Sun-Sentinel – June 12, 2017
Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes, Jr. seeks the top job
By Linda Trischitta, Staff writer
The 2020 elections are more than three years away, but one candidate in Broward County has already filed his fundraising paperwork in Tallahassee: Gordon H. Weekes, Jr., who wants to replace his boss Howard Finkelstein as Broward’s Public Defender.
Weekes launched his political career Wednesday, a career change that has been chatted about in courthouse hallways for the past year. So far, the Democrat is the lone contender for the job in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court.
“This is a big county,” Weekes said Friday. “I have to introduce myself to a lot of folks. I want to earn this job and that’s why I filed early, to meet people all across Broward County so they can get to know me.”
Weekes, 46, lives in Miramar with his wife, a healthcare professional, and their two children. He said his undergraduate degree is in air traffic control, from Florida Memorial University. In 1997, he earned his law degree from what is now called Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law.
After a dozen years of public service, Finkelstein, 63, is planning to step down after the 2020 election. If Weekes wins the election, he likely will have to manage about 37,000 cases a year, 110 attorneys and an almost equal number of staff.
“I knew I had to step up when Howard is thinking about retiring,” Weekes said. “I love this job and have never worked a day in my life because I love what I do.
“I want the criminal justice system to work properly and the only way to do that is with a strong public defender that can stand up and be a check and balance to the state attorney, the judges and the police,” Weekes said.
Finkelstein is breaking his long-time rule against endorsing candidates and is supporting Weekes, he said. He predicted that a lot of people will seek the job but said they won’t be as qualified.
“City commissioners and other politicos won’t have the same dedication to the poor that Gordon has demonstrated all his life,” Finkelstein said. “And it’s not because their heart is bad. But they’ve never shown up!
“While it is a political election, the truth is this office should be above and beyond politics,” Finkelstein said. “We are the safety net. There is nobody but us and if we focus on politics and power, poor people lose…The reason for the endorsement is about maintaining an office whose focus and mission is poor people.”
With the exception of one year as a private attorney when Weekes said he worked criminal defense, personal injury and employment discrimination cases, he has spent his career as an assistant public defender.
Weekes is most passionate about his work on behalf of youthful offenders and programs that divert them toward a straight path.
“I was a kid that had a lot of opportunities to go the wrong way, but there were good people in my life who steered me in the right direction,” Weekes said. “I think it’s important for all of us to remember what it was like to be a kid, to stand up, dust yourself off, get back in the game and do better.”
He said the day someone is arrested can be the worst one in his or her life.
“But that doesn’t mean they’re a horrible person,” Weekes said. “They can redeem themselves. If they get the right mix of punishment, rehabilitation and support from the community, they can get back in the game.”