Attorney at Law Magazine sat down with former Florida Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston to discuss the pivotal moments that shaped his career. Polston resigned from the court March 31, 2023, to become general counsel and chief legal officer at Citizens Property Insurance Corporation.
AALM: What were some of the key experiences or milestones that shaped your legal career?
RP: All my work experiences contributed to my becoming a justice and helped me perform the work there. I try to learn from all the people I meet and places I have worked – there is always a valuable lesson to be gained. My key experiences were learning how to practice law from the extraordinary lawyers that I began working with – John Aurell, Bob Hinkle, Harry Thomas, John Radey, and Elizabeth McArthur.
AALM: What were some of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of serving as a justice of the Florida Supreme Court?
RP: The court constitutionally has responsibilities for attorney discipline and admissions that it handles through the Florida Bar and the Florida Board of Bar Examiners. And it is the head of the judicial branch with administrative responsibilities that it performs through its rulemaking authority. Judicial discipline also comes to the court through the Judicial Qualifications Commission. All of these administrative responsibilities, in addition to deciding cases that come before the court, are both challenging and rewarding.
AALM: Tell us about any mentors you’ve worked with through your career and the best advice they shared with you.
RP: My parents were my best mentors. They taught me to always work hard, respect others, and to be friendly to everyone. That was great advice.
AALM: Looking back on your impressive tenure as a judge and justice, what accomplishments or contributions to the legal field and the judiciary are you most proud of?
RP: When I was chief justice in 2012-2014, the judicial branch was struggling with the foreclosure crisis. At the same time, we were shifting from paper to computer filing with mandatory requirements throughout the state. I am proud of the way that the judicial branch responded to those significant challenges.
AALM: As an adjunct professor at the Florida State University College of Law, what did you enjoy most about teaching courses?
RP: I enjoyed classroom interaction with students and the in-depth study of the various subject areas that I taught. My desire at FSU Law School was to contribute in making the students the best lawyers possible.
AALM: What inspired you to transition from private law practice to the judiciary, and how did your experiences as a commercial litigator and certified circuit court mediator inform your judicial work?
RP: After practicing law for a couple of years, I started having a deep desire to become a justice at the Florida Supreme Court. My work experience as a lawyer helped me understand the practical implications of the cases, the context of the law, and how the rules cases affected the practice of law and courts.
AALM: With 10 children and numerous grandchildren, how do you manage to balance your family commitments with your demanding career in the legal field?
RP: We all know that the use of technology is a blessing, but also a curse. As lawyers and judges, we can work everywhere, anytime, and do all too much. I am still trying to find the right balance, but saying “no” to requests or demands for time that is not absolutely necessary is a good place to start.
AALM: What is something our readers would be surprised to learn about you?
RP: I am 67. I look a lot older.