Overton Takes Students on Field Trip to Florida Supreme Court
Many of Florida’s best known lawyers and judges help teach UFLaw classes each semester. Few are more illustrious than former Chief Justice Ben Overton (JD 52). He is not only renowned for his expertise in the law, he is beloved by students for his efforts to make the law interesting and “real.” Overton hosted a field trip last semester to the Florida Supreme Court as part of a UFLaw seminar he was teaching. Appointed by Governor Reubin Askew, Overton was the first Supreme Court Justice appointed under Florida’s merit-selection process, and served from 1974-99. “The Court has the responsibility to ensure Florida law is applied consistently,” Overton told students as he began his tour. “It sets policy in construing state law and determining whether government actions or statutes are unconstitutional, and it reviews all death-penalty cases.” He next took students to a conference room where Justices spend about 10 days a month in oddly shaped, burgundy-leather chairs discussing cases. “The rule is you can disagree up to the point of being disagreeable,” Overton said.“We had a collegial court the last few years and socialized together, because socializing with others was limited.” Overton showed students the videoconferencing center, which handles some first appearances, arraignments and depositions. “Considering travel costs, I expect videoconferencing to pay for itself many times over,” Overton said. Mike Love, the Court’s Information Technology Manager, noted Overton initiated the Court’s current technology and that Florida has been a model for many states. “Justice Overton foresaw technology’s role in the court system,” said Andy Adkins, Director of UF’s Legal Technology Institute. “He laid the foundations, bringing together those who knew technology and those who would use it.” Adkins, whose uncle was on the Court from 1969-87, is a technology consultant for courts statewide. “The field trip and seminar were incredible opportunities,” said Lex Taylor (3L), who gave a presentation on Florida’s 2002 constitutional amendments. At the conclusion of the trip, Overton’s wife, Marilynn, provided lunch in the Supreme Court breakroom, with Justices Barbara Pariente and Raoul Cantero joining the UF group. Pariente discussed Florida’s Unified Family Courts project and urged students to take family law classes.