Category Archives: News

Nominate the champion of justice you most admire for an award today

Aukerman_miriam_2018_thumb Aukerman_miriam_2018_thumbDo you know lawyers or judges who are champions of justice? 

Then consider nominating them for State Bar of Michigan Champion of Justice Awards. The Champion of Justice Award is given to practicing lawyers and judges each year by the State Bar of Michigan for integrity and adherence to the highest principles and traditions of the legal profession, superior professional competence and an extraordinary professional accomplishment that benefits the nation, the state, or the local community in which the lawyer or judge lives. In 2018, the State Bar of Michigan named two champions of justice: Miriam Aukerman and Robert Heimbuch. 

Miriam Aukerman’s willingness to become a voice for the least powerful people in society has led to legal precedents protecting them. Three federal court cases highlight the magnitude of her work with the American Civil Liberties Union in Grand Rapids. In 2013, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld her challenge to Michigan’s anti-begging law, which Grand Rapids had used to arrest nearly 400 people, on First Amendment grounds. In 2016, the Sixth Circuit agreed with her argument that the state’s sex-offender registry law was unconstitutional because it punished registrants without delivering a corresponding public safety benefit. Also in 2016, the Sixth Circuit agreed with Aukerman’s challenge of the state policy of automatically denying food assistance to qualified citizens based on a match with a computerized list of outstanding felony warrants. Assistance was restored to approximately 20,000 people. Prior to her work with the ACLU, Aukerman developed and oversaw the Legal Aid of Western Michigan Reentry Law Project to help people with criminal records fight legal barriers preventing them from being productive citizens.

Since being named deputy chief of the Juvenile Division of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in 2001, and then chief in 2004, Robert J. Heimbuch has developed and operated several highly successful diversion programs such as Right TRAC, Correct Course, and Erase Truancy, that give deserving youthful offenders a chance to bypass the formal court system and avoid delinquency adjudication. Young people who graduate from the programs have recidivism rates under 10 percent. This ultimately translates into efficiencies that have saved the county millions of dollars, and, more importantly, safer communities, which has been reflected in yearly declines in new delinquency complaints filed by police departments in the county. Judge Virgil Smith said Heimbuch recently collaborated with the court to create a Juvenile Mental Health Court to address the special rehabilitative needs of delinquents with significant mental health issues. Judge Demetria Brue said Heimbuch’s style as a supervisor and unrelenting determination to administer justice has influenced the way she runs her courtroom.  

Nominations are due by 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. For more information, visit State Bar of Michigan Champion of Justice Award. 

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Check out the Latest On Balance Podcast: A National Movement for Cultural Change

OnbalancepodcastThe latest episode of the State Bar of Michigan’s On Balance podcast features Terry Harrell, executive director of the Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program. In this episode of On Balance, hosts JoAnn Hathaway and Tish Vincent talk to Terry Harrell about her work with the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being and what many see as a need for complete cultural shift. They also discuss the task force’s “Well-Being Report,” a resource for encouraging wellness that lawyers and legal employers can use in their firms.

On Balance, on the Legal Talk Network, delivers useful and entertaining ideas on managing life as a lawyer. To subscribe to On Balance in iTunes, follow two easy steps: 1. Using your mobile device, click on this link, or enter this link in your browser: http://ow.ly/HOOZ30hZOy1. 2. Click the purple "Subscribe" button that shows up right under the name of the podcast. To access On Balance in Google Play, follow these three steps: 1. Using your mobile device, click this link, or enter this link in your browser: http://ow.ly/GDas30hYSEy. 2. Click the subscribe button (located just beneath the On Balance logo). 3. Click the subscribe button that appears in the pop-up.

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State Bar of Michigan Launches Pro Bono Honor Roll

ProbonologoThe State Bar of Michigan is proud to launch a new initiative to recognize Michigan attorneys for pro bono service. The A Lawyer Helps Pro Bono Honor Roll will recognize Michigan attorneys who provide 30 or more hours of pro bono legal services in a calendar year.

Individual attorneys, law firms, and corporations will be recognized at one of three recognition levels for providing 30, 50, or 100 or more hours of pro bono service in the previous calendar year. The State Bar of Michigan will publicize attorneys on the A Lawyer Helps Pro Bono Honor Roll through postings on the web, in the Michigan Bar Journal, and through other printed and electronic methods.

Individual attorneys and designated staff members, on behalf of their affiliated law firms and corporations, are encouraged to complete and submit an A Lawyer Helps Pro Bono Honor Roll online application. The application will be available on the State Bar of Michigan A Lawyer Helps website in early February of 2019. After 2019, eligibility in the honor roll will be determined on an annual basis. Attorneys can report their own pro bono work or their pro bono work can be reported by SBM Pro Bono Partner Programs.

The provision of pro bono legal services to low-income people plays an essential role in providing access to justice for those in need. In 2014 alone, Michigan attorneys provided more than 32,000 hours of free legal help for low-income clients, making a significant impact toward increased access to justice.

Also beginning in 2019, the Access to Justice (ATJ) Campaign will recognize individuals, law firms, and corporate legal departments that make significant total donations on tiered recognition lists, as well as law firms that achieve a per-attorney average donation of at least $300, starting with tiered levels of $300, $500, $750, or $1,000 per lawyer. You can find more information on the ATJ Campaign at msbf.org. You can find more information about the A Lawyer Helps program at michbar.org/alawyerhelps. The new ATJ Campaign and A Lawyer Helps Pro Bono Honor Roll recognition lists will replace the Circle of Excellence.

For more information about the A Lawyer Helps Pro Bono Honor Roll, the application process, and how you can find pro bono volunteer opportunities, contact SBM Pro Bono Service & Justice Initiatives Counsel Robert Mathis at rmathis@michbar.org.

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Access to Justice Campaign Launches New Initiative to Honor Financial Donors

AtjcampaignThe Access to Justice Campaign is proud to launch a new initiative to recognize Michigan attorneys who invest in access to justice through financial donations to the ATJ Fund. Beginning in 2019, the Access to Justice Campaign will publish three new annual statewide lists to recognize donors to the ATJ Fund, which supports civil legal aid services to low-income individuals and plays an essential role in increasing access to justice.

The Access to Justice Campaign will recognize law firms and corporate legal departments on a tiered basis, starting at $1,000. Individuals and solo practitioners will also be recognized on a tiered list, starting at $300. In addition, leadership firms that achieve a per-attorney average donation of at least $300 will qualify to be recognized on a tiered list that will include levels of $300, $500, $750 or $1,000 per lawyer.

Michigan is currently ranked 44th in the country in per attorney giving to civil legal aid. Based on successful models from other states, the campaign has recently transitioned to a collaborative centralized fundraising effort to increase resources for fifteen civil legal aid programs. Financial donations make a meaningful difference in the ability of legal aid to help low income families in Michigan.

Also beginning in 2019, the State Bar of Michigan will launch the A Lawyer Helps Pro Bono Honor Roll to recognize Michigan attorneys who provide 30 or more hours of pro bono legal services in a calendar year. The Voluntary Pro Bono Standard, as adopted by the State Bar of Michigan Representative Assembly, encourages Michigan attorneys to provide 30 or more hours of pro bono legal services each year or contribute a minimum of $300 ($500 for those whose income allows) to support civil legal services to low-income individuals. Many attorneys and law firms exceed those standards and publishing tiered lists to recognize financial donations and contributions of pro bono services will provide additional recognition of the efforts of Michigan attorneys. The lists will replace the Circle of Excellence.

The Michigan State Bar Foundation and State Bar of Michigan will widely publicize recognition on all lists through web posts, in the Michigan Bar Journal and through other printed and electronic communications. Both programs will be featured on the A Lawyer Helps webpage. Find more information about the A Lawyer Helps program at michbar.org/alawyerhelps.

For more information about the Access to Justice Campaign please see atjfund.org, or contact ATJ Campaign Coordinator Laura Musachio at laura@msbf.org.  

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Nominations Open For Kimberly M. Cahill Bar Leadership Award

Are you as proud of your bar association’s work as Kristen Pursley and Donna MacKenzie are about what they have accomplished with the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan? 

Then consider nominating your association or a volunteer of your association for a State Bar of Michigan Kimberly M. Cahill Bar Leadership Award. The Kimberly M. Cahill Bar Leadership Award was established in memory of the 2006-2007 SBM president, who died in January of 2008. This award is presented to a recognized local or affinity bar association, program or leader for excellence in promoting the ideal of professionalism or equal justice for all, or in responding to a compelling legal need within the community during the past year or on an ongoing basis.

In 2018, the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan received the award because of its work to advance the interest of women in the legal profession, promote improvements in the administration of justice and promote equality and social justice. It has grown into a statewide organization containing nearly 600 members and seven regional chapters within which more than 350 women have taken on the leadership role of president, including Kimberly M. Cahill. WLAM and its seven regional chapters host over 50 events each year to improve communities across the state by reading to children, collecting donations for soup kitchens and participating in charity fundraisers. WLAM currently works to advance gender pay equity and to end family responsibilities discrimination. It also encourages the professional improvement of members by engaging them in business development seminars, pro bono service, legal education, leadership training, and networking events. In 1983 WLAM formed a charitable arm, the Women Lawyers Association Foundation. To date, the Foundation has awarded over $500,000 in scholarships to 246 law students.

Nominations are due by 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. For more information, visit State Bar of Michigan Kimberly M. Cahill Bar Leadership Award. 

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Nominations Open for Major State Bar Awards

SBM-NEXT18-Day1-324Nominations are now open for major State Bar of Michigan awards that will be presented at a 2019 awards celebration.

The Roberts P. Hudson Award goes to a person whose career has exemplified the highest ideals of the profession. This award is presented periodically to commend one or more lawyers for their unselfish rendering of outstanding and unique service to and on behalf of the State Bar, given generously, ungrudgingly, and in a spirit of self-sacrifice. It is awarded to that member of the State Bar of Michigan who best exemplifies that which brings honor, esteem and respect to the legal profession. The Hudson Award is the highest award conferred by the Bar.

The Frank J. Kelley Distinguished Public Service Award recognizes extraordinary governmental service by a Michigan attorney holding elected or appointed office. Created by the Board of Commissioners in 1998, it was first awarded to Frank J. Kelley for his record-setting tenure as Michigan’s chief lawyer.

The Champion of Justice Award is given for extraordinary individual accomplishments or for devotion to a cause. No more than five awards are given each year to practicing lawyers and judges who have made a significant contribution to their community, state, and/or the nation.

The Kimberly M. Cahill Bar Leadership Award was established in memory of the 2006-07 SBM president, who died in January of 2008. This award will be presented to a recognized local or affinity bar association, program or leader for excellence in promoting the ideal of professionalism or equal justice for all, or in responding to a compelling legal need within the community during the past year or on an ongoing basis.

The John W. Cummiskey Pro Bono Award, named after a Grand Rapids attorney who was dedicated to making legal services available to all, recognizes a member of the State Bar who excels in commitment to pro bono issues. This award carries with it a cash stipend to be donated to the charity of the recipient’s choice.

The John W. Reed Michigan Lawyer Legacy Award was introduced in 2011 and is named for a longtime and beloved University of Michigan Law School professor and Wayne State University dean. This award will be presented periodically to a professor from a Michigan law school whose influence on Michigan lawyers has elevated the quality of legal practice in the state.

All SBM award nominations are due by 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15, 2019.

The Liberty Bell Award recipient is selected from nominations made by local and special-purpose bar associations. The award is presented to a non-lawyer who has made a significant contribution to the justice system. The deadline for this award is Friday, May 10, 2019.

An awards committee co-chaired by SBM Vice President Robert J. Buchanan and SBM Secretary Dana M. Warnez reviews nominations for the Roberts P. Hudson, John W. Reed, Champion of Justice, Frank J. Kelley, Kimberly M. Cahill, and Liberty Bell awards. The SBM Pro Bono Initiative Committee reviews nominations for the John W. Cummiskey Pro Bono Award. These recommendations are then voted on by the full Board of Commissioners at its April meeting.

Last year's non-winning nominations will automatically carry over for consideration this year. Nominations should include sufficient details about the accomplishments of the nominee to allow the committees to make a judgment.

Any SBM member can nominate candidates for awards. To apply online or download application forms visit http://www.michbar.org/programs/eventsawards. Cummiskey Award nominations can be directed to Robert Mathis at rmathis@michbar.org; all other nominations can be submitted to Anne Smith at asmith@michbar.org.

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For Women's History Month, Check out SBM Michigan Legal Milestone 11: Eva Belles' Vote

MichiganLegalMilestones11In April 1888, Eva R. Belles tried to vote in a Flint school board election.  Because she was a woman, the election inspectors refused to receive her ballot.  Firmly believing she was entitled to vote, she fought that decision up to the Michigan Supreme Court, and won an early victory for women's suffrage.

She retained George H. Durand, former Flint mayor and first president of the Genesee County Bar Association, as her attorney.  A provision of the Michigan Constitution gave power to the legislature to provide for a system of primary schools.  The legislature set school election voting qualifications in a statute specifying that "every person" meeting certain criteria, including age, property, and parenthood, could vote in all such elections not involving money or tax questions.  As mother to Jennie, a school-aged child, and a Flint property owner, Eva Belles met the criteria.

George Durand argued that the "every person" language of the statute, and not the gender restriction found in the Constitution, should control who could vote in school elections.  Michigan's Supreme Court agreed, and as a result, women like Eva Belles won the right to vote in certain school elections.

A battle had been won, but final victory for women's suffrage in Michigan would not be achieved until 1918, when the Michigan Constitution was amended to provide full voting rights for women.

Placed by the State Bar of Michigan and the Genesee County Bar Association, 1990.

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State Bar Now Accepting Applications for 2018 Circle of Excellence

2018CircleExcellence2017 was the most successful year yet for the State Bar of Michigan Circle of Excellence! More than 60 firms and corporations, all committed to access to justice, appeared on the 2017 COE.

The State Bar of Michigan invites all law firms and corporations with two or more attorneys to apply for the 2018 Pro Bono Circle of Excellence recognizing each firm that fully complied with the State Bar’s Voluntary Pro Bono Standard in 2017. The application deadline is April 13.

The Voluntary Pro Bono Standard calls for attorneys to annually take three pro bono cases, devote at least 30 hours of pro bono service, or contribute $300 to a legal aid provider organization. Firms that can afford to do so are asked to make a minimum annual financial contribution of $500 per attorney and are recognized at the “Leadership Level” of the Circle of Excellence. Individual lawyers who meet the Pro Bono Standard are celebrated locally through Access to Justice programs and the State Bar of Michigan “A Lawyer Helps” program.

“The 2017 Circle of Excellence included more than 60 firms and corporations, making it the most successful year yet for the COE,” noted SBM President Don Rockwell. “I commend all of the firms and corporations that appeared on the 2017 COE. I look forward to building on the success of the COE and hope to see even more firms and corporations on the 2018 COE, which is slated to appear in the June 2018 Michigan Bar Journal.”

Complete the Circle of Excellence application.

The Circle of Excellence is published frequently in the Michigan Bar Journal, posted on the websites of the State Bar of Michigan and Michigan State Bar Foundation, and distributed at the State Bar NEXT Conference. For more information, contact Robert Mathis, rmathis@michbar.org or (517) 346-6412.

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SBM to Present "Tips and Tools" for a Successful Practice Seminar on May 1

Tips ToolsFB_714x470The State Bar of Michigan will present “Tips and Tools for a Successful Practice” from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 1, at the State Bar’s Michael Franck Building in downtown Lansing.

The semi-annual seminar features presentations on how to maintain mutually beneficial client relationships, draft effective fee agreements, manage lawyer trust accounts, analyze ethical issues, and use innovative techniques and technology for law office management. The seminar presents an excellent opportunity for solo practitioners and new lawyers to obtain ethical guidance and practical information from colleagues who have successfully implemented law office management techniques and utilized economically-priced technology to improve the efficiency of their law practices.

Registration costs $100 for lawyers who have been in practice for less than five years and $125 for those who have practiced law for five years or more. The registration fee includes seminar materials, a continental breakfast and buffet lunch. To view the agenda or make a reservation, visit https://www.michbar.org/tipstools. The registration deadline is Friday, April 27.

For more information contact Karen Spohn with the State Bar of Michigan Professional Standards Division at kspohn@mail.michbar.org or (517) 346-6309.

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State Bar of Michigan Announces 2018 Award Winners

JulieBruceSupremeCourtThe following individuals and organization will receive 2018 State Bar of Michigan awards at a banquet on Sept. 26 at the SBM NEXT Conference in Grand Rapids.

2018 State Bar of Michigan Award Recipients:

Roberts P. Hudson Award: Bruce A. Courtade and Julie I. Fershtman
Frank J. Kelley Distinguished Public Service Award: Hon. Marilyn J. Kelly and Robert P. Young Jr.
Champion of Justice Award: Miriam J. Aukerman and Robert J. Heimbuch
John W. Reed Lawyer Legacy Award: Professor Lawrence Dubin
John W. Cummiskey Pro Bono Award: Charles “David” Jones
Kimberly M. Cahill Bar Leadership Award: Women Lawyers Association of Michigan 

The following individuals will receive State Bar Representative Assembly awards at the Assembly’s Sept. 27 meeting in Grand Rapids.

2018 State Bar of Michigan Representative Assembly Award Recipients:

Michael Franck Award: Hon. Victoria A. Roberts
Unsung Hero Award: Michele P. Fuller

More information about each award recipient will be released prior to the SBM NEXT Conference, which will take place Sept. 26-28 in Detroit.

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