By Jim Ash, Florida Bar News
Miami attorney Ben Kuehne, dubbed the “Iron Lawyer” for his courtroom and Iron Man triathlon prowess, is the latest recipient of the Criminal Law Section’s highest honor, the Selig I. Goldin Award.
The award is bitter-sweet for Kuehne, who prefers the title “lawyer” with Kuehne Davis Law, P.A. Kuehne said he is especially grateful because he reveres Bar service, and some of the lawyers he considers mentors were past Selig Goldin Award recipients.
“I’m really very honored, it is something I never expected,” he said.
Kuehne was to have received the award last summer, but the ceremony was postponed when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Bar’s Annual Meeting to convene virtually. Sadly, former Florida Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan, one of Kuehne’s earliest and most influential mentors, was scheduled to introduce Kuehne, but the former justice died March 4 at the age of 87.
“Without his mentorship, his guidance, I would not be anywhere close to the lawyer I am,” Kuehne said.
However, Kuehne said he is honored that his former law partner, a Criminal Law Section executive council member Neal Sonnett, has agreed to do the honors. Kuehne is scheduled to receive the award at Criminal Law Section executive council meeting on June 11.
Criminal Law Section Chair Warren Lindsey calls Kuehne a “champion for justice and respect for the court system.”
“Ben Kuehne personifies all of the attributes of an outstanding criminal trial lawyer,” Lindsey said. “While he is always a fierce and effective advocate for his clients, he can disagree without being disagreeable, and always exhibits professionalism and ethics in his interactions with others.”
A fixture in South Florida legal circles with a penchant for brightly colored bow ties, Kuehne is one of the state’s most prominent white-collar criminal defense attorneys. Also an election law specialist, Kuehne stepped into the national spotlight in 2000 when he represented former Vice President Al Gore, and the Gore/Lieberman Recount Committees, during the presidential recount.
Triple board certified in Appellate Practice, Criminal Appellate Law, and Criminal Trial Law, the 1977 University of Miami law school graduate has served, among many other posts, as a Florida Bar board member and chair of the Criminal Law Section, Appellate Practice Section, and Council of Sections. He is a past president of the Dade County Bar Association and is a founding member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Friends and colleagues say Kuehne is a natural choice for the Selig I. Goldin Award. Former Florida Bar President Hank Coxe considers the recognition “long overdue.”
“We all have our short list of lawyers, in times of crisis, to whom we turn for wisdom when we need it, but can’t find it,” Coxe said. “Ben Kuehne has always been there — leadership, trust, mentoring, and commitment to the values of this profession. He differs from Quixote in that he has beaten the windmills, and it has made our profession better.”
Sonnett says his former partner “richly deserves” the honor.
“Ben Kuehne embodies the outstanding characteristics of Selig Goldin — trial excellence, strict adherence to ethics, devotion to the rule of law, and service to the legal profession and The Florida Bar,” Sonnett said. “Ben has devoted much of his career to protecting the rule of law and improving the criminal justice system, and his contributions have been extraordinary.”
The award takes its name from former Gainesville attorney and Criminal Law Section executive council member Selig I. Goldin.
Before he died of cancer in 1980, the 41-year-old lawyer was known for refusing to turn away clients whose cases were too controversial or who couldn’t pay and was a model of “competence, service and compassion,” according to a Criminal Law Section biography.
Hollywood attorney Harvey Sepler, who chairs the Criminal Law Section’s Selig Goldin Committee, said Kuehne exhibits Goldin’s finest qualities. A friend for more than 30 years, Sepler said Kuehne mentored him and many other lawyers, and is the “epitome of professionalism.”
“A former chair of the Criminal Law Section, longtime member of The Florida Bar Board of Governors, and advocate for fairness in the criminal justice arena,” Sepler said. “I can’t think of anyone who deserves the Selig Goldin award more than him.”