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Foundation honors two lawyers, one non-lawyer with 2020 Medal of Honor

The Honorable Peter T. Fay, the Honorable James Lawrence King and Dr. Mimi Graham have been selected as recipients of The Florida Bar Foundation’s 2020 Medal of Honor Award, the Foundation’s highest honor.

Judge Peter T. Fay

Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Peter T. Fay of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (Photographer: Ana Rodriguez-Soto)

Hon. Peter T. Fay and Hon. James Lawrence King
Fay, a senior U.S. circuit judge of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and King, a senior judge for the Southern District of Florida, are being honored as co-recipients of this year’s Medal of Honor for a Lawyer. They were selected for their extreme professionalism, dedication to the judiciary, nonstop work ethic, and devotion to justice during a combined 100 years of judicial service.

“Both judges have exemplified the highest ideals and aspirations of our profession,” wrote Paul C. Huck, a district judge for the Southern District of Florida, in his joint nomination of Fay and King. “For decades, each has devoted his professional life to service to the public, and the law profession in particular, to improve the administration of justice, and to advance the aspirational goals of our profession. I cannot think of two human beings, not to mention judges, who are more deserving of this award.”

Fay and King followed similar life paths on their way to the judiciary. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Fay earned his juris doctorate from the University of Florida in 1956. He worked as a trial lawyer in Miami until 1970. King also graduated from the University of Florida’s law school and served as a Judge Advocate Officer (JAG) in the Air Force from 1953 to 1955. He then went on to work in private practice in Miami.

Judge King Headshot

Senior U.S. Judge James Lawrence King of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida

Judge Fay and Judge King took the Oath of Office as United States District Judges in a joint investiture ceremony on October 30, 1970.

Fay is the namesake of the Peter T. Fay Inn of Court at St. Thomas University School of Law and of the Peter T. Fay Jurist-in-Residence Program at the University of Florida, which brings judges to the law school annually for three to five days of classroom visits and informal discussions about the judicial process. He has served on the 11th Circuit Standing Education Committee as its chairman, on the Judicial Advisory Committee on the Codes of Conduct, and on multiple boards of directors and trustees.

King was honored in 1996 when the U.S. Courthouse in Miami was renamed the James Lawrence King Federal Justice Building. He has authored more than 1,020 reported decisions and sentenced more than 6,200 individuals in criminal cases. He has served as the chairman of the Implementation Committee on Admission of Attorneys to Federal Practice, as president of the 5th Circuit Judges Association and on many other committees.

“Judge Fay and Judge King have long been among the major foundations of South Florida’s legal profession,” wrote Alan T. Dimond and Stephen N. Zack, past presidents of The Florida Bar, in a letter of recommendation for Fay and King. “[They] have each been, and remain, South Florida’s ‘gold standard of judicial excellence’. Both have handled the most difficult and sensitive cases to come before our federal courts with brilliance and elegance.”

Judge Fay’s honors include The Florida Bar’s William M. Hoeveler Judicial Professionalism Award and the American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the 11th Circuit. Judge King’s honors include the Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award and an honorary Doctor of Humanities from St. Thomas University.

Dr. Mimi Graham

Dr. Mimi Graham

Dr. Mimi Graham, Director of the Florida State University Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy

Graham, director of Florida State University’s Center for Prevention and Early Intervention Policy, is being honored with the Medal of Honor for a Non-Lawyer for her dedicated efforts over the course of her career researching and promoting trauma-informed court programs. Since 1993, she has worked to tackle policy solutions to social problems during the critical period from pregnancy to age three.

“For over 15 years, Dr. Graham has worked tirelessly to amplify the Florida Supreme Court’s 2001 opinion to ‘identify services and craft solutions that are appropriate for long-term stability and that minimize the need for subsequent court action’ by infusing therapeutic jurisprudence in Florida’s courts, and by educating lawyers, judges, guardians ad litem and court staff regarding the science of trauma and trauma-informed practice,” wrote Paolo Annino, director of FSU’s Public Interest Law Center, in his nomination.

In 2005, Graham and colleague Barbara White created the FSU Young Parents Project, an intensive program that addressed the complex trauma needs of delinquency in court-involved pregnant and parenting teens. Proven outcomes of the program are reduced recidivism, fewer subsequent teen pregnancies and increased education. Several years later, Graham helped establish Florida’s Early Childhood Courts (ECCs), which optimize child safety and well-being while expediting permanency and breaking the multigenerational cycle of child abuse by infusing early childhood science, attachment research and mental health intervention in the courts. There are now 25 ECCs across Florida.

“Decisions involving the welfare of a child are some of the most challenging and consequential decisions a court can be called upon to make,” wrote Chief District Judge Mark E. Walker in a letter recommending Graham for the award. “An interaction with the justice system will have tremendous ramifications for a child throughout its life. Dr. Graham’s assistance to the court system has been transformative. Dr. Graham enabled the courts to more effectively grapple with the subtleties of juvenile development, mental health and trauma. As a result of her contribution, courts are better able to intervene early and effectively to prevent, or at least mitigate, the effects of traumatic situations on children.”

Graham cofounded the Florida Association for Infant Mental Health in 2002. In 2014, Graham was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court, where she educated judicial leaders about the link between early trauma and court involvement. She is a Fellow of Zero to Three National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, and she received the 2019 Voice for Children Award. She is also a recipient of the 2017 Florida Tax Watch Productivity Award for Early Childhood Court, and Legal Services of North Florida’s Children’s Advocate Award.

Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company is the Medal of Honor Awards Presenting Sponsor. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, The Florida Bar Foundation’s 44th Annual Reception and Dinner will be replaced by an award ceremony to be scheduled in the near future. Other major sponsors include Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney; Stephen Senn and Peterson Myers; The Florida Bar Foundation staff, and Carlton Fields.