Who is Harry Gulkin?
Every year, the BACDL honors a member of the bar who embodies integrity, gentility, and is a lawyer of the highest quality. Everyone looks to this lawyer not only as a mentor, but also as a friend. The person who is honored with the award raises the standard, and the bar is made better because that person is a member. These qualities were not invented by Harry Gulkin, but they were certainly personified through him. So really, who is he? Why is he so special that he gets an award named after him?
Harry Gulkin originally was from the Newark, New Jersey area. He went to law school at the University of Miami with Michael Satz and Bruce Lyons. After law school, he moved back to New Jersey and was a prosecutor in Brunswick for a period of time. He migrated back to Florida around 1972, and was a State Attorney in Broward County from about 1973 – 1976.
While at the State Attorney’s Office, he made some lifelong friends. Susan Gulkin would be his assistant for the next twenty years. David Bogenschutz became one of his best friends and future law partner as did H. Dohn Williams. Harry also worked with Glenn Roderman, and side by side with the future State Attorney of the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Michael Satz.
Harry, quickly escalated to chief of the Special Investigations Unit, chief of the Felony Trial Unit, and was also the chief assistant State Attorney. Harry was a great teacher of the law, as many of the younger prosecutors looked up to him and watch him in trial. He would constantly preach to the young lawyers that sometimes we win and sometimes we lose, but no matter whether you win or lose always carry yourself with dignity and professionalism.
From the State Attorney’s Office, in 1976, Harry went on to become a County Court Judge. While on the bench, quality people and quality lawyers continued to be drawn to him through his magnetic personality. He became good friends with Judge Stanton Kaplan and Judge Leonard Fleet before leaving the bench and venturing out into private practice.
He joined up with his friends from the State Attorney’s Office (David Bogenschutz, H. Dohn Williams, and Norman O’Rourke) at the Hollywood law firm of Varon and Stahl. The firm went through a couple of name changes as partners would leave and try new things. It transformed into Varon, Bogenschutz, Williams, and Gulkin, up until about 1985 when senior partner Joe Varon retired. [Ironically, every member of Harry’s law firm has received this warad] After that, everyone pretty much went out on their own. While at the firm, Gulkin was co counsel with Joe Varon on a few high profile cases, including Roswell Gilbert (mercy killing of the Alzeheimer’s spouse) and Bernard Hunwick (hitman case). Harry would later represent Patty Hunwick (Bernard Hunwick’s wife) and Baby Rachel (kidnapping case that reached across state lines as far north as New Jersey). Gulkin ventured out on his own around 1987.
Aside from being a great teacher of the law, Harry’s dear friends also describe him as being a great student of the law. He really had a way with people, not just lawyers. He acknowledged everyone, was well liked, and highly respected. His friends affectionately referred to him as the Incredible Gulk. Harry was very personable, had a great sense of humor, was extremely intelligent, a good speaker, a great trial lawyer, and a dear friend.
The world lost a special person in 1991 when Mr. Gulkin died from a brain tumor. Susan Gulkin describes Mr. Gulkin’s funeral as being standing room only. Folks who were fortunate enough to have crossed paths with Gulkin in some form or fashion came to pay their respect, and offered words of comfort to his close friends and family. Although a sad occasion, those who loved him were not surprised and in fact pleased to hear people consistently refer to him as ‘a gentleman’.
Larry Davis, a respected member of the bar, and a long time member of BACDL, knew and loved Harry, and came up with the idea for the award. He wanted to honor his friend who was so special to so many people, Larry thought an award should be created which would honor the type of lawyer and person that Harry was: a person of high quality, gentility, integrity, personable, and intelligent. The type lawyer we should all strive to be!
Larry discussed this idea with Susan Gulkin, who supported it.. Thus the “Harry Gulkin Award” was born. BACDL sponsors the dinner, and Susan Gulkin maintains the plaque, which hangs in Judge Kaplan’s courtroom. Past honorees include W. George Allen, Brenda Bryn, Timothy Day, Howard L. Finkelstein, The Honorable J. Leonard Fleet, Fred Haddad, Edward Kay, the Honorable Gerald Kogan, The Honorable Robert Fogan, William T. Laswell, Professor Bruce Rogow, Al Schreiber, Joseph Varon, Barbara Heyer, David Bogenschutz, Jeff Harris, H. Dohn Williams, Hon. Charles Kaplan, Hon. Howard Zeidwig.