INTRODUCTION OF THE HONORABLE WILLIAM M.
HOEVELER AS THE RECIPIENT OF THE “NED” DAVIS AWARD FOR JUDICIAL EXCELLENCE GIVEN BY THE FEDERAL BAR ASSOCIATION ON THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2011
Good Evening to everyone. It is a privilege to to be able to present the “Ned” Award for Judicial Excellence to my colleague and friend, the Honorable William M. Hoeveler. May I first take one moment to recognize Pat Davis. It is so good to see you. We all welcome you. Pat, I can almost see Ned sitting there, next to you, with one of those huge, wise grins, arms folded, and head cocked in that Judge Davis way. I can almost hear him saying, “Bill, I just wanted
to tell you tonight how pleased I am that you are getting this well-earned recognition in my name.” He would say, “you are a great friend to us all, a generous colleague, and an inspiration to judges, to lawyers and to the public alike. We are all so proud.” And it is true. The very name William M. Hoeveler generates in us strong, warm feelings and emotions. Bill Hoeveler brings out the best in us by simply being who he is. We want to do better and to be better when we are in his presence. Many have said so over the years. If you would indulge me for a few minutes, I would like to tell you what others have had to say.
The Miami Herald ran an article in 1991 entitled, “The Court’s Mister Clean.” I quote: “A biblical judge; a great boogie-woogie piano man. A heck of a nice guy. William M. Hoeveler wins unabashed praise from everyone-including the most famous defendant in his federal courtroom: General Manuel Noriega. Noriega said: ‘The one shining light through this legal nightmare has been your honor. You have acted as honest and fair as anyone can hope for.’” The article went on to say the following: “He is regarded as so upright that one Federal Magistrate was quoted as calling him, “ivory, like the soap, because he is 99.44 percent pure.” [MY GUESS
THAT WAS JUDGE PALERMO] “His colleague, now deceased, Eugene Spellman, said ‘I call him the biblical judge. He has the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job.’” True enough. He does have a few things going for him. At six feet five, with angular features and a magisterial bearing, and a baritone speaking voice, Judge Hoeveler reminds a few of his friends of what Abraham Lincoln must have been like. Even the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary described him as “Lincolnesque,” and, at times, the description seems eerily fitting. You know that in his office he has a bust of Abe Lincoln with those screwy, cockeyed glasses
on Abe’s nose. The Judge said, “My secretary gave that to me one year for Christmas. Whatever significance it has is in her mind.” Another article, in the September 1992 Harvard Magazine, said: “In his years on the federal bench, Judge Hoeveler has become known for his wideranging intellect, his command of the law and his uncompromising sense of fairness. In his courtroom he is attentive and unfailingly polite, and he has an almost limitless capacity to be amused, to find fun where others find frustration. Lawyers who appear regularly before him say that the more intricate the point of law, the more Judge Hoeveler enjoys
exploring it”. The article went on to say, “His willingness to listen to every side of an argument sometimes slows his proceedings to a crawl, and he admits to agonizing over rulings, but he is a deeply religious man with an earnest desire to do right, and that effort takes time. One lawyer says, ‘He reflects on it again and again and then reflects on it once more.’ It comes from a deep sense of compassion. Judge H reads the Bible so much that the copy on his desk is dog-eared.” In turn, Bill has been quoted as saying, “I know it sounds saccharin, but I subscribe to the teaching that to love people is where it is. Even in bad people you
can see the hope of change and redemption.” There is a true story that before a drug importation trial, a defense attorney told Judge Hoeveler that his client was still in a jail uniform and needed a few minutes to change. The judge said he would rather not wait, thought for a moment, stood up, took off his sweater and handed it to the attorney. “Make sure he’s seated when the jury comes in, and he’ll look fine in this. I hope he likes blue.” Bill’s father was a Marine who served in World War I with the American Expeditionary Force in Paris, and his mother was a French Opera singer. The future judge was born in Paris on August 23, 1922, the
second of three children. He talked about his parents. He said: “When my mother was 80-something, she could sing whole sections of Cyrano de Bergerac without looking at anything. My father was a good man, stern, and my mother was a delight.” His great-grandfather was the first electrical engineer in Pittsburgh. Bill was raised outside of Philadelphia. In high school, he became fascinated with lawyers and criminology. He devoured books, such as Irving Stone’s 1941 classic, Clarence Darrow for the Defense. Later, after he became a federal judge, he kept portraits on the wall of his office of his legal
heroes: Louis Brandies, Roscoe Pound, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. He was a basketball star in high school and won an athletic scholarship to Temple University. He spent two years at Temple University before joining the Marines. When he finished his tour of duty in 1946, he finished college at Bucknell. His basketball skills continued in his judicial career. He played Nerf basketball in the library in his office. The Miami News had a headline: “Office
basketball keeps federal judge cool for his hottest case-Noriega.” At Harvard Law School, in the 1940s, Bill was
known, and this was quoted in the Miami News of January 10, 1984, as ‘The Hunk.’ A Miami attorney who lived in the same dorm explained it this way. “We had some pretty good Saturday night parties. Bill would be right in there in our suite at Hastings Hall playing the boogie-woggie piano, by far the bestlooking guy in the room. All the girls would come in and would be all over Bill, but he would stop them before they made fools of themselves. He was then, and still is, instinctively gracious.” His repertoire included blues classics and less august classics, namely Big Fat Mamma With Meat on Her Bones.
He was co-president of the Class of 1950 at Harvard Law School which included a future United States Attorney General, two senators, and the Chief Counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee, Sam Dash. His fellow students honored him as Marshall of the Class of 1950. As one of his classmates said, “Bill had an appeal to everybody.” He also appealed to the former Mary Griffin Smith whom he married while at Harvard. She was the daughter of a partner with a Miami law firm that he would later join. They went on to have four children, Hank, Betsy, Margaret and Mary. Bill and Griff moved to Miami in 1951. For twenty
years, he was affiliated with the Knight, Peters, Hoeveler law firm. His specialty was to defend other professionals-attorneys, accountants, architects, and engineers-accused of malpractice. He was considered among the top five American experts in the legal defense of architects. This is what was written about his years in private practice: “As a trial lawyer, Bill Hoeveler was a naturaldashing, deliberate, charming, polite-and he won over witnesses and juries alike. Other lawyers settled out of court rather than face him. One of the top trial attorneys in the South, J.B. Spence, admitted to being
afraid of him. “Women nearly fell out of the damn jury box when they saw him.” Spence said: “I was afraid to be in the courtroom with Bill Hoeveler. I mean, he walks in there, tall, good-looking, like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
Yet, Bill yearned to make a more meaningful contribution to society, even though it would result in a substantial loss of income. He applied for an open federal judgship, and was one of the first two appointments made to the federal bench in 1977. He was quoted as saying, “Being a judge is the ultimate in legal practice. It is something a lawyer should aspire to. I don’t want to sound syrupy, but as I get older I increasingly feel a need to give something back, don’t you know, in terms of
service.” Within six years on the Bench, he was named the best Federal district judge in Alabama, Florida or Georgia by the American Lawyer Magazine. The Miami News in 1984 wrote an article calling him “The Best Judge In Town.” The lawyers thought so too. He has been the top judge on just about every bar poll. He has also been recognized with numerous awards, including the Dade County Bar Association’s David W. Dyer Professionalism Award; the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation; the Humanitarian of the Year Award by the YMCA of Greater Miami; the recipient of the Silver Medallion Award for Brotherhood from the National Conference of Christians and Jews; the Judicial
Distinction Award from the Miami Beach Bar Association and the Criminal Defense Attorneys’ Association. Most recently, he was the first recipient of the Florida Bar’s “The Honorable William M. Hoeveler Judicial
Professionalism Award.” These are just a few of many such recognitions. And then came the Noriega case which brought him national acclaim. It was in mid-December when the prosecution finished its case, that Bill felt a tightness in his chest. Shortly before Christmas, he had a significant coronary bypass. He had three options: to give into an extended convalescence, declare a mistrial, and start the case over in a few months; hand it over to another judge; or to take some time to recover and plunge ahead. “I had
people say, why don’t you just chuck it and let somebody else finish it?” His response was that’s not the way to do it. “I had an obligation to get back there and finish it.” So, six weeks after his operation, the trial resumed. You might remember that the jury deadlocked but eventually came to a verdict. With that deadlock, Bill almost needed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The Noriega case was not Bill’s only famous case. There were numerous other ones over the years: The Longshoremen Union cases, one of the longest trials in this District; the Everglades cases; the trial of the Zion Coptics; the handling of constitutional claims against the jails in Dade, Broward and Monroe Counties; the Elian Gonzalez case; again, just to name a few.
His judicial secretary for over 39 years, Janice Tinsman, reflected on the toll these cases had taken on Bill, but also of the iron will of the man who presided— the iron will you see when you shake his hand and look into his eyes. She wrote to me: “He is well known for his professionalism. He is often considered by people to be the epitome of what a judge should be.” But there is another thing he has taught us that many people do not realize, and that is we are on a journey in our lives. I have seen him journey back from a major stroke because he believed in what he did in serving the public. He did not just sit down and not come back.
I have seen him journey back from the loss of his wife only a couple of months after suffering his stroke. He did not quit. I have seen him come in weary from a sleepless night because he worried over his rulings that he knew he had to make and how it would affect all of those involved, and while he suffered sometimes the proverbial slings and arrows of those involved because of the ruling, he journeyed on because he had to. He loves the law. He did not give it up. He has shown us that he is a man of faith in God. He has shown us that on our paths in life, no matter what has put us on that path or what is in front of us, that we must always journey on.
What Janice was referring to, as we all well remember, was that during February 2000, Bill suffered a severe stroke as he was presiding over the Elian Gonzalez case. Bill’s iron will was tested by this event. We all were in awe as we watched Bill fight back through a tough rehabilitation; we watched him come back to the bench and try cases; we watched with delight when he married Christine who has brought so much joy to his life. I would like to take this moment to recognize Christine Hoeveler. Janice is right about the journeying part. Bill has had quite the journey. But he has never journeyed alone. Besides Christine, his children, his church, he has had a devoted office staff. I mentioned Janice, but there also is
Barbara Junge who has been his career clerk for 13 years, and who affectionately refers to him as “The Boss.” Needless to say, over the many years, there have been numerous other law clerks to whom he has been a mentor and who now are outstanding lawyers. And, of course, there has been the rest of us. His colleagues, his friends, and his admirers who have been with him in the best and worst of times. Throughout it all, he has given us enormous gifts. He has inspired us with his courage, he has challenged us to be professional and courteous, and he has given us a standard of excellence to live by. When you get down to it, perhaps the best to introduce tonight’s award recipient is with his own words:
“I don’t know that any one person can do much to change it all, but the fact that you can’t do a great deal yourself is no reason to do nothing. It’s frustrating, but if everybody decided that they wanted to give some, it would make a lot of difference in the long haul. It doesn’t bother me that when I expire, we will not have solved three-quarters of the problems that we have. At least we can make an effort.” Tonight, Bill, we stand united in recognizing your efforts, your friendship and your excellence. We join together in saying to you, “Thank you for a job well done.” Introduction by Senior United States District Judge Alan S. Gold.