In Memoriam Fall 2010

Judge Debre Bernes (JD 78) passed away July 20, 2010, at the age of 54 after suffering from cancer.

Judge Debra Barnes

Judge Debra Barnes

Bernes, of Marietta, Ga., was an appellate court judge in the Georgia Court of Appeals. She was first elected to the appellate court in 2004 and was a former Cobb County prosecutor.

Bernes had suffered from renal cancer for two years before her death.

Throughout her career, Bernes dedicated herself to serving a wide array of professional organizations. She served as president of the Cobb County Bar Association and as secretary of the Appellate Section of the State Bar of Georgia. She was a fellow of the Lawyers Foundation of Georgia, and was a member of the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers, the Cobb Justice Foundation, and the Lawyers Club of Atlanta.

Bernes played an active role in teaching and lecturing on a host of legal topics, including criminal law and appellate practice. She served as an instructor for the North Georgia Police Academy, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia, and the National District Attorney’s Association. She also was active in continuing legal education, having served as co-chair of several appellate advocacy seminars and chair of the Continuing Legal Education Committee for the Cobb County Bar Association.

In addition to her professional service, Bernes volunteered her time and energy to a broad spectrum of civic and charitable organizations. In 2004, the Y.W.C.A. of Northwest Georgia recognized her as a Woman of Achievement. She served as chair of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Public Safety Committee and on the boards of the Jewish Educational Loan Fund and the William Bremen Jewish Home.

In addition to her law degree, Bernes earned her undergraduate degree in education from the University of Florida. She was originally from Atlanta.

Bernes is survived by her husband Gary; daughter Lane, 26, of Manhattan, N.Y.; son Matthew, 23, of Cobb County; her parents Alvin and Sherry Halpern; her sister Gail Holzer; and her brothers Marty Halpern and Jay Halpern.

Warren M. Cason (JD 50) passed away July 15, 2010, at home in Tampa at the age of 85.

Warren M. Cason

Warren M. Cason

Cason’s support of education and his alma mater spanned many years and included his service as president of the UF Foundation, UF Alumni Association and Gator Boosters, chairman of the UF Law Center Association, special counsel to the UF president, a former director of the UF Athletic Association and a member of Florida Blue Key and the President’ s Council. In 1977 he was named a UF Distinguished Alumnus.

Cason served with a U.S. Navy underwater demolition team during World War II in the Pacific Theater.

He began his legal career with the Orlando firm of Pleus, Edwards & Rush. From 1952 to 1960, he was a partner in the Tampa firm of McEwen & Cason and then opened the law office of Cason & Henderson in 1961. In 1960, he was appointed by Gov. Farris Bryant to represent the West Coast of Florida as a member of the State Road Board (now the Florida Department of Transportation). Cason served as Hillsborough County Attorney from 1964 to 1973, and as Tampa City Attorney in 1978 and 1979.

In 1989, his firm Cason, Henderson & Baker merged with Holland & Knight where he became a senior partner and maintained an office there until his death.

Cason was extensively involved in the business community. He was a former chairman of Brandon State Bank, the Bank of Riverview, Sun Bank of Tampa Bay, and Liberty Federal Savings and Loan Association; and a former member of the boards of directors of SunBanks, Inc., Sun-Trust Banks, Inc., CUC International, Inc., Major Realty Company and Founders Life Assurance Company.

Cason is survived by his wife Dot; children Mary Lib Howell, Warren Cason Jr., Carey Gibson, and Melissa Cason-Kinney; sisters Betty Jo Rydell and June Bass; 12 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his brother Tom, and his sister Winifred “Sis” Cason.

Gerald A. Williams (JD 75) passed away May 25, 2010, at the age of 59. Williams was chief counsel to the School Board of Palm Beach County. Williams was born Oct. 9, 1950, in Pensacola.

Gerald A. Williams

Gerald A. Williams

While at the University of Florida, he served as president of the Black Law Student Association. He was a first-generation law student who made history as one of the pioneering African American graduates of UF Law.

In 1978, he joined Dade County Public Schools as assistant special counsel. In 1981, Williams and his law school classmate, J. Michael Haygood (JD 75), established Haygood & Williams, P.A. in West Palm Beach. In 1992, the firm merged with the Atlanta-based labor law firm of Mack & Bernstein to create Mack, Williams, Haygood & McLean, P.A., a national firm. Williams served as managing partner of Florida operations.

In 1997, Williams left private practice and returned to Dade County Public Schools where he served as chief labor counsel and chief officer of labor and legislative relations. Later, the School Board of Palm Beach County appointed him chief counsel, a position he held until May 2010.

Williams served in leadership positions on numerous professional and community boards, including the Executive Board of The Florida Bar Labor & Employment Section; The Florida Bar Committee on Judicial Independence; the Board of the Florida Lawyers’ Legal Insurance Corporation; and general counsel for the Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter of the National Bar Association.

To honor of his legacy, the Williams family and friends have established The Gerald A. Williams Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund for students at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, and pledged annual awards to the Virgil Hawkins Justice Foundation/Florida’s First Scholarship. To recognize his service to the School District of Palm Beach County, the School Board renamed the District legal department in his honor, the Gerald A. Williams, Esq. Office of Chief Counsel, and dedicated the Gerald A. Williams Esq. Law Academy at Palm Beach Lakes Community High School in West Palm Beach.

Williams is survived by his wife Carolyn Leggins Williams; children Monica Jerelle Williams (JD 01), Erica Karol Williams (JD 05), both of Tampa, and Gerald Alan Williams of Orlando; two brothers, Erven Williams of Powell, Tenn., and Levoyd Williams of Lauderdale Lakes; sister Deborah Mobley of Miami; and a granddaughter.