John Hogan — an influential lawyer who prosecuted racially charged police shootings during an era of riots in Miami and also advised Janet Reno during her tenures as Miami-Dade state attorney and U.S. attorney general — has died at age 68.
Hogan — who after his career in public service went on to lead the litigation section at Holland & Knight, one of Florida’s biggest law firms — died on Saturday from complications of a bone-marrow transplant at a Houston hospital.
Holland & Knight’s Miami office notified employees of his death on Monday morning, describing Hogan as a “lawyer’s lawyer” who devoted his life to putting others before himself.
“His exemplary public service was a testament to his selfless approach throughout his professional career,” the firm’s managing partner, Steven Sonberg, wrote to Holland & Knight’s employees. “Wherever he worked, John was recognized as a ‘lawyer’s lawyer,’ that is, he was known both for his keen intellect and for his ability to offer practical solutions to complex problems.
“John mentored numerous people inside and outside the firm. All who knew him benefited from his advice and counsel, always delivered in an unassuming, pragmatic way. His absence will leave a void for many.”
Among those whom Hogan mentored was Wifredo Ferrer, who grew up in Hialeah and came to know him when he worked as a White House fellow in the administration of President Bill Clinton. Hogan set up a brief meeting between the young lawyer and then-U.S. Attorney General Reno.
Although it was not a job interview, Reno would soon offer Ferrer a position as her counsel in the attorney general’s office. He later became the deputy chief of staff under Hogan, whom he described as a calming voice through the many political storms in Washington, including the Unabomber and Waco, Texas, investigations.
“What Janet Reno loved about him was that he was all about pursuing justice in every case and in every circumstance,” said Ferrer, who would go on to become U.S. attorney in Miami during the administration of President Barack Obama and later join Hogan as a partner at Holland & Knight. “He taught me and so many others about how the law could be used as a powerful force for good.”
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who succeeded Reno when she went to Washington, said Hogan was “like a brother” to her. She said Hogan’s presence was felt in the office when he served as chief assistant state attorney under Reno and even during his two decades at Holland & Knight, always willing to share his wisdom with a new class of prosecutors and remind them of the importance of their work.
“He was like this bright light that illuminated everything and everyone,” Fernandez Rundle said. “But he never cast a shadow.”
She said Reno, who died in 2016, kept him close to her for a reason: “She relied heavily on his judgment.”
Hogan, a Massachusetts native who attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, moved to South Florida to go to the University of Miami School of Law. After graduating, then Miami-Dade State Attorney Reno hired him as a prosecutor. He quickly made a name for himself in the courtroom, though he was not one to covet the spotlight.
As a prosecutor for 14 years, Hogan secured convictions in several high-profile criminal cases, winning 70 trials in a row.
Among his major cases:
▪ In 1983, Robert Koenig, then an officer with Miami-Dade police, was convicted of fatally shooting 22-year-old Donald Harp, an unarmed black man in Northwest Miami-Dade. Koenig was the first officer in the county’s history to be convicted of manslaughter.
▪ In 1989, Miami police officer William Lozano was accused of killing motorcyclist Clement Lloyd, a black man. A passenger, also black, died after the motorcycle crashed. Their deaths sparked riots in the Overtown area.
Lozano was convicted during the first trial, but the ruling was overturned by a state appeals court. He was then acquitted in the second trial four years later.
Hogan, the chief prosecutor, expressed his disappointment with the verdict but said the jurors had performed honestly and fairly. He called on the city’s residents to accept the verdict calmly and not resort to the violence that erupted after Lloyd and the other man, Allan Blanchard, were killed.
“It is my sincere hope that Miami never has to have a case like this again,” Hogan said after the verdict in 1993. “If it does have a case like this again, I think it is crucial that we be able to try the case in Miami. For that to happen, Miami has to show the maturity that we have been talking about, and it has to show it this weekend [in] the way it handles this verdict.”
“This will be the ultimate test, and I am convinced we will pass it,” Hogan said.
That same year, Reno was tapped by President Clinton as U.S. attorney general. She turned to Hogan, her former chief assistant state attorney, to be her chief of staff.
When asked what he would be doing at the Justice Department, Hogan told the Miami Herald at the time: “I’m not sure” — a response that reflected his wry sense of humor.
His colleagues and friends praised him not only for his prowess as an attorney but his compassion for those around him.
“He was both a terrific lawyer and wonderful man,” said Rosemary Barkett, a former Florida Supreme Court Justice and federal appeals-court judge. “He was very humble, and he was very grateful for the opportunity to work with the people he served for many, many years.”
Added Fernandez Rundle: “That light he shined on us may be extinguished, but he will live on in all of us.”
Hogan is survived by his spouse, Mickey Miller, and an extended family that includes his siblings and several nieces and nephews.
The family will have a private funeral service. The Holland & Knight law firm also plans a memorial service to celebrate his life with colleagues and friends.