by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
The Florida Coastal School of Law Student Bar Association created its Justice Raymond Ehrlich Award five years ago to identify role models for its student body.
Its latest award was presented Friday. The primary criteria included “whether or not this person could be a role model for our students,” explained Jessica Sexton, internal vice president of the Florida Coastal Student Bar Association.
“The answer to that question is most definitely, ‘Yes,’” said Sexton.
The 2011 Justice Raymond Ehrlich Award was presented to Holland & Knight partner George “Buddy” Schulz Jr. Friday at the Main Library Downtown.
He is the fifth recipient of the award, following U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan, U.S. District Court of Appeals Judge Gerald Tjoflat, Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince and attorney Wayne Hogan of Terrell Hogan.
“I can’t tell you how difficult it is to express what I am feeling right now,” said Schulz, stepping to the podium after receiving a standing ovation for being named the Ehrlich Award winner.
“When Ray Ehrlich left the Florida Supreme Court, he came to Holland & Knight, and I had the joy of working side by side with him,” he said.
“All of you that knew him or studied him know that his primary interest in law was not the substance of the law, it was lawyers. He taught us a lot about law, but mostly he taught us about how to be a lawyer,” said Schulz.
Of those many years working with Ehrlich, Schulz had one memory that stood out above the rest.
“The day I remember is the one when he said to me, ‘Remember, your reputation is who people think you are. Your character is who you are,’” said Schulz.
“I suggest to you that whatever reputation I may have gained to cause you to recognize me like you have today in the name of my special friend is probably because of the influence and lessons I’ve learned from prominent people of character in my life,” said Schulz.
One of those people was his father. Schulz recalled a memory of his father inviting him, at 9 years old, to come with him to work shortly after his father became a judge. The moment that stood out occurred during lunch.
“All the way to the restaurant and all the way back, every few steps it seemed that somebody would say, ‘Good afternoon your honor. How are you, your honor,’” said Schulz.
“My father was constantly tipping his hat as we walked down the street. On the way home he asked me, ‘Bud, what did you learn today?’ I said, ‘I’m not sure. I’m still processing, but I do have one question. Why do they call you, ‘your honor?’” said Schulz.
“He said, ‘That is an address of respect. Not to me, but to the public office to which I‘ve been entrusted. And they will continue to pay respect to that office as long as I’m respectful to them and to the people who appear before me.’” recalled Schulz.
“He finished by saying something to the effect of, ‘There is no greater element in a society than mutual respect.’”