Florida’s Supreme Court marked the official installment of Justice Alan Lawson on Wednesday. The ceremony gave a rare glimpse into the most cloistered of our branches of government.
Justice Alan Lawson is a capital city native, graduating from Leon High School, Tallahassee Community College, and Florida State University. Governor Rick Scott appointed him to the state’s highest court in December 2016. And he’s considered a third conservative voice on the seven member bench. Lawson’s view of the justice system is shaped by his travels in Soviet Russia, China and Cuba.
“If you want to know if what we have is precious, think about history. And how most of the world’s population that’s ever taken a breath on this earth, has never taken a breath truly free,” Lawson said.
When Lawson visited Russia as a law student, the Soviet Constitution protected freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and assembly. But Lawson said the laws alone did not protect the Russian people. The Justice recalled listening to a speech by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on the importance of the checks and balance in the American system.
"He said, every ten horn dictator and every banana republic in the world today has a bill of rights. But without a constitution to prevent centralization of power to one person or one political party, the bill of rights can be ignored," Lawson relayed Scalia's stance.
He went on to say the division of powers between separate but equal branches of government is what protects the rule of law. Lawson’s installment comes at a moment when the relationship between the Legislature and the Judiciary is tense. House lawmakers want to pass term limits for judges, and create a way to overrule Supreme Court decisions.