Oral history interview with Bruce Jacob, conducted by Victor Geminiani
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Oral history interview with Bruce Jacob, conducted by Victor Geminiani, July 9, 1993, on behalf of the NEJL Oral History Project. Oral History Collection, National Equal Justice Library, Special Collections, Georgetown Law Library.
Bruce Jacob argued the case on behalf of the State of Florida as a young Assistant Attorney General. In the oral history interview, Jacob recalled his extensive preparation for the case. Assisted by his wife, Jacob worked in the County law library until late at night, copying thousands of excerpts from cases on 4x6 cards. Jacobs also recalled the “brutal” oral argument in front of the Supreme Court. Reflecting on the case, and its profound impact on his life and career, he said that “Gideon was necessary.” After Florida adopted a public defender system following the Supreme Court decision, Jacobs volunteered and served as a special assistant public defender.
Bruce Jacob began his career in 1960 as an assistant attorney general of the State of Florida. There he represented the respondent in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963). He represented the State in 19 appeals before the Florida Supreme Court and District Courts of Appeal of Florida. Upon leaving that office he engaged in the private practice of law in Bartow and Lakeland, Fla., in the firm of Holland, Bevis & Smith, now Holland & Knight. After completing his LL.M. degree at Northwestern University, Professor Jacob joined the faculty of Emory University School of Law, where he established the Legal Assistance for Inmates Program (LAI Program) providing legal assistance to inmates of the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, GA. He was appointed by the Supreme Court as counsel for petitioner in Kaufman v. United States, 394 U.S. 217 (1969), and handled several appellate cases in federal courts, challenging prison rules and practices on constitutional grounds. While at the Harvard Law School, he served as research associate in the Center for Criminal Justice, was the co-founder of the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP), and supervised Harvard law students in the defense of criminal cases and in the representation of indigents in civil matters in the Community Legal Assistance Office, later Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services, Cambridge, Massachusetts. This was a Harvard University owned and operated legal services office. Professor Jacob subsequently served as professor and director of Clinical Programs, from 1971-78, at the Ohio State University College of Law, as dean and professor of the Mercer University School of Law from 1978-81 and as vice-president of Stetson University and dean of Stetson University College of Law from 1981-94. He was a member of the Constitution Project's "Blue Ribbon Panel" on indigent defense in the United States. In 2009 the panel issued its report, entitled "Justice Denied" America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel." In 2013 he was one of four persons presented with "Constitutional Champion" awards by the Constitution Project, in Washington, D.C. He received the 2013 "Champion of Indigent Defense Award" from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Also, in 2013 he received the Delano Stewart Award from the George Edgecomb Bar Association, Tampa, and the "Power 100 Award" from the organization, "On Being a Black Lawyer" of Washington, D.C. His publications include: Memories of and Reflections about Gideon v. Wainwright, 33 Stetson L. Rev. 181 (2003).The interview was conducted by Victor Geminiani on July 09, 1993, on behalf of the NEJL oral history project.Original video recording on VHS is housed in the NEJL. The interview is also available online in the mp4 and webm formats at: http://www.law.georgetown.edu/library/collections/nejl/gideon/index.cfmhttps://mediapilot.georgetown.edu/ssdcms/i.do?u=9d2ab5f8ab0d4e1 (mp4 for download)
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