Lessons from Judge Yawn


Published: Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 12:21 a.m.
The passing of Judge Theron A. Yawn Jr. brought back many vivid memories to me. In May of 1975, I tried my first jury trial of what would become a 31-year career as a trial lawyer and judge. I was an assistant public defender then and Judge Yawn was the presiding circuit judge. For the professional lessons I learned from him, I shall be forever in his debt.
Judge Yawn served as a trial court judge for over five decades. He demonstrated that the best use of judicial power is restraint tempered by compassion and the courage to make unpopular, but legally correct decisions in difficult cases. He made clear that there were professional standards of conduct to which everyone would adhere while he was the presiding judge.
Lawyers stood when they addressed the court, the judge was addressed as "Your Honor" or "Sir," court proceedings began on time, litigants and lawyers were dressed appropriately and treated each other with courtesy and candor.
Judge Yawn was a master of both the written and spoken word and appreciated those lawyers whose positions for their clients were "boldly asserted and plausibly maintained." Professional praise on one's performance was hard earned and highly cherished. If you were lucky enough to hear it from Judge Yawn, it was usually delivered in one or two sentences without elaboration and was never considered to be insurance against future negative critiques.
As I attended his memorial service, I was reminded that of all things about a human being, only character endures. I often hear myself saying some of the same phrases which I had heard spoken by Judge Yawn. I am proud to be just one of the many beneficiaries of his professional legacy.
Victor L. Hulslander, County Court Judge, Gainesville

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