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Criminal Law Fellow, Tiffany McCloud, Realizes Dream of Becoming a Public Defender

February 20, 2014

Criminal Law Fellow, Tiffany McCloud, Realizes Dream of Becoming a Public Defend

Tiffany McCloud, 3L, has accepted a position as an Assistant Public Defender with the 15th Judicial Circuit of Florida in West Palm Beach. With approximately 100 attorneys, the West Palm Beach Public Defender’s Office has several divisions including: appellate, mental health, county court, felony, investigations, intake, juvenile, major crimes and social services.

Motivated by the injustice she witnessed firsthand growing up, Tiffany was inspired to pursue a career in public defense. “My grandfather was improperly convicted in a criminal matter based on police misconduct. The U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, found that gross misconduct had occurred and his conviction was overturned. My father was also incarcerated when I was a child. I saw at a very young age how important it was to have an advocate during the most vulnerable time in a person’s life.”

She began her job search early, applying to public defender jobs around the country during the summer of her 2L year. Tiffany received an interview with Palm Beach County Public Defender’s office at the Equal Justice Works (EJW) Fair in October. The EJW Fair, held in Arlington, VA, is the largest public interest legal career fair in the country. After being selected for a second interview, she flew to West Palm Beach and met with the various divisions’ chiefs. “They were impressed by the work I had done with San Diego County Public Defender’s Office and my clear dedication to criminal defense.”

Notwithstanding her hard work and commitment, Tiffany credits the faculty and staff at Thomas Jefferson for assisting her in achieving her career goal. “Assistant Dean for Career Services Beverley Bracker had thorough knowledge of the EJW Fair and helped me prepare for my interview and Career Services and PILF assisted me with my travel expenses for the fair. Professor Judybeth Tropp gave me great advice over the years and encouraged me to apply to public defender offices outside of San Diego. The criminal law fellowship program, ran by professor Anders Kaye and Alex Kreit, was invaluable. Being selected as a criminal law fellow was a huge talking point in interviews.”

Tiffany will bring excitement and enthusiasm to her role as a PD. “The rush of adrenaline and the sense of challenge and purpose that comes with the job are incomparable. I love being in court daily and fighting the good fight.”  Further, she now has the opportunity to advocate for justice and human rights. “The clients often represent the most downtrodden members of our society. Abject poverty, homelessness, and drug abuse are constants in their lives.  A public defender stands next to people during their worst moments and acknowledges that they are still human beings who have rights, and more importantly, dignity.” 

The TJSL community recently recognized Tiffany’s achievements and commitment. At the 2014 Barrister’s Ball she was named the recipient of the highly prestigious Charles T. Bumer Civil Libertarian Award, named for the legendary San Diego defense attorney.

The award was presented on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild by former NLG president Professor Marjorie Cohn.