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Florida Life Fellow Professor Bruce R. Jacob

July 25, 2013, Fellows in the news

Washington, DC (July 25, 2013) – Bruce Jacob, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law at Stetson University College of Law, will be presented the Champion of Indigent Defense Award by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) at its 56th Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California later this week. Jacob will be formally presented with the award on Saturday, at the Association’s board meeting. The Champion of Indigent Defense Award recognizes an individual for exceptional efforts in making positive changes to a local, county, state, or national indigent defense system.

Over 50 years ago, Bruce Jacob began his career by arguing for the State of Florida in the historic case of Gideon v. Wainwright. While Prof. Jacob argued on the side of Florida then, in the years since he has become one of the nation’s strongest voices advocating for the right to effective indigent defense counsel. As noted by Paul M. Rashkind, a federal public defender in Florida, Prof. Jacob is admired for his candor and his transition from advocate for Florida to advocate for indigent defense. Prof. Ellen Podgor, a colleague of Prof. Jacob, described his dedication to the cause of indigent defense: “He has argued on behalf of an indigent defendant before the U.S. Supreme Court, served on numerous indigent defense initiatives, started legal clinics focused on indigent defense at more than one law school, written articles stressing the importance of indigent defense, and to this day, remains in his office late on many nights writing pro bono habeas petitions and briefs for indigent defendants.”


Prof. Jacob’s contributions to improving indigent defense services in America are too many to list. In the 1960s, as a Professor at the Emory University School of Law, he established the Legal Assistance for Inmates Program at the Atlanta Penitentiary. Later, as a member of the faculty at Harvard Law School, Prof. Jacob contributed to the establishment of the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project, an initiative through which students at Harvard Law provided legal services to indigent defendants. Prof. Jacob has written prolifically on the subject of indigent defense and in 2009 he made major contributions to the 2009 Report of the National Right to Counsel Committee.


Prof. Jacob regularly provides pro bono representation to indigent defendants. Prof. Joan Catherine Bohl, who has worked with Prof. Jacob on these cases, admired his dedication to his clients: “I have sat with him in his office while he patiently explains an inmate’s case to the inmate by telephone, often for an hour or more. He never gives over-simplified explanations, but he always seems to leave the inmate with a heightened understanding of his situation, and of the range of possible outcomes.”


In notifying Professor Jacob of the award, NACDL president Steve Benjamin said: “You have devoted your career to making the right to counsel a reality in courts across the country and we feel that it is particularly appropriate to recognize your steadfast advocacy on behalf of indigent defendants on the 50th anniversary of the Gideon decision.”


Presently, Bruce Jacob teaches at Stetson University in courses involving administrative law, constitutional law, criminal law, and criminal procedure.




The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing.  A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL’s approximately 10,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system. 

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