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Former Public Defender Matt Shirk Censured, Reprimanded And Fined By Ethics Commission

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Bob Self
/
The Florida Times-Union
Former Public Defender Matt Shirk is pictured in 2015.

Four years after Jacksonville’s former public defender, Matt Shirk, first faced ethics complaints, the now-disgraced attorney faced punishment Friday morning.

WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union reports the Florida Commission on Ethics agreed to accept a settlement that censures and reprimands him — even though he didn’t show up to accept the censure and reprimand — and fine him $6,000 for what commission members called his “egregious” behavior in office.

The ethics complaint started following a series of stories in The Florida Times-Union that detailed how Shirk had built a shower in his office, hired women based on their physical attractiveness, asked them for sex, drank with them on the job and then had his wife fire them.

A grand jury declined to indict him but called for his removal from office, and that grand jury found he had violated attorney-client privilege in the high-profile case of 12-year-old Cristian Fernandez, who was accused of murder. Shirk had never handled a murder case before, and eventually a judge took the case away from Shirk after he publicly revealed private information Fernandez told him.

Shirk faces a new investigation after the Florida Auditor General issued a scathing report that documented how he misused staff and funds for personal gain and may have illegally deleted records, something he’s been accused of in the past as well.

An expanded version of this story is at Jacksonville.com.