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Who is Matt Shirk?

4:01 PM, Aug 29, 2013   |    comments
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  • Governor Rick Scott, Michelle Shirk and Matt Shirk
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Embattled public defender Matt Shirk is facing mounting pressure this week, following a series of unflattering news stories, and now calls for the Governor to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate his office.

Shirk himself has kept a low profile. According to coworkers and entry data from his key card, he hasn't been at work for more than a handful of days in the past two months.

But, who is Matt Shirk?

Born in 1973, he was raised in rural Illinois, where his father served as Republican County Chairman.

Divorced from his first wife in 2003, he married again in 2004 to Michelle Shirk, stepdaughter of former Jacksonville Undersheriff John Gordon. The couple has one young son, and the family attends First Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

Shirk's law degree is from Florida Coastal School of Law. His 2008 run for the public defender's seat was his first bid for public office. It was also the first time in 45-year history of that office that the public defender drew an opponent.

Shirk narrowly beat longtime Public Defender Bill White with 51 percent of the vote.

Before his election, Shirk was a relatively unknown in political and legal circles. But he had a strong backing from the local Republican party, the support of Sheriff John Rutherford and friend State Attorney Angela Corey.

RELATED STORY:  Scandal, Dismissals, Resignations in Public Defender's Office

Shirk campaign's website noted that he'd worked "under the direct tutelage of Angela Corey." Many regarded Shirk as her protégé. (How close were they? After he was elected, Shirk spokesperson Ron Mallett referred First Coast News' call for comment to Corey's office.)

Shortly after taking office, Shirk drew criticism for firing the Public Defender's most seasoned lawyers and many of those qualified to try death penalty cases. Shirk himself has never tried a death-penalty case or even a murder case.

When he was assigned as counsel for 12-year-old murder defendant Cristian Fernandez, a group of high profile criminal defense attorneys filed a motion to have him removed. Shirk eventually agreed step down as Fernandez's attorney.

Shirk's fiscal history is not uncluttered. In 2007, he was sued by the collection agency H.F.C. for failure to make payments on an outstanding credit card balance of $6,544. In 2006, Shirk received a summons regarding an outstanding debt of $13,537 to Bank of America, which the case was later dismissed by the plaintiff.

A property he jointly owns was foreclosed on in 2010, but was later dismissed.

Today, he makes $150,000 and manages a budget of $15 million.

First Coast News

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