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Shakeup in Baltimore public defender's office includes retirement of chief after 16 years

The Baltimore Public Defender's office announced a shakeup this week, including the retirement of the top public defender, who has held the post for 16 years, and the reassignment of her deputy.

Elizabeth L. Julian became the district public defender for Baltimore in 1999, and served for a time as acting state public defender. She spent 31 years total with the public defender's office. In an email to staff, Maryland Public Defender Paul DeWolfe said Julian was retiring.

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"Libby's retirement marks the end of an era for District 1 and Baltimore City," DeWolfe wrote. "We are indebted to her service and commitment to the Office of the Public Defender."

Julian could not be reached for comment.

DeWolfe said Kirsten Downs, the deputy public defender for Montgomery County, has been appointed to replace Julian. Before moving to Montgomery, Downs was a District Court chief in Baltimore for the public defender's office and also worked as an assistant federal public defender.

Natalie Finegar, meanwhile, has been removed as the deputy public defender for Baltimore and put in charge of a newly formed unit overseeing misdemeanor cases in District Court and those that are appealed to Circuit Court, DeWolfe said. Her new title is "chief of vertical representation" and encompasses the former misdemeanor jury trial unit.

DeWolfe also announced the creation of a new initiative to track, oversee and litigate instances of police misconduct and discovery violations, "which is a prevalent problem in Baltimore City," he wrote.

Deborah Levi, an assistant public defender who recently led an effort to reveal the lengthy internal affairs file of Baltimore Police Sgt. Joseph Donato, was selected to lead the project, he said.

And Andrew Northrup will serve as the felony chief for the office. The position has been vacant since David Walsh-Little left for the federal public defender's office at the end of last year. Northrup has been an attorney in the office's forensic division since 2010.

DeWolfe told The Sun the moves were a "reorganization timed to coincide with Libby's retirement."

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