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October 22, 2018

Of Counsel - Florida Law

Meet C. Alan Lawson, Florida's new Supreme Court Justice

Amy Keller | 2/27/2017

10 things to know about C. Alan Lawson ...

In December, Gov. Rick Scott appointed veteran appellate Judge C. Alan Lawson to replace retiring Justice James E.C. Perry on the Florida Supreme Court. Lawson brings considerable courtroom experience to the post, having presided over more than 6,300 felony cases, thousands of violation of probation matters and hundreds of post conviction matters during his career.

10 things to know about the new justice:

1- Lawson was both a page and messenger while growing up in Tallahassee and decided to make a run for an open seat in the Legislature while attending law school at FSU in 1986. He came in third out of six. In retrospect, he says he’s glad he lost. “It would have been a different pathway, and I was probably too young for that at the time.”

2 - While some judges delegate the drafting of legal opinions to law clerks, Lawson pens his own.

3 - When the 5th District Court of Appeal ruled in 2011 that a child can have two legally recognized mothers, Lawson disagreed. The highprofile case involved a custody battle between a lesbian couple who conceived a child when one woman provided a fertilized egg to the other, who carried the baby and gave birth. The couple’s relationship later deteriorated, and the birth mother left the country with the child and denied her ex-partner a relationship with the child. Lawson argued in his dissent that only the birth mother was entitled to custody and that the court shouldn’t recognize the other woman’s parental rights “unless we are also willing to invalidate laws prohibiting same-sex marriage, bigamy, polygamy or adult incestuous relationships on the same basis.” He also earned plaudits from conservatives for a 2015 opinion that upheld a temporary injunction barring Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando from performing abortions at a Kissimmee clinic.

4 - Lawson worked his way through undergrad as an emergency medical technician and continued to work as an EMT during law school.

5 - For years, Lawson and his wife have volunteered as missionaries in Honduras through various non-profits. During one of those trips, the couple met a 12-year-old Honduran girl with a congenital heart defect and arranged for her to have lifesaving surgery in Orlando. She lived with the judge and his family for almost a year while recovering and again several years later when she returned to the U.S. for additional treatment.

6 - From 1995 to 1996, Lawson served as secretary and general counsel of Verses Wear, a Tallahassee startup that produced Christian- themed T-shirts and other products. Lawson helped to start and run the company in exchange for an initial ownership interest, which he sold in 1996 when he returned to practicing law full-time.

7 - Having lobbied the Legislature for appellate court funding, Lawson knows first-hand the importance of having good relationships with legislators and the governor. While serving as a trial judge, Lawson invited then newly elected Republican Rep. Dean Cannon, who hadn’t spent much time in a criminal courtroom, to watch a violations of probation hearing day. “I just wanted to say, ‘Hey, this is how things work. You’re going to be probably dealing with appropriations, dealing with the justice system. What questions do you have?’ ” Lawson told the Judicial Nominating Commission.

8 - Lawson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in parks, recreation and tourism management with an emphasis in natural resource management, told the Orlando Sentinel in 2002 that he once considered a career as a park ranger at Yellowstone National Park.

9 - Like the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas, Lawson considers himself an “originalist,” meaning that he interprets the constitution based on the meaning when it was written. He also favors a “textualist” approach to interpreting the law, meaning he sticks to what’s written in the statute rather than turning to outside materials to discern statutory purpose or legislative intent.

10 - Lawson completed the Boston Marathon in 2008 in 3 hours and 41 minutes, placing 2,839th among his division of men aged 40 to 49.

C. Alan Lawson, 55

Family: Married since 1987 to Julie Carlton Lawson. They have two grown children: a son, Caleb, and a daughter, Leah.

Education: B.S., Clemson University (1983); J.D., Florida State University (1987)

Experience: Judge, 5th District Court of Appeal (2006-16); Circuit Judge, 9th Judicial Circuit (2002-05) ; Assistant County Attorney, Orange County (1997-2001); Associate and Partner, Steel Hector & Davis (1987-95)

Tags: Politics & Law, Of Counsel

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