The shock, suicide death of leading South Florida litigator Ervin Gonzalez has highlighted mental health issues in the legal profession.
Gonzalez was one of South Florida’s leading class action and civil litigation lawyers, well known for his ability and community and professional involvement. He was at the height of his career when found dead at his Coral Gables house this week.
Colleagues, clients and members of the public who knew the well known lawyer expressed their shock and grief at the news of his death. It also served to highlight the mental health issues that can plague the law profession.
Battling Mental Illness
Gonzalez had been fighting mental illness quietly for some time, a statement from his law firm said.
“He will be remembered for his intellect, skill and ability to befriend and defend the rights of people from all walks of life with a zest and dedication that was unrivaled,” partner Dean Colson said.
The Miami Herald reported that Gonzalez, 57, a partner with the prominent Coral Gables law firm Colson Hicks Eidson. A former president of the Dade County Bar Association with his firm saying “words cannot convey our grief, admiration, or affection for this pillar of our community,” and remembered him as a “caring, warm, brilliant and masterful trial attorney.”
Leading Miami lawyer Dennis Kainen said “Ervin was also a really good human being. He was willing to help anyone.”
Kainen, who sat with Gonzalez on the Florida Bar Board of Governors, said his death was “truly shocking,” partly because he was a health and fitness fanatic.
“He was the most controlled and disciplined person I knew,” Kainen said, noting that for the Dade County Bar Association’s monthly newspaper, Gonzalez organized and wrote 12 pieces in advance for his regular tips column.
Miami lawyer Ben Kuehne, who also served as a past president of the association, called Gonzalez “the quintessential fighter for justice.”
“His advocacy made the community a better place,” Kuehne said.
There are lawyer assistance programs available in most US states, as there are in many other jurisdictions which need to deal with mental health, substance abuse and other issues affecting lawyers.
The issue of mental illness in the legal profession has been reported frequently, including by us at LawFuel, but the problem is a continuing one besetting a great many who face increased pressures in the legal workplace.
However the suicide death of a leading litigator like Ervin Gonzalez is another stark and disturbing reminder of how mental health issues continue to be front and center of concerns for the legal profession both in the United States and elsewhere.