HIllsborough Public Defender Julianne Holt to challenge new pretrial detention law

Julianne Holt
Hillsborough Public Defender Julianne Holt

Hillsborough Public Defender Julianne Holt plans to challenge a new state pre-trial detention law that she says has created “a tremendous, chaotic impact” on the local court system.

“There are some provisions in there we believe are really extraordinarily punitive in nature,” Holt said during an appearance Tuesday (Jan. 9, 2024) on WMNF WaveMakers with Janet & Tom.

The law, which took effect Jan. 1, is requiring many people who would otherwise have been released on bail to spend a night in jail in order to see a judge who will set the bail amount, Holt said. The result is that the jail population is going to grow unnecessarily. It also is increasing the workload of her office, the State Attorney’s Office and the judges by creating the need for hundreds of new court hearings each week, she said.

Holt, who has been public defender for 31 years, said she plans to take the lead in challenging the constitutionality of the law before she retires at year’s end.

Holt, who grew up in Tampa, was first elected in 1992 when she defeated incumbent Judge Lucky, who had served for 21 years. The Tampa Bay Times says Holt has “become a quiet but powerful player in local politics and a revered figure in the legal community.”

Holt worked closely with Democrat Andrew Warren, the elected Hillsborough state attorney who was suspended from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis and said she was not surprised he decided not to challenge Lopez for election this year for fear that DeSantis would simply suspend him again. She said she disagreed with the suspension but says she has developed a good working relationship with Lopez, a Republican. 

Holt was reelected with opposition in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Since then, she has been automatically reelected after no candidates challenged her. She is supporting Democrat Rocky Broncato, her chief of operations, in this year’s race for her job. Democrat Lisa McLean, a former attorney in Holt’s office, is also running. No Republican has yet filed.

Hear the entire conversation by clicking the link below, going to the WaveMakers archives or by searching for WMNF WaveMakers wherever you listen to podcasts


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