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The Office of
Defense Services


Employees with the Office of Defense Services have been fortunate enough to receive a variety of local, state, and national honors over the years.

The office has twice been the recipient of the Governor’s Team Excellence Award and our Attorneys have been named among the top practitioners in their field of expertise, as well as recognized for their service to the community.

In April, Lisa Minutola, our Chief of Legal Services, was honored by the Delaware Center for Justice with the inaugural Stand Up for what is Right and Just (SURJ) Award. Lisa was recognized for her commitment to reforming Delaware’s juvenile justice system, as well as being a major player behind the success of several recent reforms, such as the prohibition of shackling juveniles, the expansion of the state’s juvenile expungement statute, and the creation of a civil citation program.

Photo of Lisa Minutola

Congratulations are in order for our own Chief of Legal Services, Lisa Minutola.

This month, Delaware Today Magazine has named Lisa the Top Lawyer in 2016 for juvenile law. As the attachment explains, Lisa was selected by her peers who practice juvenile law. This is a well-deserved honor and comes as no surprise for those of us who know Lisa and her work. For a number of years, Lisa has been at the forefront of juvenile justice reform in Delaware.

Her leadership and effective advocacy has led to meaningful reforms in various areas of juvenile law, including the right to counsel, getting rid of shackling, expungement and relief from sex offender registration.

Lisa’s commitment to juvenile justice has not only earned her recognition in Delaware, but on the national stage as well. Lisa has become a major player on the national juvenile justice stage. She is a frequent presenter at national conferences on juvenile law.

Congratulations Lisa. You deserve all the honors and recognition you’re getting. Well done. Keep up your good work.

Photo of Brian Bartley

Congratulations to our own Brian Bartley. On Wednesday, June 8th Superior Court President Judge Jan Jurden presented Brian an outstanding service award for his tireless work in at the Mental Health Court program. Since 2008 Brian has worked with Judge Jurden, DOJ, TASC and Probation & Parole to create and work the Mental Health Court. Brian has also maintained a great interest in this program and contributed to its growth and development. Brian’s work has benefitted hundreds and hundreds PDO clients over the last 8 years. Brian’s commitment of passion, dedication and energy has allowed his clients in this program to start new and better chapters in their lives. On behalf of the Office of Defense Services, congratulations and thank you Brian. Keep up your great work.

Photo of Lisa Schwind

On Friday June 3, 2016 University of Delaware honored our own Lisa Schwind as one of its 50 Stars in Nursing. UD’s nursing program is celebrating its 50th year and selected 50 alumni (out of 8000) in recognition of their leadership, innovation and vision for the profession of nursing and inspiring the next generations of Blue Hen Nurses.

The 50 Stars program honors UD’s most outstanding nursing alumni of the past 50 years. UD’s history of academic rigor, high-quality clinical experiences, and Blue Hen pride have been the pillars of UD Nursing’s success. This success is best measured by the impact UD Nursing’s alumni have had on the health of our neighbors, local communities, country, and global communities. UD Nursing alumni are pushing beyond bedside nursing as clinical leaders, researchers, educators, mentors, policymakers, innovators, and holistic health advocates for those most in need.

As we all know, Lisa is an Assistant Public Defender as well as a forensic nurse. Time and again she has been a valuable consultant to her lawyer colleagues dealing with all kinds of medical and forensic issues. Lisa has been at the forefront of forensic nursing for many years. Her combination of medical/forensic and legal issues has helped numerous indigent clients challenge the State’s evidence and enabled defense counsel to prepare and present favorable forensic evidence. Her contribution to our law practice has been fantastic.

Lisa, congratulations on receiving this lovely recognition from your alma mater. You are no doubt an outstanding alumna of UD Nursing and a most deserving recipient of this recognition.

Keep up your good work.

Photo of Marian Bhate holding the award

As we all know, Marian Bhate and her team (Jeff Moya, Jon Lora, Melissa Sage and Carl Wilson) do a great job in handling all our IT stuff. Under Marian’s leadership, our IT team keeps our operation going. Without them, we’d be sunk. Our IT team gives us great service coupled with an upbeat, can-do attitude. Among other things, Marian and her crew keep us current with the latest in information management technology, have created and maintain the PD and OCC databases, have been instrumental in getting OCC’s “Defender Data” software in place and functioning. And as many of us know from personal experience, Marian and each of her team members are always enthusiastic helpers when we get lost in the tech world. When we’re stymied by our computers, all we need to do is call Marian (or Jeff, Jon, Melissa or Carl) and help is on the way, with a smile.

It’s good to know that we’re not the only people who recognize the value that Marian and her team bring to the table. Today, Delaware’s Department of Technology and Information (DTI) honored Marian with their “Together We’re Better Award”. DTI named Marian as one of only 3 honorees statewide. DTI presents the award to persons whose work makes Delaware a better place for all of us. Marian is certainly a most deserving recipient. She and her team have earned this lovely recognition.

Congratulations Marian and to your whole team. Thank you for all you do. Keep up your good work.

Photo of Santino Ceccotti and former Delaware Governor Jack Markell

Governor’s Team Excellence Award

In December 2014, the Improving Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities Workgroup team (a.k.a. NGA Initiative workgroup) was nominated for the Governor’s Team Excellence Award. Santino Ceccotti, Assistant Public Defender in the Appellate Unit, was an integral part of this team. The Public Defender’s Office is proud to report that Santino and the rest of his team were selected as the 2014 award recipients!

The selection committee evaluated 19 team nominations for this award representing the outstanding work of over 250 State employees from 12 different agencies. The selection team had the challenging task of deciding which teams deserved special recognition, but ultimately, they selected this team as the recipient. A ceremony was be held on March 25, 2015 where the Governor presented the team members with an award in recognition of their achievement.

The PDO is proud to announce that Lydia S. Cox, APD in the NCC Family Court Unit, was appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Delaware State Advisory Committee. For more information, please read the press release. Congratulations Lydia!

Photo of Santino Ceccotti, Assistant Public Defender

Delaware State Bar Association’s Profile in Courage Award

On April, at the Law Day Luncheon at the Hotel DuPont, the Delaware State Bar Association (D.S.B.A.) presented Assistant Public Defender, Santino Ceccotti, with its Profile in Courage Award.He is only the second person to receive this award. An excerpt from the nomination letter explains why he is so deserving of this award.

Santino joined the Delaware Public Defender’s Office as an Assistant Public Defender in December 2007. Since coming on board Santino has been a shining light in our Appellate Unit. Santino immediately became proficient in preparing and filing briefs and making oral arguments in criminal appeals before the Delaware Supreme Court. By the quality of his written and oral advocacy, Santino has earned the confidence of his clients, the respect of his colleagues and well-deserved credibility with the Court. By all accounts, Santino practices appellate law at the highest level.

However, the most amazing thing about Santino is what he’s overcome to achieve his high level of professional success. Santino suffers from a disabling condition which leaves him wheelchair-bound and very limited in what he can do physically.

Although Santino can engage in conversation, operate his motorized wheelchair and read and finger type on a computer with adaptive devices, he cannot move his arms or legs. Simply put, Santino’s physical disabilities are profoundly limiting. Notwithstanding his physical limitations, Santino’s work ethic, his commitment to his clients and his keen legal mind enable Santino to “stand up” for his clients. Santino’s success as an advocate, often overcoming such daunting physical challenges serves as an inspiration to all who know him. In his time in the Public Defender’s Office, Santino has never once complained about his situation. He is always upbeat, enthusiastic and fully engaged with his work and his co-workers.

We in the Public Defender’s Office are thrilled to count Santino as a colleague and a friend. He is not only an excellent lawyer but also a person who inspires us all and makes us all better. Each of us who witness Santino’s daily accomplishments says to himself or herself, “If Santino can do this, so can I. Santino has every reason to complain and doesn’t. He presses forward every day continuing to turn out excellent work. I’ve got to do at least as well.”

In summary, Santino is the embodiment of courage. He overcomes huge obstacles every day to defend his clients. By doing so, he not only excels at the business of lawyering, he inspires all of us who work with him.

For these reasons, Santino would be a most deserving recipient of the Profiles in Courage Award.

Judge Andrea Rocanelli presented the award to Santino, highlighting his many accomplishments. When Judge Rocanelli called Santino to accept his award, the crowd gave Santino a standing ovation from the crowd which included many of this colleagues from the Public Defender’s Office. In addition, Judge Rocanelli presented Santino’s mother, Liliana Cecconti, with an Extraordinary Service Award. Liliana was surprised and moved to tears. Congratulations to Santino for not only for his great achievements as evidence by this award but for example he provides to his colleagues and clients every day.

Delaware Award for Excellence and Commitment in State Service

On May 8, 2014, the ceremony for the Delaware Award for Excellence and Commitment in State Service was held at the Delaware Technical and Community College in Dover. Two Public Defender employees were honored. Carl Wilson was honored as Employee of the Year for the office for 2013. His award was for the “Innovative Idea” category. Carl is the IT Trainer and trains every new employee on the office’s computer systems. He also provides ongoing training and technical problem-solving. Penny Wood was honored with an award for heroism. Penny is a paralegal in our Kent office. One day she encountered a client in the lobby who was having a seizure. She calmly assisted the client until help could arrive.

Photo of Carl Wilson holding an award standing next to Governor Jack Markell and others
Photo of Penny Wood holding the award surrounded by Governor Jack Markell and others

Congratulations to both Carl and Penny. You exemplify the best qualities of the Public Defender’s Office and its employees!

Photo of Brendan O'Neill, Public Defender

Delaware State Bar Association’s Government Service Award

Senior counsel in the Office of the Public Defender is pleased to announce that Public Defender, Brendan O’Neill, was awarded the Delaware Bar Association’s Government Service Award on December 6, 2011. This award is presented to an individual in recognition of their dedicated and distinguished contribution to the administration of justice. Mr. O’Neill was nominated for this prestigious award by one of his colleagues and the following is an excerpt from her nomination letter to the DSBA:

Earlier this week, the News Journal cited the Office of the Public Defender as one of the top places to work in our state (rank of 11 in the midsize employer category). Our office was the only government agency to attain a “top place to work ” ranking. Much of the credit can be attributed to Brendan, who is much admired as a role model and mentor for many of the attorneys. The Office of the Public Defender is charged with the responsibility of handling indigent criminal cases in Delaware. These cases include capital litigation matters (death penalty cases).

Brendan has distinguished himself as a manager for a variety of reasons, but his willingness to take on the most difficult cases is probably the most remarkable. He has a reputation for picking up the most time-consuming cases that often involve the most high-maintenance clients. He has been known to visit clients every single day at the prison in death penalty cases. Simply put, he doesn’t ask his attorneys to handle matters that he himself would not handle. His attitude and work ethic inspire his attorneys and staff to strive for the best outcomes for our clients.

Public defenders are not always popular or held in high esteem. At one time or another, all of the attorneys in our office have been asked: “How can you represent such people?” None of the lawyers in the Office of the Public Defender are “pro-crime” or “anti-law enforcement.” Rather, we all believe in the Right to Counsel and we try to provide the best representation possible to our clients. Brendan makes us feel like our contributions are important and valuable. He likes to catch people doing things right and is generous with praise and credit when appropriate. He leads by example. In addition, he manages to accomplish all of these things with grace and a sense of humor. As such, there is great camaraderie and high morale within the office as a result of Brendan’s remarkable service to our state.

Photo of MaryBeth McDermott holding the Governor's Award for Excellence and Commitment in State Service

Office of the Public Defender nomination for the Governor’s Award for Excellence and Commitment in State Service – Mary Beth McDermott

Mary Beth McDermott is the Support Services Administrator for the Public Defender’s Office but takes on many roles that are outside of the scope of her title. In many ways, she is truly the heart and soul of the office.

Mary Beth has worked for the State for nearly 35 years and for the Delaware Public Defender’s Office for 30 years. Mary Beth started with the State on February 8, 1977, with Family Court as a seasonal employee and held the position of Clerk Typist I. She became a full-time employee with Family Court in April 1977 and worked there until January 1981. She held the positions of Clerk Typist I, Clerk Typist II, Clerk Typist III, and Sr. Clerk Typist. She transferred to the Public Defender Office in January 1981 and rose through the ranks holding various positions including Typing Stenographic & Secretary, Sub-Professional Accounting Auditing, General Administrative Assistant II, and Administrator Officer 1. She was promoted to her present role as the Support Services Administrator in 1999.

For the most part, Mary Beth works behind the scenes skillfully and cheerfully handling all the details of the office’s budgeting process and all other financial details throughout the year. Without her, the office would not operate as smoothly as it does. The Public Defender’s Office is a well-organized and efficient agency, as well as a first-rate law firm, due in large part to Mary Beth’s continual guidance and assistance throughout her many years of service. She has provided this service with great skill and genuine humility.

In addition to her financial duties, she handles many of the human resource matters for the office, staying current on all changes and disseminating that information to the employees. Unit supervisors routinely look to her for assistance with rotating secretarial assignments, adding new form letters, codes or other improvements to the Public Defender’s Database, addressing personnel issues with staff, answering questions regarding medical/health issues, entering and calculating annual and sick leave, and ordering or servicing office equipment.

Mary Beth is never too busy to assist anyone who calls, e-mails or just walks into her office with a question. She will respond even when she is on vacation or sick leave (which she rarely takes) and will stop whatever she is doing to assist a fellow employee. She has a wealth of institutional knowledge about both the Public Defender’s Office specifically and state policies and procedures generally. On the rare occasion when she is unsure of the answer, she will not stop until she finds the correct information.

The bottom line is that recognition for Mary Beth McDermott is long overdue. She is a big shot who never acts like one. She looks out for the best interests of the office and the employees who are privileged to work with her, while never seeking any personal credit. She may be the best-kept secret in the State of Delaware. It is time for the State to get to know and honor her.

Governor’s Team Excellence Award

On March 18, 2011, the New Castle County Superior Court Mental Health Court team was awarded the 2010 Governor’s Team Excellence Award by Governor Jack Markell. The Governor’s Team Excellence Award is presented annually to a team of six to twenty state employees that exhibits qualities of a high functioning team that uses innovation and ingenuity resulting in cost savings and operational efficiencies. Consistent with Governor Markell’s priority for a more efficient and effective government, employees and agencies are encouraged to work together for improved customer service, improved work processes, innovative service delivery and ways of doing business, and cost savings. The New Castle County Superior Court Mental Health Court is a post-disposition court for individuals on probation who experience mental health issues that may affect their ability to successfully complete probation. Through this program focuses on treatment that addresses mental health needs and monitors progress through regularly scheduled status conferences with Judge Jan Jurden. The Public Defender’s Office, along with other partner agencies such as the Superior Court, Probation and Parole, DHSS and the Department of Justice, were recognized as agencies that contributed to the development and continued operation of this program. The governor also recognized individual team members for their contributions including, Brian Bartley, Assistant Public Defender, who is assigned to handle cases on the Superior Court Mental Health Court calendar.

Jennie Faulkner, our paralegal at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institute (HRYCI), was again recognized by HRYCI and its partner agencies. On 2/22/11, Jennie received a certificate of appreciation from the MHM Services which runs the pre-trial drug treatment program at HRYCI at their employee recognition luncheon. Then, on 3/9/11, she was awarded a certificate of excellence by HYRCI at the monthly employee recognition gathering. Congratulations to Jennie. The accolades are well deserved.

The American College of Trial Lawyers recently nominated New Castle County Superior Court trial attorney, Ferris Wharton, for induction as a Fellow of the College. According to their website, the American College of Trial Lawyers is composed of the best of the trial bar from the United States and Canada and is widely considered to be the premier professional trial organization in America. Founded in 1950, the College is dedicated to maintaining and improving the standards of trial practice, the administration of justice and the ethics of the profession. Through its Board of Regents, its general committees and its state and province committees, the College engages in a wide variety of activities to further those purposes. Fellowship is extended only by invitation, after careful investigation, to those experienced trial lawyers who have mastered the art of advocacy and whose professional careers have been marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism, civility and collegiality. Although there are currently more than 5,700 Fellows across the U.S.and Canada, membership can never be more than 1% of the total lawyer population of any state or province. Qualified lawyers are called to Fellowship in the College from all branches of trial practice. They are selected from among advocates who represent plaintiffs or defendants in civil proceedings of all types, as well as prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers. The College is thus able to speak with a balanced voice on important issues affecting the administration of justice.

This is a well-deserved honor for both Ferris and the Public Defender’s Office. Ferris joins Public Defender, J. Brendan O’Neill who is also a member of the College. Congratulations Ferris. You have set an excellent example of professionalism for all fellow Assistant Public Defenders to follow.

Kester Crosse was honored on October 6, 2010, at a celebration at the Baby Grand Opera House on Market Street in Wilmington, Delaware. Mr. Crosse is a trial attorney in the New Castle County Superior Court Unit with over 30 years of experience. Our Youth, Inc. recognized Mr. Crosse and other prominent Delawareans, including Court of Common Pleas Chief Judge Alex Smalls and Superior Court Judge Charles Toliver, for their lifelong service to the young people of our community. Our Youth, Inc. is a “teaching, training, and empowering ” center for “at-risk ” youth in the City of Wilmington. Congratulations to Kester Crosse on his well-deserved award.

Photo of Jennie Faulkner, paralegal

Jennie Faulkner, a paralegal at our Howard R. Young office, was nominated for and awarded the Employee of the Month Award for May 2010 by the Warden’s Office in conjunction with the Employees Fund Committee. She was commended for doing a job well done and going above and beyond her normal job duties. What is most remarkable is the fact that Jennie is a Public Defender employee and not a Department of Corrections employee and yet was awarded a Department of Corrections honor. Apparently, the Department of Corrections has recognized what we knew all along, Jennie is a treasure.

In her role at Howard R. Young, Jennie has for years assisted inmates in resolving issues related to sentence calculations and release dates. Most recently, she has taken on the role of coordinating and resolving statewide issues for our office with the Department of Corrections Central Records Division. She is known throughout our office, and now apparently, throughout the state corrections system, as the “go-to person ” when an inmate has a question regarding their incarceration status.

It is a well-deserved honor for Jennie. Keep up the good work and make sure that the Department of Corrections knows that we are not giving you up!

Public Defender’s Office Ties for 1st 2009 Charitable Campaign

The Public Defender’s Office tied with Delaware Economic Development Office for first place in the category of the largest contributing agency for the 2009 State Employee Charitable Campaign. 147 Public Defender Employees (60 percent) contributed to the campaign. To read more on the 2009 State Employee Charitable Campaign, please follow this link,

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