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Press Talk: Certain jobs are just noble

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor
Published: March 26, 2016, 6:10am

She’s all growed up!

Our daughter, Danni — who once garnered national media attention — has accepted a job as an assistant public defender in Miami.

This, of course, means a lot of things. For one, Maley and I have one less FTE on our payroll.

Just kidding!

It also means I probably should be a little nicer to lawyers. For example, in a column a few years ago, I wrote that lawyers are a lot like mosquitoes, because they’re annoying and there are too many of them.

Just kidding again!

Even if that lawyer line had some merit, it wouldn’t have included public defenders. Why? Because public defenders have stuff in common with reporters:

• Low pay.

• Looking out for the little guy.

• A noble calling.

• • •

Before I get ahead of myself, let me backtrack to that national media attention Danni generated. At the time, our daughter was a junior at Northwestern University (just outside of Chicago) and she was home for the summer. She accepted a job in Portland at the Davis Wright Tremaine law firm.

Right before starting that job, she announced she was going to try to get through the summer on only one tank of gas in her 1997 Honda Civic.

This is no easy task when you’re living in the suburbs with only spotty mass transit. Not only do you have to get across the river to work, you have those nights and weekends and hanging with friends to think about.

Anyway, I found the goal fascinating. So I asked her if she would write a blog for The Columbian about her effort. She agreed.

The Columbian opted not to do much coverage on her because, well, she’s my daughter. But other media quickly picked it up. First, a Portland TV station, then CNN, then Fox News and a slew of national websites.

It went viral.

It was a struggle, for sure, as she hit a few bumps in the road. But in the end, she made it.

• • •

After graduating from Northwestern (she went there after excelling at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics), she picked up a job in Chicago at a high-end recruiting firm, then went to work for a law firm in Atlanta. It was there she decided to go to law school.

She was accepted at a number of law schools — including my alma mater, the University of Florida — but ended up at the University of Georgia.

While at Georgia, she interned at the public defenders’ offices in Atlanta and Miami. (Note to kids going to college: The more internships and work experience you can get, the easier it will be to find a job.)

Her schoolwork, internships and life experience ultimately helped Danni land her dream job.

But why work as a low-paid public defender? In the end, it was work that Danni said was important. And who could argue with that? Well, honestly, some do.

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There are those who think public defenders are simply looking for ways to get bad guys off the hook. That’s bad thinking. “Bad guys” aren’t officially bad guys until the court says they’re bad guys. You know, innocent until proven guilty.

Some also think public defenders are just looking for a technicality to get their clients off the hook. Again, bad thinking. Here’s the deal. Let’s say the police illegally break into your house and find evidence that you are guilty of a crime. As a society, should we just pretend the illegal police action didn’t happen? If your answer to that is “yes,” then we surely will devolve into a police state. And if that happens — well — our country as we know it will be no more.

In a very real way, we all should be grateful for the Sixth Amendment. Most of us have embraced the First and Second amendments, but it is the Sixth Amendment that allows us the right to be represented by an attorney if we end up in hot water. Thus, the rise of public defenders.

So here’s to all who help those who are less fortunate than us, including reporters and public defenders. And congratulations to our favorite daughter, Danni.

Columbian Editor