Ethics

Former public defender agrees to suspension, partly for firing 3 women after confrontation with his wife

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The former public defender in Jacksonville, Florida, has agreed to accept a six-month suspension, partly for firing three women when confronted by his wife.

Former public defender Matt Shirk says in his conditional guilty plea that he fired the three women “for the private benefit of himself, his wife and their marriage.”

The Florida Times-Union has coverage.

Shirk has maintained that he didn’t have sex with the women. He hired one of them after seeing her pictures on social media, according to previous coverage by the Florida Times-Union. Two of the women worked at a “Hooters-style restaurant” called Whisky River, the newspaper said, citing information from an investigation by the Florida Commission on Ethics.

The conditional plea says Shirk hired the women “outside of normal hiring practices.”

The Florida Commission on Ethics had reprimanded Shirk and fined him $6,000 in a September 2019 settlement. The commission acted following Florida Times-Union stories that reported that Shirk hired the women based on their physical attractiveness and drank with them on the job.

The conditional plea also says Shirk revealed information about a former child client’s defenses to murder allegations to a documentary film crew, after the child had entered a plea in the case.

Shirk was first elected as public defender in 2008, taking office in 2009. In 2016, he lost his race for reelection. He is currently in private practice handling immigration and criminal defense cases. The suspension won’t be final until accepted by the Florida Supreme Court.

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