Duval County Judge and Florida Coastal School of Law adjunct professor Roberto Arias received the Justice Raymond Ehrlich Award on Feb. 7 from the school's Student Bar Association.
Arias became the sixth recipient of the award, joining Holland & Knight partner Buddy Schulz, U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Gerald Tjoflat, Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince and Terrell Hogan attorney Wayne Hogan.
The award is presented by the association to a local judge or attorney who embodies professionalism, humanitarianism and integrity in the Jacksonville community.
Arias attributed his involvement with Coastal and mentoring students and lawyers to the counsel he received from attorneys such as Chester Bedell, Mark Hulsey and Ed Austin. He also talked about the importance of admitting mistakes.
"Every day we as judges are asked to make decisions and practice extreme patience. During my 17 and a half years on the bench, on occasion when I felt I have let myself down in respect to the expectations that the Bar has for (judges), I have called a lawyer to clear the air," said Arias.
Members of the Ehrlich family attended the ceremony and talked of the tradition that has been created by the award.
"He would have been proud that his memory is being kept alive through the award. Then you see the people that have been selected for the award. He would have been very pleased," said Gerald Bettman, Ehrlich's son.
Ehrlich was an attorney in Jacksonville from 1946 until his appointment to the Florida Supreme Court in 1981 by Gov. Bob Graham. During his time as chief justice from 1988-90, he oversaw a renovation and expansion of the Supreme Court building and released a major study of gender bias in the Florida legal system that led to reforms in the law and legal culture affecting women.
Upon reaching mandatory retirement age in January 1991, Ehrlich left the Florida Supreme Court and returned to Jacksonville to practice law as a partner with Holland & Knight.
Members of the association said they saw the nomination as a fitting tribute to the award's namesake.
"It's very important to the Student Bar Association, it's very important to our students and it's important to our legal community to recognize those who mentor us as students," said Kristen Sinnott, association internal vice president.
Arias has served on the bench since 1995. He has served as an assistant public defender for the 4th Judicial Circuit and has been in private practice and covered criminal and civil cases.
He received his Bachelor of Arts from Florida International University and his Juris Doctor from Ohio State University.