From the Tallahassee Democrat-- | 02/02/06

Attorneys don't get rich as public defenders. But they enrich the lives of others.

That's how people remembered Doug Brinkmeyer, 56, after he died early Thursday morning after a yearlong battle with cancer. Brinkmeyer, a 1975 graduate of Florida State's law school, spent his entire professional career as a public defender. He also was deeply admired for his volunteer and community service.

Since 1981, he had worked in the Leon County Public Defender's Office as the head of the appellate division of the 2nd Judicial Circuit, which serves 32 counties.

He handled appeals for 75 to 100 convicted criminals a year, often winning changes in sentencing, reductions in charges and the occasional overturned conviction. He was considered one of the state's leading experts on criminal-defense law and was honored Thursday with a proclamation by the Florida Supreme Court, before which he appeared dozens of times.

"(Defense appellate attorneys) don't win often, but Doug won more than his share," said former Leon County Public Defender Michael Allen, a 1st District Court of Appeal judge, who hired Brinkmeyer. "Doug had a keen analytical mind and was very dedicated to public service. He held himself to high personal standards while, at the same time, he understood the shortcomings of others."

Brinkmeyer's dedication was such that he worked through last week and on Wednesday night was discussing pending cases with colleagues.

"Doug was the defense community's Ray Marky in terms of knowledge, expertise and respect," said Leon County Public Defender Nancy Daniels, referring to the recently deceased state and local prosecutor. "He impacted litigation that affected hundreds of criminal-defense lawyers."

Brinkmeyer was a native of Dayton, Ohio, and a graduate of the University of Cincinnati. After law school, he spent six years with the Polk County Public Defender's Office.

He was renowned for his dry wit: "He'd answer the phone by saying, 'Did you call me to concede?''' recalled longtime adversary Ed Hill, an appeals attorney with the state attorney general.

Brinkmeyer was an ardent volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, an international nonprofit organization that builds homes for low-income families. He helped build 34 of Habitat's 115 homes in Leon County, recruited new homeowners and lobbied affluent friends for financial contributions.

"One of the things you had to know about Doug was that he believed in Habitat, or you did not understand him," said Lou Armesto, the group's local executive director. "We're not only losing someone who hammered nails but someone who was a great ambassador for Habitat."

Brinkmeyer is survived by his childhood sweetheart and wife of 35 years, Robin, a fifth-grade teacher at Killearn Lakes Elementary, and by two adult daughters, Kristen, a Jacksonville auditor, and Jamie, a Tallahassee social worker.

The funeral is scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday at the Episcopal Church of the Advent, 815 Piedmont Drive.

Contact Gerald Ensley at (850) 599-2310 or

Originally published February 3, 2006




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