Arthur England Jr., who served more than six years on the Florida Supreme Court in the 1970s at a time when it was recovering from a string of scandals, died Thursday at his home in Coral Gables. He was 80.
In the early 1970s, England served as a special tax counsel to the Florida House of Representatives, a role in which he helped craft a proposed corporate profits tax in Florida, a major plank in Reubin Askew's 1970 platform for governor. England later served as Askew's consumer adviser.
England served on the state's highest court from 1975 to 1981, and was its next-to-last justice who was popularly elected by the voters. His path to the bench was an unusual one: Justice Richard Ervin was approaching the mandatory retirement age of 70, and Askew believed he should appoint Ervin's successor, but the Supreme Court ruled the seat must be filled by election.
England filed for the seat anyway, despite his misgivings about an elective judiciary, ran a low-budget campaign and defeated Sam Spector, a trial court judge, in a 1974 election.
As a justice, England was a stickler for the use of common, easily-understood language in legal briefs, once opting to author an opinion as "by the court," rather than the more common "per curiam." He also championed a program to use the interest on lawyers' trust accounts for their clients to pay for legal services for the poor -- the first program of its kind in the United States, and one modeled on a similar program in Canada. He first proposed the idea in a 1976 speech to the Florida Bar Board of Governors in Crystal River.
After he left the bench, England spent two decades as an appellate lawyer at the Greenberg Traurig firm in Miami and later formed his own law firm.
-- Steve Bousquet