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Zedalis honored with Selig I. Goldin Memorial Award

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UF Law Dean Laura A. Rosenbury, Jennifer Zedalis, and Senior Judge Paul C. Huck.

UF Law Dean Laura A. Rosenbury, Jennifer Zedalis, and Senior Judge Paul C. Huck.

UF Law Professor Jennifer Zedalis, a legal scholar, popular teacher, and passionate defense lawyer who has dedicated most of her career to professional service, is the 2022 Selig I. Goldin Memorial Award winner.

A University of Florida Levin College of Law director of Trial Practice and Senior Legal Skills professor, Zedalis received the Criminal Law Section’s highest honor at a June 24 ceremony during the Bar’s Annual Convention in Orlando.

Zedalis thanked her friends and colleagues for traveling to the ceremony and said she was especially pleased that members of the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee were in the audience.

“I’m really, really honored to get this award and I appreciate all of you being here,” she said.

Zedalis said trial lawyers, like the award’s namesake, have to be “courageous and quick-thinking,” but they should always remember that every courtroom opponent is a potential lifelong friend.

“[I] try to impress on the students that the people on the other side of the courtroom, they are the ones you are going to go through weddings together with, funerals together with, that we are human, and you have to care about each other,” Zedalis said.

Outgoing Criminal Law Section Chair Jason Blank read from the award inscription before presenting it to Zedalis.

“Selig I. Goldin Memorial Award, Jennifer M. Zedalis, presented annually to a member of The Florida Bar for significant contribution to the criminal justice system of the State of Florida,” Blank said. “Congratulations!”

Selig Goldin is a former Gainesville attorney and Criminal Law Section Executive Council member who died of cancer in 1980 at the age of 41. Golden 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 biography.

In a glowing introduction of his longtime friend, Senior U.S. District Judge Paul Huck said Zedalis exemplifies Goldin’s spirit.

“Professor Zedalis really, really, cares about each of her students, just as I suspect that public defender — lawyer Zedalis — cared about each of her indigent defendants,” he said. “That’s just her nature.

A nearly 40-year member of The Florida Bar and a 20-year, full-time faculty member at UF Law, Zedalis is a former chair of the Criminal Law Section who served five terms on the executive council before taking ex officio status.

Huck noted that for the past 16 years, Zedalis has co-chaired the Gerald T. Bennett Public Defender/Prosecutor Trial Training Program.

“Jennifer has poured her heart and soul into that program, not to mention the enormous amount of time and effort,” he said. “By the way, the namesake of that program, Gerry Bennett, is a former Selig Goldin winner, and Jennifer, I believe, is a mentor to you.”

Huck recounted meeting Zedalis for the first time 14 years ago, when he visited the UF Law campus to judge a mock trial competition that featured Zedalis’ students.

“I have known many of Professor Zedalis’ former law students, some of whom have been my clerks, and I can attest to you that her former students absolutely love their Professor Zedalis,” Huck said. “They appreciate what she has done for them to make them the best trial lawyers that they can possibly be.”

An author and lecturer who has been qualified as an expert witness, Zedalis has been quoted by national and international news outlets, Huck said.

“However, as a truly unassuming, unsung hero, Jennifer is not a self-promoter, this is one of the characteristics that I most admire in her,” he said. “She does not do it for awards or fame, she does all she does for the improvement of our profession and the criminal bar in particular.”

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