Felman honored with 2023 Selig I. Goldin Memorial Award
Veteran Tampa attorney James E. Felman, the 2023 Selig I. Goldin Memorial Award recipient, is dedicated to “protecting the future of the adversarial system,” according to a colleague who has known him for years.
Criminal Law Section Executive Council member Harvey Sepler told a Boca Raton audience at a June 23 ceremony that Felman has earned “accolades” by every national and international ratings service.
“The recipient of this year’s award is truly a remarkable attorney,” Sepler said.
But the biggest reason Felman deserves the section’s highest honor was his tireless advocacy for “legal reform in the policy arena,” Sepler said.
“For example, he made extraordinary contributions to improve the administration of the criminal justice system, to protect the future of the adversarial system, and he has contributed to the advancement of the science of jurisprudence, by teaching, lecturing, and practicing law in a manner that sets the highest standard.”
Sepler noted that Felman has testified frequently before the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
A National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers board member, Felman chairs the group’s Task Force on First Step Act Implementation and the NACDL’s Task Force on Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 17(c) Review.
In addition, Felman chairs the ABA Criminal Justice Section’s Task Force on First Step Act Implementation and is a former ABA Criminal Justice Section chair.
Felman is also a founding member of the Steering Committee for Clemency Project 2014 and is a former co-chair of the Practitioner’s Advisory Group to the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
In brief remarks, Felman said he was honored to join the ranks of previous recipients, a list that includes former Florida Bar President Hank Coxe, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, and former Florida Supreme Court Justices Ben Overton and Gerald Kogan.
“These are people that I feel strongly about,” he said.
Fleman said he was honored to join a “small army” of volunteer lawyers who worked on the Obama Administration’s clemency reform project.
“We filed more than 3,000 clemency petitions,” he said. “Unfortunately, there were only 894 that were granted by the president.”
But the volunteers and advocates took comfort knowing that the program helped qualifying inmates “erase” years off their sentences, Felman said.
Felman urged his colleagues to join his effort to reform federal rules of criminal procedure so that defendants can get easier access to discovery.
“This is a battle we’ve got to fight,” he said. “I really appreciate this recognition.”
Earlier in the ceremony, Criminal Law Section Chair-elect Joseph Spataro said the ceremony took on added meaning this year because Michele and Morgan Stone, the daughter and granddaughter, respectively, of Selig Goldin, were in the audience.
“When you name an award after someone, and you find a good person to honor, you don’t change it,” he said. “At some point, years go by, and it becomes just a name. It’s important to learn the history and keep these names alive.”
A former Gainesville attorney and Criminal Law Section member, Goldin died of cancer in 1980 at the age of 41. He was a “man who would not turn away a client because they could not afford to pay, or because their case was unpopular,” according to a section biography.
Michele Stone told the audience she was young when her father died, but she still recalls his booming voice, towering frame, and his penchant for adorning the bottoms of his shoes with taps.
“You could see him coming, but first, you could hear him,” she quipped.
Stone said her father had countless admirers.
“Over the years, I just remember how dedicated he was to his practice, and how kind he was to everybody,” she said. “I just wish he would have lived longer to fulfill his dreams.”