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Jacob awarded for indigent defense advocacy

Bruce Jacob 2013Bruce Jacob, dean emeritus and professor of Law at Stetson University College of Law, was presented the Champion of Indigent Defense Award by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) at its annual meeting in San Francisco, Calif. The Champion of Indigent Defense Award recognizes an individual for exceptional efforts in making positive changes to a local, county, state, or national indigent defense system.

Jacob (pictured left) began his career by arguing for the State of Florida in the historic case of Gideon v. Wainwright more than 50 years ago. While Jacob argued on the side of Florida then, in the years since, he has become one of the nation’s strongest voices advocating for the right to effective indigent defense counsel. As noted by Paul M. Rashkind, a federal public defender in Florida, Jacob is admired for his candor and his transition from advocate for Florida to advocate for indigent defense.

“He has argued on behalf of an indigent defendant before the U.S. Supreme Court, served on numerous indigent defense initiatives, started legal clinics focused on indigent defense at more than one law school, written articles stressing the importance of indigent defense, and to this day, remains in his office late on many nights writing pro bono habeas petitions and briefs for indigent defendants,” said Ellen Podgor, a colleague of Jacob’s, in describing his dedication to the cause of indigent defense.

In the 1960s, as a professor at the Emory University School of Law, Jacob established the Legal Assistance for Inmates Program at the Atlanta Penitentiary. Later, as a member of the faculty at Harvard Law School, Jacob contributed to the establishment of the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project, an initiative through which students at Harvard Law provided legal services to indigent defendants. Jacob has written prolifically on the subject of indigent defense, and he made major contributions to the 2009 Report of the National Right to Counsel Committee.

Jacob regularly provides pro bono representation to indigent defendants. “I have sat with him in his office while he patiently explains an inmate’s case to the inmate by telephone, often for an hour or more,” said Joan Catherine Bohl, who has worked with Jacob on these cases, and admires his dedication to his clients. “He never gives over-simplified explanations, but he always seems to leave the inmate with a heightened understanding of his situation, and of the range of possible outcomes.”

“You have devoted your career to making the right to counsel a reality in courts across the country and we feel that it is particularly appropriate to recognize your steadfast advocacy on behalf of indigent defendants on the 50th anniversary of the Gideon decision,” said Steve Benjamin, president of NACDL.

Currently, Jacob teaches courses involving administrative law, constitutional law, criminal law, and criminal procedure at Stetson.