While there were many warm, wonderful and appropriate tributes for a remarkable public servant and a great lady at Janet Reno’s memorial service on Sunday, I wanted to pay an additional tribute to my friend and professional colleague. Aside from having dinner and spending the night in the old family home in Kendall when my home had to be tented, there was a significant, unrecognized experience that should be recorded among Janet’s many accomplishments.
During the late 1970s and early ’80s, when Janet was Miami-Dade state attorney and I was county manager, we collaborated with former Chief Judge Gerald Wetherington to form an informal Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. It was composed of all the leaders of what we considered the criminal justice chain. In addition to the three of us, it included Public Defender Bennett Brummer, the late County Clerk Richard Brinker, the president of the Miami-Dade Police Chief’s Association and the county and city of Miami police chiefs, and Fred Crawford, the director of the Miami-Dade Corrections Department.
We had one hard and fast rule: “No substitutes,” whereby none of the members could send a substitute. Our mission was to improve systems, procedures and communications among the members. We recognized that the organizations each of us served were critical links in the criminal-justice chain. Over time, each of our organizations faced shortages in manpower, revenue, etc.; whether it was not enough prosecutors, public defenders, police officers, judges or jail space, we worked together to address those critical needs.
The council was never publicized, but working together and in harmony over many years, we accomplished a lot, and I single out Janet Reno for her unwavering integrity and leadership, always — totally — in the public interest.
Merrett R. Stierheim,