SEBRING — The theme of the 2014 Law Day was about the right to vote, a dear subject to Ricky Polston.
Voters should be mindful “of the sacrifices of those who came before us,” said Florida’s Supreme Court chief justice.
President Eisenhower designated the first Law Day in 1958, Polston said in his address at Sebring’s Jack Stroup Civic Center. Laws, Polston quoted the president, are the heart and the sinew of our nation. They distinguish us from nations that rule by might.
“Remember that this right to vote is the right to govern ourselves, to be ‘we the people,’” Polston said. Patriots have given their lives for freedom. “The least we can do to honor their sacrifice is to vote. It counts, not only for the candidates, but for our government to function, for us to live as ‘we the people.’”
The chief justice, who named a drove of Highlands County uncles and cousins, also spoke at length about Circuit Court Judge Olin Shinholser. “He is a remarkable judge, someone I’ve had the privilege to work with. I tried to convince him to do this speech himself. He said, ‘No, respectfully.’ I said, ‘I will introduce you.’ He said, ‘No, respectfully.’”
“He has a distinguished record of service,” Polston said. Shinholser became a circuit judge in 2002, but he has been a mentor and a mentor trainer to other judges, served on the domestic violence task force and with the Boy Scouts, and is an elder in his church.
“Over the last year he was the chair of the conference of circuit court judges,” Polston said. “They have the admiration and trust in Judge Shinholser of having him repeat another year, because of his extraordinary leadership. You will not hear it from him. He prefers to stay out of the spotlight; this makes him extremely effective.”
Heather Beato won the Judge Clifton M. Kelly Award. “She looks out for the needs of children,” said Circuit Court Judge Angela Cowden. “Works with them, teaches them, corrects them, gives them guidance.”
As the juvenile prosecutor at the state attorney’s office, Cowden said, Beato understands “the dichotomy between mercy and justice.”
The Law Day Award, presented by the Highlands County Bar Association, went to Election Supervisor Penny Ogg. As a child growing up in Michigan, Ogg loved to stay up on Election Day nights and listen to the results.
A new honor, the Judge J. David Langford Professional Award, went to David Lanier, who has practiced law in Avon Park for 61 years. Langford, who missed the presentation because he is on a cruise, is a former assistant state attorney, South Florida Community College attorney, county judge and circuit court judge.
Lanier, said Judge Peter Estrada, served in the Korean Conflict, and also as municipal court and small claim court judge. “He’s a great piano player, great cook, Sunday school teacher and scoutmaster.”
“Many of you are deserving of this,” Lanier held up the plaque, “but this one I’m going to keep.”
The Jani Branham Scholarship, said Highlands County Bar Association president Roberto Celaya, was named for a local lawyer and a champion of children.
“Those who knew her loved here,” Celaya said. The South Florida State College scholarship went to Thi Tran, who came here from Vietnam four years ago and has become a high school scholar.
“America is my second family,” Tran said. “Thank you so much for having me here. It’s my honor.”