Sarasota lawyer John Patterson wins 2022 Medal of Honor for a Lawyer

Jack Harkness John Patterson

In December 2023, The Florida Bar Foundation changed its name to FFLA. Posts prior to this date contain our former name.

Sarasota lawyer and former Florida Bar Foundation president John C. Patterson Jr. was awarded The Florida Bar Foundation’s 2022 Medal of Honor for a Lawyer, the Foundation’s highest honor, in June. Patterson, a partner with Shutts & Bowen LLP in Sarasota, was honored for his career-long dedication to increasing local and statewide access to justice for all, his altruistic pro bono efforts, his service in leadership, and his devotion to educating others on the importance of equal access to justice.

Jack Harkness John Patterson

Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company director Jack Harkness, left, presents the Medal of Honor for a Lawyer to John Patterson at The Florida Bar Foundation’s 2022 Award Ceremony and Breakfast in June. Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company sponsored the award.

“It is clear that John’s motivation is truly altruistic,” wrote Linda Harradine, CEO of Legal Aid of Manasota, in her nomination of Patterson. “It isn’t about the prestige of having his name on the letterhead, or in an article, or for the purpose of being recognized. He is a quiet force for good who is always working in the forefront, as well as behind the scenes, to improve the legal profession and the lives of those less fortunate. In the process, he has made significant connections all over the state; has earned the respect of countless people; and has made a lasting impact on the legal landscape.”

Patterson, who earned his law degree from the University of Florida, served on The Florida Bar Board of Governors from 1995 to 1999. He was also appointed to the Second District Court of Appeal Nominating Committee and previously served on and chaired the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Nominating Commission. He is a past president of the Sarasota County Bar Association as well.

In 2004, he joined the board of The Florida Bar Foundation, ultimately becoming its president in 2013, a time of great uncertainty for the organization as it faced a financial crisis after more than a decade of near-zero interest rates and depleted reserves. Patterson was instrumental in negotiating a multi-million dollar bridge loan from The Florida Bar, securing the Foundation’s future.

“John’s steadfast, principled leadership of the Foundation guided his decisions when staff had to be reduced and funding to the grantees had to be slashed,” Hon. Emerson R. Thompson Jr. said in a letter supporting Patterson’s nomination. “He explained each decision carefully and precisely and always stated why the decisions were made and why they were made to deliver the best service to clients. Not only is he a principled leader, he is a visionary.”

John Patterson Emerson Thompson

Patterson, left, with Hon. Emerson R. Thompson Jr.

Patterson currently serves as secretary of Innocence Project of Florida, general counsel of Girls Incorporated of Sarasota County, a director for the Sarasota Tiger Bay Club, an officer and director of The Kimberly Patterson Leukemia Research Fund and a director of Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics.

“John is truly a shining example of what all attorneys should strive to accomplish throughout their careers,” Scott Westheimer, a managing partner at Syprett Meshad, P.A., said in a letter of support for Patterson’s nomination. “He has always selflessly advocated for access to the courts for all Floridians, supported legal aid organizations, and been committed to pro bono service.”

Patterson also currently serves on the board of Legal Aid of Manasota, an organization he helped create 30 years ago. He continues to provide pro bono services there, most recently spending more than 50 hours to settle a highly contested property tax case for a low-income resident in Sarasota, saving the client’s homestead in the process.

The Medal of Honor Award is presented each year to a member of The Florida Bar who has demonstrated his or her dedication to the objectives of The Florida Bar as set out in the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar “to inculcate in its members the principles of duty and service to the public, to improve the administration of justice, and to advance the science of jurisprudence.”