Retired Florida Chief Justice Joseph A. Boyd Jr., who wanted to be remembered for his dissents that later became the law of the land and avoided impeachment by passing a mental exam, died Friday. He was 90.
Boyd served 18 years on the Supreme Court through 1987. He was chief justice from mid 1984 through mid 1986. Before he was elected to the court, he was a Miami-Dade County commissioner and the county's vice mayor.
Arthur England, another retired chief justice who served with Boyd, recalled him as an affable colleague who liked to tell stories, sometimes quoted the Bible in opinions and was concerned about how the high court's rulings would affect "real people."
"Joe was not an easy person to forget," England said from his Miami law office. "He always cared about people and thought about them."
Boyd was reprimanded by his fellow justices in the mid 1970s for accepting a secret draft opinion from utility company lawyers. Boyd asserted that he tore up the draft and flushed it down a toilet.
The Florida House also investigated but declined to impeach Boyd in 1975 after he agreed to take a psychiatric exam.
"He turned that into humor," England recalled. "He used to say he was the only one certified sane on the Supreme Court."
While Boyd remained on the bench, two other justices, Hal Dekle and David McCain, resigned after also being accused of ethical violations. Dekle, too, had been accused of receiving the secret draft and allegedly used it in the opinion he wrote.
Boyd was passed over for chief justice at least once because of the scandal. The office is rotated every other year to the most senior justice who has not yet held the position.
When Boyd retired, he said he would like most to be remembered for his dissents to opinions that were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.