Monday, September 24, 2012

Mileposts or "call me maybe?"

Life is full of mileposts. I was reminded of that this last week. "The only constant is change." That is not my quote, it has been credited to Isaac Asimov and Heraclitus of Ancient Greece, and others. I have watched the workers compensation adjudication system change over a couple of decades, and have made a living doing it. Early in my career I travelled little and was instead immersed in the microcosm of Jacksonville. As I ventured out to the panhandle, Daytona, Tallahassee, Gainesville, and eventually statewide, I was struck by how different things were in various districts. 

I found a mentor in Daytona Beach though. A judge who had patience with the exubance of a young litigator, who could be decisive without being harsh. A judge that followed the law and the rules, and before whom it was an honor to win or lose. I learned a great deal in those days from Tom Portuallo, and in retrospect I have learned much from him since. More on Judge Portuallo later. 

In July the OJCC lost our Senior Counsel Walter Havers to private practice and the lure of the big city. Walter had been with the OJCC for many years, and frankly seemed irreplaceable. Walter was the unsung hero of our efiling efforts, and a constant force in the management of the OJCC. 

We hired a new Counsel a few weeks back. Her name is Stephanie Hayes. She is an intelligent, enthusiastic, and articulate graduate of Florida State University's fine law school. On Tuesday this last week, like so many others, Stephanie learned that she had passed the Florida Bar Examination. We look forward to the translation of her intellect and enthusiasm into great things for the OJCC and our customers. Her excitement at learning she passed was refreshing, and I reflected Tuesday on how proud I was to join this profession some years ago. Have you reflected on that recently? 

On Thursday, I learned that Judge Lazzara, District Tallahassee, has agreed to teach workers' compensation at Florida State University. Judge Lazzara has been a mentor of mine for longer than I care to admit, and I know better than most his exceptional skill with teaching. I am proud to see him expanding his horizons with this new challenge. Judge Lazzara's excitement about this new frontier is likewise obvious. His enthusiasm at the prospect of challenging and developing legal scholars is inspiring. Have you thought recently about what you can do to expand your horizons? 

I received a call Friday evening as I drove across Interstate 10. Judge Portuallo calling to tell me he received a call from Governor Scott, and that he has been appointed to the Circuit bench. This is a great loss for the OJCC, and for me. I am simultaneously excited for Judge Portuallo, proud of his success, and worried that for the OJCC he is irreplaceable. 

Technically, I guess, no one is irreplaceable, but that does not mean replacing key people is easy for any organization. The Nominating Commission will meet next year, and three fine candidates will be sent to Governor Scott for his consideration. A new, excited, judge will take the bench in Daytona, and will do a great job as they grow into the responsibility as Judge Portuallo and so many others have. Just as our new Counsel Ms. Hayes will translate enthusiasm, excitement and hard work into replacing the irreplaceable Mr. Havers, some appointee will likewise grow into replacing the irreplaceable Judge Portuallo in Daytona. 

We wish the best of luck to Judge Portuallo, Judge Lazzara and Mr. Havers as they each challenge new horizons. We welcome Ms. Hayes to our OJCC team. And I ask you, will you be the one to step up to the challenge of replacing the irreplaceable Judge Portuallo? If I can answer your questions about this opportunity, the Daytona district, or the challenges of seeking and filling this position, "call me maybe?"

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