(WSVN) - 7News’ legal expert Howard Finkelstein is retiring from his other job as Broward County Public Defender, one he worked at for more than 15 years.

The public defender is the lawyer for those people who cannot afford one of their own and three candidates are stepping up to take over the role.

“I am from Broward County,” said candidate Ruby Lenora Green. “I am currently an assistant public defender working in the career criminal unit.”

Green has been a public defender for nearly 11 years.

Gordon Weekes has been on the job since 1997.

“I am the executive chief assistant public defender in the public defender’s office,” he said.

Also in the race is Former Judge Tom Lynch, who started his legal career as a public defender.

“I was hired right out of law school and spent four years there,” he said.

At a recent candidate forum on zoom, all three candidates talked about the need for change.

“I’m going to make sure that we have zealous advocates in the courtroom, and that will start by training,” said Green.

“I would absolutely require, immediately, that all lawyers in the public defender’s office, especially the supervisors and the chiefs, have caseloads,” said Lynch.

“We have to embrace technology where it exists,” said Weekes.

One big issue in the campaign is a recent audit showing the public defender’s office is owed $12 million in court fees from the clerk of courts.

“I am going to give the clerk 60 days for an order or I’ll file a lawsuit,” said Lynch.

All agreed that the money should be used to increase salaries for the lawyers and have the rest allocated to improving working conditions.

“We also need to improve our technology,” said Green.

“Make sure it’s being used adequately and effectively towards the representation of all our clients,” said Weekes.

A big complaint about the public defender’s office is the high turnover, which leaves defendants dealing with different lawyers throughout their case.

“Lawyers don’t stay at the public defender’s office, the morale is terrible there,” said Lynch.

Green echoed that sentiment about staff morale.

“Most of the lawyers or some of them truly believe that they are not valued at the office,” said Green.

Weekes, however, denied that morale is a problem and said that is not why lawyers are quitting.

“There are private firms, insurance companies and a host of other folks who are trying to recruit our very gifted and skilled attorneys,” said Weekes.

As an elected official, the public defender is part of setting community policy for a variety of issues.

All three candidates stated their ideas for programs they would like to see started.

“We need to advocate in providing jobs, second chance jobs, to people who have been incarcerated,” said Green.

“Right now, the public defenders office seems to be at war with the state attorney’s office as well as law enforcement and other players in the system,” said Lynch. “I am going to advocate cooperation between the players in the criminal justice system.”

“I will continue to focus on being a check and balance for any law enforcement officers that engage in misconduct,” said Weekes.

Things have changed drastically in the court system due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Whoever is chosen to lead the office will decide how they will move forward in the new normal.

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