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R. Fred Lewis

photo of R. Fred Lewis

R. Fred Lewis

Eminent Professor of Law and Letters,
Justice Supreme Court of Florida (retired)

Former Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, R. Fred Lewis (now retired) was appointed to the Supreme Court of Florida on December 7, 1998.

Justice Lewis came to Florida in 1965 to attend Florida Southern College in Lakeland, where he excelled in athletics and academics. He was elected president of the sophomore, junior, and senior classes, and received the highest honor in 1969 by being selected as the Honor Walk Student, which is awarded annually for the outstanding senior student for scholastic and service achievements.

He graduated from Florida Southern cum laude in 1969 and was awarded the NCAA Post-Graduate Grant as one of the top fifteen scholar athletes in the United States. He married his wife Judy, also a graduate of Florida Southern in 1969.

Upon graduating from college, Lewis moved to Miami to attend the University of Miami School of Law, where he graduated cum laude in 1972. He was third in his class, was a member of the University of Miami Law Review and was an officer in the Student Bar Association. Selected as a Justice of the Law School Honor Council, Lewis also served on the Appellate Moot Court Teams. He was selected for the Iron Arrow, the highest honor society, and was awarded membership in Bar and Gavel, and Order of Barristers.

As Chief Justice, he convened the first commission all branch mental health summit which developed and proposed a unified and comprehensive plan to address the increasing needs of the mentally ill and the intersection of mental illness and the justice system.

He also attempted to provide greater public access to justice for the disabled by mandating a survey and audit of all court facilities in Florida. While Chief Justice, Justice Lewis also instituted for the first time in Florida, a uniform high-level diversity training program for all Florida judges.

Justice Lewis has served as liaison to the Florida Board of Bar Examiners for 13 years where he has led the effort to require higher academic and character standards for applicants to the Florida Bar.

Selected as Florida's Citizen of the Year in 2001 by the Florida Council, Justice Lewis has been heavily involved in children's issues, serving as a member of the Board of Directors of Miami Children's Hospital and many of its committees and panels. While in private practice, he was heavily involved in providing counseling to families with children having impairments and provided pro bono legal services and counseling for cancer patients seeking proper treatment for multiple conditions. In 2001 he also received the "Everyday Hero" award for his outstanding contributions to community service in Florida.

In 2007, Justice Lewis was named Florida Jurist of the Year by the Florida Chapters of the American Board of Trial Advocates and selected for Florida's Children's Cabinet.

In June of 2008 Justice Lewis received the prestigious Florida Bar William M. Hoeveler Judicial Award representing the highest level of professionalism in the Florida judicial system.

In 2014, Justice Lewis received the Sandra Day O’Connor National Award for Advancements in Civic Education presented by the National Center for State Courts at the Conference of Chief Justices. Justice O’Connor presented the Award in West Virginia.

Today, Justice Lewis now serves as the Eminent Professor of Law and Letters at Florida Southern College. He is the founder of Justice Teaching which is now relocated to the Justice Teaching Center for Civic Learning. For additional information, contact justiceteaching@flsouthern.edu.