As the national conversation following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas tragedy continues, I want to remember the victims. I don’t want their memories lost among the political rhetoric and finger pointing. The resiliency of Broward County, the City of Parkland and our children will be a living testament to those whose lives were lost. Let us not forget Aaron Feis (37), Jamie Guttenberg (14), Martin Duque Anguiano (14), Gina Montalto (14), Alyssa Alhadeff (14), Nicholas Dworet (17), Luke Hoyer (15), Carmen Schentrup (16), Meadow Pollack (18), Alaina Petty (14), Chris Hixon (49), Cara Loughran (14), Alex Schachter (14), Scott Beigel (35), Joaquin Oliver (17), Peter Wang (15), and Helena Ramsay (17).
The Country will be watching as Broward County’s 17th Judicial Circuit brings justice for the families and the victims affected by this unfortunate tragedy. From student protests, to Hollywood celebrities’ endorsements, and disagreements between gun activists and proponents of more gun control laws — the 17th Judicial Circuit will remain in the national spotlight as the criminal case unfolds. Together, we will demonstrate to the Country that Broward County is resilient but in the face of adversity, our system of justice will prevail.
Our law enforcement, our Broward County Bar Association, our court personnel, and our judges are up to the task. Broward’s legal community will treat this case like any other, with its highest-level of professionalism. We will ensure that the Judicial Branch works as intended.
As a legal community it will be incumbent on us to make sure we contribute to the discussion in a meaningful way. Mental health treatment and a living wage for our government attorneys are two issues which we can highlight. People expect our system of justice to work. Rarely do they consider how it is funded. Perhaps only after a tragedy like this do they wonder how mental health treatment is delivered to those in need. Unfortunately, our jail has become the provider of last resort for mental health issues. It isn’t right, and more importantly it is a disservice to those that need help.
A day after the tragedy, I attended a meeting hosted by the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce and their constituent business members to discuss how to solve the low compensation for assistant state attorneys and assistant public defenders. With retirements, student loan debt, high turnover, and an inability to attract experienced attorneys, The Honorable Chief Judge Tuter, Public Defender Howard Finkelstein and the State Attorney’s Executive Director, Monica Hofheinz, warned that major cases are being handled by relatively inexperienced attorneys with burdensome caseloads.
The Broward County Bar will explore the possibility of alternate sources of funding to help government attorneys with their student loan debt. If we cannot count on our legislature to properly fund the needs of our justice system we will need to think outside the box.
Hold your children and loved ones close. My children are too young to understand these tragic events. I struggle with how other parents will explain to their kids how and why events like this happen. But together we are a community of people who will continue to rely on one another and our faith to get us through. #MSDSTRONG