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20 years at the defense table

Published 9:27pm Monday, July 1, 2013

Denise Jackson can’t remember wanting to be anything but an attorney as she was growing up.

The career goal was encouraged by her father, who was not an attorney. But, she said, he saw that as the best way to make an impact on society.

Denise Jackson holds the proclamation she received in a ceremony at Suffolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on Monday.
Denise Jackson holds the proclamation she received in a ceremony at Suffolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on Monday.

“He always told me to try to help others,” Jackson said.

The Suffolk native was honored Monday in Suffolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court for 20 years of continuous service in the Suffolk Public Defender’s Office. Judge Alfreda Talton-Harris presented her a proclamation signed by Chief Judge Robert S. Brewbaker Jr.

Jackson, a graduate of John Yeates High School, earned her undergraduate degree from Howard University and her law degree from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law. She worked briefly for a private law firm after graduating from Temple, until she started with the public defender’s office on July 1, 1993, only four years after it was established.

She initially worked with any client of the public defender’s office, but about five years ago switched to the juvenile and domestic relations team, which defends juveniles charged with crimes or adults charged with crimes of a domestic nature.

The public defender’s office is appointed to represent people who cannot afford to hire their own attorney.

Jackson said one case that has particularly stood out to her during her time with the public defender’s office was a teenage girl whose mother had died and who was facing a criminal charge.

“She felt abandoned,” Jackson said. “I let her know she could still do things to make her mother proud.”

Jackson said it is the opportunity to encourage people to improve their lives that she treasures about her job.

“The thing that I love most about my job is having contact with everyday people, encouraging them to strive for a better life, and letting them know no matter what life has dealt them, they can make a choice to do better for themselves,” she said.

The head public defender, James Grandfield, said Jackson exemplifies the work of his office.

“Denise embodies what the public defender system is all about,” he said. “She fights for her clients and cares about them as people.”

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