStewart said the special committee grew out of last year’s Criminal Justice Commission, which sponsored the summit, and from his conversations with legislators as he has made the rounds at the Capitol.

“We did get probably three or four fairly specific requests from legislators when I was going around and talking with them,” said Stewart, adding that he offered the Bar’s assistance in researching those issues, including looking at conviction integrity units in state attorneys’ offices; the post-conviction process, including access to DNA and other evidence; and the use of solitary confinement for juveniles.

Suskauer said the special committee is needed to follow through on the work from the summit and a special commission that oversaw that and related efforts.

“One major focus I had as president was criminal justice reform. Certainly that work has not been completed,” Suskauer said. “Although there was some legislation that passed last session, there certainly is a lot more that will be discussed next session and that is why this committee is needed.”

Noting the special committee has judges, academics, lawyers, and a prosecutor and public defender, she added, “It really is an incredible, incredible group. We hope the Legislature will take advantage.”

Besides Coxe and Suskauer, other committee members include:

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and who participated last year in the Bar’s Criminal Justice Summit.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice and who led efforts in the Senate last year on criminal justice reform. He also participated in the Bar’s Criminal Justice Summit.

• Fourth Circuit Judge Angela Cox.

• Eleventh Circuit Court Judge Miguel de la O.

• Tallahassee attorney and former Florida Attorney General Richard Doran.

• Second Circuit Judge Jimmy Hankinson.

• Fifteenth Circuit Public Defender Carrie Haughwout.

• Seventh Circuit State Attorney Ralph Larizza.

• Former Young Lawyers Division President Warren Lindsey, a member of the Criminal Law Section’s Executive Council.

Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

• Miami attorney Lily Sanchez.

• Miami attorney Neal Sonnett.

• Martin County Clerk of Court Carolyn Timmann.

• Tampa attorney Morris Weinberg, a member of the ABA’s Criminal Justice Section.

• Twelfth Circuit Judge Charles Williams.