Alan Lawson, Florida’s 86th Supreme Court justice, retires
Retiring Florida Supreme Court Justice Alan Lawson bid a heartfelt farewell to fellow justices, court administrators, and staff in an afternoon ceremony in the Court Rotunda on his final day in office.
Lawson called the occasion “bittersweet,” saying he will miss his colleagues but that he is also excited about the next chapter of his life.
“Public service at this level is an extraordinary sacrifice, it’s never not on your mind,” Lawson said. “And yet, that sacrifice, for those of us who have had the privilege of doing it, is self-rewarding because any time we serve beyond ourselves, the rewards just flow in.”
Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz, in a brief introduction, said Lawson showed an extraordinary dedication to the Florida Supreme Court, and the judiciary in general.
“We’re part of an institution that exists over time that is committed to certain ideals,” he said. “Everybody appreciates it to some extent, but there are some who appreciate it more than others, and I put Alan in the category.”
Lawson announced his retirement April 29, following a 21-year judicial career that reached its apex in 2016 when he was appointed Florida’s 86th Supreme Court justice.
Prior to that, Lawson served 11 years on the Fifth District Court of Appeal, including a year as chief judge, and four years as a Ninth Judicial Circuit judge in Orange and Osceola counties.
A 1987 Florida State University College of Law graduate and former Steel Hector & Davis associate and partner, Lawson also served a nearly four-year stint as assistant county attorney for Orange County.
His other professional service included chair of the District Court of Appeal Budget Commission and nine years on the Florida Courts Technology Commission.
Early in his legal career, Lawson became a test writer and grader for the Florida Board of Bar Examiners, and later served as the Supreme Court’s liaison to the board.
In addition to his judicial career, Lawson is widely known for his charitable pursuits, including work with impoverished communities in Central America. Lawson and his wife, Julie Carlton Lawson, made frequent trips to Honduras where they volunteered with Surgical and Medical Assistance Relief Teams, Hope for Honduras, and Mi Esperanza, to name just a few.
Muñiz said Lawson will be remembered as a deep thinker with interests that extend beyond legal theory, to math, science, and health, and as someone who lives the Christian faith he so readily espouses, especially through the kindness he shows to coworkers.
“It’s just very rewarding, and it’s just a great blessing to be able to work with colleagues like that,” Muñiz said. “I know that I treat people better because of the example that I see in Alan, and I’m sure that I speak for all of us on the court, and all of us here that are part of the court family.”
Reminding court staff that he is a student of Florida Supreme Court history, Lawson said he is convinced “this is the best court,” Florida has ever produced.
“Justice is the first order of any society,” said Lawson, quoting Thomas Jefferson, “and we know, if the courts do our job, our neighbors have a better life.”
Stressing that a person’s daily interaction with others is more important than their station in life, Lawson dug even deeper into history and quoted Pericles, the Greek politician and general.
“Our legacy is not what’s written in stone on our passing, but what is woven into the lives of others that we encounter along the way.”