Public defender to go overseas

C. Richard Parker is retiring and will work in Afghanistan for a contractor.


C. Richard Parker, the longtime 8th Judicial Circuit Public Defender, is resigning to take a job as a consultant with a private firm working for the State Department in Afghanistan.

Karen Voyles/Staff
Published: Friday, October 1, 2010 at 10:47 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 1, 2010 at 3:51 p.m.

Longtime Public Defender C. Richard Parker announced Friday morning that he is retiring effective Nov. 30 to take a job with a private firm working with the U.S. State Department in Afghanistan.

Parker, 63, said he made the decision to step down from a job he was appointed to in 1984 and has been re-elected to ever since after seeing a job posting sent to the Florida Public Defenders Association. A private company under contract with the State Department, PAE Inc., was looking for experienced attorneys willing to spend at least a year in Afghanistan as criminal defense advisers.

Months earlier, the 8th Judicial Circuit public defender had hired as an investigator former Levy County Deputy Bobby Schultz, who had spent two years working in Afghanistan.

“He talked to me about what he had experienced over there and showed me pictures he brought back,” Parker said. “I also know that the government of Afghanistan is interested in nation building, and that was something I was interested in.”

The first person Parker talked to about his interest in the job was his wife, Kathryn (Conlon) Parker, the woman he met in the 1970s when she went to work for him in a law office.

“The first thing she said when I showed her the posting was ‘When does your plane leave?' ” Rick Parker said.

Kathy Parker said she really set down only one condition for her husband.

“We have raised our children, buried our parents, invested in our careers, and now every day is precious,” Kathy Parker said. “I told him, ‘You must promise you are not going to come home in a box.' ”

Among Parker's closest friends is Alan Parlapiano — godfather to the Parkers' adult son and daughter, the attorney whom Parker replaced as public defender, and Parker's outdoor adventure partner.

“I was not shocked — surprised somewhat — but not shocked knowing the adventures he and I have shared over the years,” Parlapiano said, “running fairly demanding whitewater rivers, diving some pretty exciting dives, climbing mountains.”

What Parlapiano expects Parker to take to his new job are skills he began developing as the son of a career Marine who emphasized the importance of public service.

“Rick's made an amazing choice — to plant the seeds of ideas of how to resolve disputes nonviolently — and we are all going to be well served by it,” Parlapiano said. “How many people would choose to go to Afghanistan in these circumstances? Not a lot. Rick's going because he has the desire to make a difference.”

The highest-profile case Parker has worked on was the defense of Danny Rolling, the man who was executed for the murder of five UF students. Rolling ultimately pleaded in the case and avoided going to trial.

“Of all the death penalty cases I have ever worked on, he (Rolling) is the only client who died,” Parker said. “I am extremely proud of the quality of work we did for him because we expected a great deal of scrutiny, but nothing we did was ever overturned, and nothing was ever even criticized” by an appellate court.

Rick and Kathy Parkers' two children, Rhett and Alison, were young during the Rolling case and shielded from it, as they were from so much of their father's work, Rhett Parker said.

“He kept his life partitioned from us, but I was always interested in what he did,” Rhett Parker said.

Both Rhett and his sister eventually decided to pursue legal careers. Rhett Parker is a senior at the Levin College of Law, ranked in the top 5 percent in the class of 2011. Alison Parker is in her second year at the New York Law School in New York City.

Parker's decision to leave his public office and work on the other side of the world rendered speechless a former courtroom opponent who is seldom at a loss for words: former State Attorney Rod Smith.

Parker contacted Smith a year ago to see if he would be willing to serve as a reference.

“I told him (Smith) I was considering going to Afghanistan, and there was a silence on the other end of the phone — a long silence,” Parker said. “Then he asked, ‘The Afghanistan where there is all the shooting?' ”

Smith, who agreed moments later to be a reference for Parker, said the silence was “reflective.”

“I was stunned. Our lives have overlapped during very important periods,” Smith said.

Parker has recommended that Stacy A. Scott be appointed as his replacement. However, it is up to the governor to make the replacement, and there are likely to be many applicants, Parker said.

Smith hired Scott for her first job out of law school.

“I hired her, and I am going to support her for the job,” said Smith, who is also a former state senator and is now a candidate for lieutenant governor.

Scott already has political ties to Tallahassee. Her father, Jim Scott, is a former Florida Senate president.

Stacy Scott's credentials include serving as an adjunct professor, intern director for the public defense clinic and trial team coach at the UF Levin College of Law.

She received both her 1992 undergraduate degree and her 1995 law degree at UF.

Her professional experience also includes stints in private practice and a total of 13 years with the Public Defender's Office. Scott currently serves in Parker's office as the county courts supervisor for Alachua County.

Whoever takes over the office will get a $150,077 annual salary and a $5 million annual budget to serve the six counties in the 8th Judicial Circuit: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties.

Court records show 22,000 cases are referred to the Public Defender's Office each year circuitwide, enough work to keep 35 attorneys and 33 other employees busy.

The agency has lost seven and a half positions since the fall of 2007 as part of the budget cutbacks, Parker said.



Months earlier, the 8th Judicial Circuit public defender had hired as an investigator former Levy County Deputy Bobby Schultz, who had spent two years working in Afghanistan.

"He talked to me about what he had experienced over there and showed me pictures he brought back," Parker said. "I also know that the government of Afghanistan is interested in nation building, and that was something I was interested in."

The first person Parker talked to about his interest in the job was his wife, Kathryn (Conlon) Parker, the woman he met in the 1970s when she went to work for him in a law office.

"The first thing she said when I showed her the posting was 'When does your plane leave,'" Rick Parker said.

Kathy Parker said she really set down only one condition for her husband.

"We have raised our children, buried our parents, invested in our careers, and now every day is precious," Kathy Parker said. "I told him 'You must promise you are not going to come home in a box.'"

Among Parker's closest friends is Alan Parlapiano -- godfather to the Parkers' adult son and daughter, the attorney Parker replaced as public defender, and Parker's outdoor adventure partner.

"I was not shocked -- surprised somewhat -- but not shocked knowing the adventures he and I have shared over the years," Parlapiano said, "running fairly demanding whitewater rivers, diving some pretty exciting dives, climbing mountains."

What Parlapiano expected Parker to take to his new job are skills he began developing as the son of a career Marine who emphasized the importance of public service.

"Rick's made an amazing choice -- to plant the seeds of ideas of how to resolve disputes nonviolently -- and we are all going to be well served by it," Parlapiano said. "How many people would choose to go to Afghanistan in these circumstances? Not a lot. Rick's going because he has the desire to make a difference."

The highest-profile case Parker has worked on was the defense of Danny Rolling, the man who was executed for the murder of five UF students. Rolling ultimately pleaded in the case and avoided going to trial.

"Of all the death penalty cases I have ever worked on, he (Rolling) is the only client who died," Parker said. "I am extremely proud of the quality of work we did for him because we expected a great deal of scrutiny, but nothing we did was ever overturned, and nothing was ever even criticized" by an appellate court.

Rick and Kathy Parkers' two children, Rhett and Alison, were young during the Rolling case and shielded from it as they were from so much of their father's work, Rhett Parker said.

"He kept his life partitioned from us, but I was always interested in what he did," Rhett Parker said.

Both Rhett and his sister Alison eventually decided to pursue legal careers. Rhett Parker is a senior at the Levin College of Law, ranked in the top 5 percent in the class of 2011. Alison Parker is in her second year at the New York Law School in New York City.

Parker's decision to leave his public office and work on the other side of the world rendered speechless a former courtroom opponent who is seldom at a loss for words, former State Attorney Rod Smith.

Parker contacted Smith a year ago to see if he would be willing to serve as a reference.

"I told him (Smith) I was considering going to Afghanistan, and there was a silence on the other end of the phone -- a long silence," Parker said. "Then he asked 'The Afghanistan where there is all the shooting?'"

Smith, who agreed moments later to be a reference for Parker, said the silence was "reflective."

"I was stunned. Our lives have overlapped during very important periods," Smith said.

Parker has recommended that Stacy A. Scott be appointed as his replacement. However, it is up to the governor to make the replacement, and there are likely to be many applicants, Parker said.

Smith hired Scott for her first job out of law school when he made her an assistant public defender.

"I hired her, and I am going to support her for the job," said Smith, who is also a former state senator and is now candidate for lieutenant governor.

Scott already has political ties to Tallahassee; her father, Jim Scott, is a former Florida Senate president.

Stacy Scott's credentials include serving as an adjunct professor, intern director for the public defense clinic and trial team coach at the Levin College of Law. She received both her 1992 undergraduate degree and her 1995 law degree at UF.

Her professional experience also includes stints in private practice and a total of 13 years with the public defender's office. Scott currently serves in Parker's office as the county courts supervisor for Alachua County.

Whoever takes over the office will get a $150,077 annual salary and a $5 million annual budget to serve the six counties in the 8th Judicial Circuit, including Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union counties.

Court records show 22,000 cases are referred to the public defender's office each year circuitwide, enough work to keep 35 attorneys and 33 other employees busy. The agency has lost 71/2 positions since the fall of 2007 as part of the budget cutbacks, Parker said.

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