State Attorney’s Office honors Rookies of the Year

Jennifer Braunstein and Jalisa Curtis, who joined the office in 2020, named “the cream of the crop.”

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  • | 12:00 a.m. June 2, 2023
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Flanked by past winners, State Attorney Melissa Nelson welcomes Jennifer Braunstein and Jalisa Curtis as the office’s 2022 Rookie of the Year recipients. The ceremony was held May 3 after the office’s annual office awards.
Flanked by past winners, State Attorney Melissa Nelson welcomes Jennifer Braunstein and Jalisa Curtis as the office’s 2022 Rookie of the Year recipients. The ceremony was held May 3 after the office’s annual office awards.
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The wooden plaque stands 3 feet by 2 feet, contains 43 names and spans 32 years.  

It features the names of judges, a future Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, prosecutors and others who have forged their own path in the private sector. 

Or, as U.S. District Judge Brian Davis puts it, the list of names on the State Attorney’s Office “Rookie of the Year” plaque contains “the cream of the crop” of the legal community, filled with those “of excellent reputation, stature, and contribution to this community.”

With more than half of the past winners in attendance, the rookie plaque was unveiled May 3 at a ceremony hosted by the office after its annual internal awards event.

Davis, the office’s chief assistant in 1991, credits his boss, former 4th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Harry Shorstein, with the idea of honoring members of a new prosecutorial class. 

“If you add recognition and competition, you have a rising tide that is going to make excellence the order of the day,” Davis told the group.

“I did not know it was such a good idea until I saw the list.”

Until recently the list was a bit of a mystery. There was no paper record, no detailed spreadsheet, no catalog of those who previously won “the most sought after and anticipated award we bestow,” according to State Attorney Melissa Nelson. 

There were only stories that began with “I remember …” or names mentioned that maybe, possibly, could have been among the past honors. 

“We thought it would be a pretty easy project,” Nelson said.  

It wasn’t, she told the group. Phone call after phone call, story after story, bit by bit the puzzle started to come together.

More than half of the State Attorney’s Office’s past Rookie of the Year winners attended a plaque-unveiling ceremony honoring the past and present for young prosecutorial excellence. Holding their awards are Jennifer Braunstein, left, and Jalisa Curtis, the office’s 2022 Rookie of the Year recipients.

Even fruitful conversations had their drawbacks, like the trip down memory lane with Circuit Judge John Guy. 

The good news? Guy confirmed he did win the award in 1994. 

The bad news? Guy confirmed the plaque he received read “4th Annual” — up until that point, he was thought to have been the initial winner. 

Eventually, the oral histories were turned into a written history in the form of the plaque unveiled May 3 along with another distinct disclosure: The latest entries for the prestigious honor.

The 2022 “Rookie of the Year” was awarded to assistant state attorneys Jennifer Braunstein and Jalisa Curtis, both of whom joined the office in the fall of 2020.

Braunstein is a University of Florida Levin College of Law graduate who serves in the Special Prosecution Division. 

“I felt incredibly honored to receive this award and be recognized among many past winners who were present,” Braunstein said.

“I am grateful for the opportunities and experiences provided by this office and look forward to what lies ahead in this everlasting pursuit of justice.”

Curtis received her law degree from the Howard University School of Law and serves in the Community Problem Response Unit. 

“This award means even more to me being a Jacksonville native,” said Curtis.

“It’s an honor I’ll have the rest of my career and I am humbled to be recognized and officially joining this elite group.” 

SAO Rookies of the Year

1991: James Hardee

1992: Tad Delegal and Scott Lippman

1993: Tom Bishop and Jeri O’Hara

1994: John Guy and Shauna Wright

1995: Tatiana Radi Salvador

1996: Steve Siegel

1997: Sheila Ross

1998: Mark Caliel and Dan Skinner

1999: Geddes Anderson

2000: Angela M. Cox

2001: Mose Floyd

2002: Rich Mantei

2003: Sam Garrison

2004: London Mahogany Kite

2005: Vanessa Newtson

2006: Nick Morcom and Didi Wells 

2007: Adam Urra

2008: Lara Mattina

2009: Joe Sonson and Alexis Sykes 

2010: David Thompson

2011: Anthony Salem

2012: Matt Polimeni

2013: Coreylyn Crawford Brown and Aaron Feuer

2014: Chris Huband and Brett Mereness

2015: Lauren Marie Anderson and Cole Sullivan

2016: Amanda Parker

2017: Christina Stifler

2018: Lair Hall

2019: Brooke Gasson

2020: Alexandra Fischer

2021: Sandra Brose and Jamie Cona

2022: Jennifer Braunstein and Jalisa Curtis



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