Mark Sims will officially become the 14th Judicial Circuit Public Defender on January 3, 2017 when he is sworn into office at the Jackson County courthouse.
After Sims graduated from Marianna High School in 1985, he earned his associate degree from Chipola College. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from FSU and his law degree from the University of Miami Law School in 1995. Sims graduated in 1995 and immediately went to work June 1, 1995 for the state attorney’s office in the 14th Judicial Circuit. He remained there until 2008. In January of 2009, he began his tenure under Herman Laramore at the public defender’s office.
He initially was brought on to handle felony cases and then moved to capital cases. Four years ago, he was named as the chief assistant attorney.
Sims readily admits he is fortunate to have served with both with the state attorney’s office and the public defender’s office, “Being a prosecutor has definitely made me a better defense attorney. I think like a defense attorney and likewise I know how a prosecutor thinks.” Sims jokingly says, “And no doubt, it pays better.”
On a serious side, Sims says, “Both careers have been very satisfying. Whatever side I am on, I give a fair shake and I believe in everybody’s constitutional rights, them being treated fairly. Although I am not a perfect person, coming over to the other side, my general philosophy is I try to help people on both sides. You are dealing with people and not numbers and some people need to be punished and some people need to be helped. That’s the job of the state or government is to make sure everybody gets a fair shake.”
A question posed to Sims on numerous occasions is what changes do you anticipate making. Sims has a quick answer, “I am not making any changes. Herman has done a really good job, he has a well-oiled machine. He has great attorneys and some are looking to retire that we will have to replace but I am not looking to make any major changes. I want to keep quality representation and be a good steward of tax payers’ dollars.”
Sims is only the third public defender for the 14th Judicial Circuit. He replaces Herman Laramore who retires after 47 years of service. Laramore replaced Virgil Mayo who was the first public defender for the 14th Judicial Circuit.