Hailed as “a judge’s judge,” C. Alan Lawson was formally sworn in Wednesday as a member of the Florida Supreme Court in a ceremony marked by high praise for Gov. Rick Scott’s first appointee to the seven-member panel.
Lawson, a veteran appellate judge who joined the state’s highest court on Dec. 31, represents the governor’s first opportunity to shape a liberal-leaning court whose majority has repeatedly frustrated conservative lawmakers and Scott over a variety of issues.
Scott tapped Lawson, 55, to replace Justice James E.C. Perry, who was forced to step down last year after reaching the constitutionally mandated retirement age.
The governor, who formally handed Lawson’s credentials to Chief Justice Jorge Labarga on Wednesday, called Lawson a “truly great man” who is “focused on defending the Constitution and strictly adhering to the rule of law.”
The appointment of Lawson, the state’s 86th Supreme Court justice, reduces the influence of the more liberal majority, which had been made up of Perry, Labarga and justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince.
As evidenced in several opinions since he joined the court, Lawson is likely to bolster the conservative-leaning minority comprising Charles Canady and Ricky Polston.
Lawson listed both justices as references on his application for the post.
During Wednesday’s investiture ceremony, Lawson was lauded by current and former colleagues on the bench, including Pariente and Canady, who said he first met Lawson 15 years ago when Canady served as general counsel for former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Canady said he told Bush at the time that he “had never interviewed a more impressive judicial candidate for any judicial position” and that Lawson’s strength as a judge has intensified since then.
“Alan’s contributions are recognized throughout the judiciary,” Canady said. “I do not believe there is a judge in the state who is more highly respected by his judicial colleagues.”
Lawson “comes as well prepared to do the work of a justice as anyone in the history of the Supreme Court,” Canady added.
A 1987 graduate of the Florida State University College of Law, Lawson most recently served as chief judge of the Daytona Beach-based 5th District Court of Appeal.