Justice Ben. F. Overton
Former Justice Ben F. Overton was the 62nd Justice on the Supreme Court. He served from 1974 to 1999.
He was the first Florida Supreme Court Justice to be selected under the merit selection process (effective January 1, 1973),which was designed to remove politics from Florida's judicial system and to improve the quality of the state's courts. He was appointed by Governor Reubin Askew on March 27, 1974, and retired on January 4, 1999.
He has been a judicial officer of this State for over thirty years and a Justice of the Supreme Court for over twenty years. He served as Chief Justice from 1976 to 1978 and, while Chief Justice, was a member of the Executive Council of the Conference of Chief Justices and was chair of the Conference's Special Committees on Cameras in the Courtroom and Judicial Education. The standards adopted by those two committees have now been implemented in most states.
Before his selection as a Justice, he served for nearly ten years as a circuit judge in both the civil and criminal divisions of the Sixth Judicial Circuit of the State of Florida, and was the chief judge of that circuit for three and one-half years. In 1973, he was chair of the Florida Conference of Circuit Judges.
Justice Overton has also been involved in a number of governmental, legal educational, bar, historical, and professional activities:
Chair, Florida Appellate Structure Commission, 1978-79. The majority of the Commission's eight recommendations to improve appellate courts became effective in 1980 by incorporation into the Florida Constitution, Florida Statutes, and Florida Supreme Court Rules.
Member, 1978 Florida Constitution Revision Commission; Chair of the Commission's Judiciary Committee.
Chair, Supreme Court Matrimonial Law Commission, 1981-86. The Commission's recommendations on mediation, arbitration and equitable distribution have been substantially adopted by the Florida Legislature and the Supreme Court.
Chair, Florida Family Courts Commission, 1990-91. The Commission's recommendations for the establishment of family court divisions are now being implemented.
Chair, the Supreme Court Article V Review Commission, 1984. Chair, the Judicial Council of Florida, 1985-89.
United States Delegate to Romania to assist the Constitutional Drafting Committee of the Romanian Parliament in drafting a proposed constitution, spending one week in Romania in November, 1990.
Legal Education Activities
Adjunct professor, 1971-74, Stetson University College of Law; subjects taught: advanced civil procedure and trial practice.
Adjunct professor, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, Florida State University College of Law; subjects taught: appellate procedure and practice and Florida constitutional law.
Chair, Florida Bar Continuing Legal Education Committee, 1971-74. Chair, Florida Court Education Council, 1977 to 1998. This Council is responsible for all judicial educational activities for the judiciary. While a circuit judge, Justice Overton served as chair of this Council's predecessor, the Florida Institute for the Judiciary, and was chair from 1971-74 of the Florida Bar CLE Program.
Faculty, National Judicial College, 1968-77; subjects taught -- judicial discretion and new developments in criminal law. Member of the board of directors of the National Judicial College, 1976-87; chair of the academic committee, 1978-87.
Chair, United States Constitution Bicentennial Commission of Florida, 1986-92. (The Commission helped institute programs about our Constitution that are still ongoing in middle and high schools throughout the state. The Commission also established an endowed graduate scholarship at the University of South Florida for teachers focusing on political science and constitutional issues in their graduate studies.)
Member, American Bar Association. As a member of the American Bar Association, Justice Overton has been involved in drafting standards for various areas of law, all of which have been approved by the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association. They include:
Chair, Subcommittee on Judicial Discipline (Drafted Standards for Judicial Discipline, which were approved by the House of Delegates in 1979).
Chair, Task Force on Mental Health Standards for Competency to Stand Trial (Standards approved by the House of Delegates in 1985).
Chair, Appellate Judges Conference Special Committee on Time Standards for Appellate Courts (Standards approved by the House of Delegates in 1987).
Chair, Task Force to Review Criminal Justice Standards on Trial and Discovery. (Trial standards were approved by the House of Delegates in August, 1993, and the discovery standards were approved in August, 1994).
Member, ABA Joint Committee on Professional Sanctions (Developed standards for imposing sanctions in lawyer discipline proceedings, which were approved by the House of Delegates in 1986).
Member, Executive Committee, Appellate Judges Conference, 1976-84.
Member, Standing Committee on Standards for Criminal Justice, 1977-85.
Member, Council of Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, 1986-89.
Member, Council on Alternative Dispute Resolution Section 1993 to present.
Fellow, American Bar Foundation.
Member, American Judicature Society, Board of Directors 1980-86, and Executive Committee 1980-83; secretary of the Society, 1981-83.
Honors and Awards
On June 23, 1995, Justice Overton was awarded the Tradition of Excellence Award by the General Practice Section of The Florida Bar. He also was honored in the Fall 1995 edition of FloridaLawyer magazine in an article entitled "Justice Overton: A Supreme Influence on Florida Law History."
He received the Florida Bar Medal of Honor Award in 1984 for improvements in the administration of justice in this State and the Guardian of the Constitution Award in 1992 for programs that were developed while he was Chair of the United States Constitution Bicentennial Commission of Florida. He also has been honored by being placed in the National Hall of Fame of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity in 1994, by having the University of Florida Law Review dedicate its September 1993 edition to him, and by receiving the St. Thomas More Award in 1978 from the Catholic Lawyers Guild, Archdiocese of Miami. He has received honorary doctor of law degrees from Stetson and Nova Universities.
Justice Overton was born on December 15, 1926, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He received a bachelor's degree in Business Administration in 1951 and a Juris Doctor degree in 1952 from the University of Florida. He received an LL.M. in Jurisprudence from the University of Virginia in 1984.
Member, Episcopal Church (served as lay reader, member of vestry, and senior warden); Member, Rotary Club; Retired Reserve Officer, Judge Advocate General Corps, U.S. Army.
Justice Overton and his late wife Marilyn were married June 9, 1951, and had three children, William H. Overton, Robert M. Overton, and Catherine Overton Mead.
Justice Overton retired from the Court on January 4, 1999. He died of complications from heart surgery on December 29, 2012, at Gainesville, Florida.