Category Archives: News

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, 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 The registration deadline is Friday, April 27.

For more information contact Karen Spohn with the State Bar of Michigan Professional Standards Division at 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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Volunteer to Serve on a State Bar Committee Today

VolunteersneededNote: If you tried to volunteer and experienced technical issues, please try again! Complete the application before June 7 in any web browser except Internet Explorer. The application is not fully functional in Internet Explorer.

You are invited to apply to serve in one of the many volunteer opportunities offered by the State Bar of Michigan. We offer short-term, fast-moving opportunities to serve on innovative work groups and longer-term, more in-depth opportunities to serve on traditional standing committees. We have revised the volunteer application process to make it more streamlined, straightforward, and deliberate in order to help you quickly and easily find the right opportunity to help us continue to advance our core mission of promoting the professionalism of lawyers; advocating for an open, fair, and accessible justice system; and providing services to members that enable them to best serve clients.

Please include your resume or CV and links to your online professional bio and social media sites to help us find the perfect fit for you. Please note that in order to serve as a volunteer, the State Bar requires you to have an email address on record. If you have questions, email or call (517) 346-6330 during regular business hours. If you are a current committee member and have any questions, contact your staff liaison. Find out more about SBM committees and work groups. View an invitation from SBM President-Elect Jennifer Grieco to serve as a volunteer.

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In Memoriam: Wallace D. Riley, 38th SBM President

Wally_Dorothy_Comstock_RileyThe State Bar of Michigan mourns the loss of its 38th president, Wallace D. Riley, who died May 17 at the age of 90.

“Wally Riley leaves a legacy of extraordinary accomplishments,” SBM Executive Director Janet Welch said. “To most people, his service as president of the American Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan might stand out as his signature achievements, but to those who knew him best, his most defining legacy was his devotion to his cherished wife, Dorothy, and his partnership with her on her path to becoming a pioneering icon in her own right in Michigan legal history. They became, and will always remain, the ‘First Couple’ of the Michigan legal profession.”

"All of us are so saddened by the news of the passing of Wallace Riley,” SBM President Donald G. Rockwell said. “Wally was a true pillar in the State Bar of Michigan and the American Bar Association. He was greatly loved by all who knew him and he will be deeply missed."

Riley was elected president of the State Bar of Michigan for the 1972-1973 bar year, and was elected president of the American Bar Association for the 1983-1984 bar year. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1947 from the University of Chicago, where he also earned letters in basketball and baseball; earned three degrees from the University of Michigan, including a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1949, a Master of Business Administration in 1952 and a Juris Doctor in 1952; and he also earned a Master of Laws Degree in 1954 from George Washington University. He had a long and very distinguished legal career in Detroit, and founded the legendary law firm of Riley and Roumell in 1968 with his wife, Dorothy Comstock Riley, and friend, George T. Roumell. Prior to founding that firm, he practiced law with Burke, Burke and Smith in Ann Arbor, served as a first lieutenant in the Judge Advocate General Corps of the United States Army, a member of the special counsel staff of Special Counsel to Secretary of the Army Joseph N. Welch in connection with the Army-McCarthy Hearings before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the United States Senate, and practiced law in Detroit with Dykema, Jones & Wheat. He also served as an instructor at the University of Michigan, teaching labor relations, taxation and real estate valuation and finance.

Riley was a very active volunteer with the State Bar of Michigan, Michigan State Bar Foundation, Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, Detroit Bar Association, Federal Bar Association and American Bar Association. He served as president of the Michigan State Bar Foundation from 1974 to 1982, and a founding member of the Foundation Fellows Program. He served as president of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society and president of the Michigan Historical Center Foundation. He chaired the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board from 2000-2002. He served as chair of the Young Lawyer Section of the State Bar of Michigan and the Detroit Bar Association. He was national director and chairman of the Continuing Legal Education Committee of the ABA Young Lawyers Section. He served as president of the Federal Bar Association Detroit Chapter and 6th District National Vice President of the FBA. He also co-wrote the “Wayne County Practice and Procedure Handbook” with Allan Neef.

Riley was also very prominent in other civic activities. He served as a member of the City of Detroit Commission on Community Relations. He served as a lifetime member of the NAACP, on the Board of Directors of the Detroit Chapter of the American Cancer Society, on the Board of Directors of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, on the Board of Directors of SJS Bancorp Inc. and as Chairman of the Board of TechTeam Global Inc. He also served on the Michigan Board of Canvassers. For his outstanding achievements, he received many awards, among them the State Bar of Michigan Roberts P. Hudson Award and the Michigan State Bar Foundation Founders Award.

“Wally is a lawyer’s lawyer, a Bar person through and through, a civic leader, a scholar. He is politically savvy, a person of principle, a sports buff and a delightful friend,” George T. Roumell wrote in a 1983 Michigan Bar Journal when Riley became ABA President. “Few understand Bar activities the way Wally does. The hours and hours he has devoted to the interest of the Bar are legendary among those of us who practice with him.”

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On Balance Podcast: Check Out the Latest Episode

On BalanceThe latest episode of the State Bar of Michigan’s On Balance podcast features Lea Ann Sterling, a Traverse City attorney who owns and manages Sterling Law Office in Empire and Gaylord and wrote award-winning pictorial guidebooks Historic Homes of Olde Town, Columbus, Ohio, and Historic Cottages of Mackinac Island. Hosts JoAnn Hathaway and Tish Vincent discuss with Sterling how she took her law practice from survival mode to a stage-one business.

On Balance delivers useful and entertaining ideas on managing life as a lawyer. To subscribe in iTunes, follow two easy steps: 1. Using your mobile device, click on this link or enter this link in your browser: 2. Click the "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: 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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Lawyer Trust Accounts Seminar Will Take Place in June

TrustaccountsJune 19, 2018 • Michael Franck Building, Lansing

This half-day ethics seminar features presentations on how to manage lawyer trust accounts, including how to effectively use forms, checklists, and other recordkeeping resources. The seminar, which is open to lawyers and their staff, is an excellent way to learn how to comply with Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct 1.15 and 1.15A. Participants will receive practical information as well as materials prepared by presenters: SBM Professional Standards Division Director Danon Goodrum-Garland, SBM Assistant General Counsel Nkrumah Johnson-Wynn, Professional Standards Assistant Division Director Alecia Ruswinckel, and Attorney Grievance Commission Senior Associate Counsel Rhonda Pozehl. More Information

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SBM Solicits Member Comments on Proposed Ethics Advisory Opinion

The growth of online for-profit matching services raises questions about attorney ethics. A proposed advisory opinion by the State Bar of Michigan Professional Ethics Committee concludes that participation in a for-profit online matching service that matches prospective clients with lawyers for a fee is not ethically permissible if the attorney’s fee is paid to and controlled by a non-lawyer and the cost for the online matching service is based on a percentage of the attorney’s fee paid for the legal services provided by the lawyer.

The proposed advisory opinion says that a Michigan lawyer participating in this business model:

  • Violates Rule 6.3(b), which prohibits a lawyer from participating in for-profit lawyer referral services;
  • Violates Rule 5.4, which prohibits a lawyer from sharing fees with a non-lawyer;
  • Violates Rule 7.2(c), which prohibits a lawyer from giving anything of value to recommend a lawyer’s services unless it is a reasonable payment for advertising the lawyer’s services, the usual charges for a not-for-profit lawyer referral service, or payment for the sale of a law practice;
  • Subverts compliance with Rule 1.15, which requires a lawyer to safeguard legal fees and expenses paid in advance by depositing them into a client trust account until the fee is earned and the expense is incurred;
  • Impedes compliance with Rule 1.16(d) and its requirement that any unearned prepaid fees and unexpended advances on costs must be refunded;
  • Assists in the unauthorized practice of law in violation of Rule 5.5(a) to the extent the online service holds itself out as a provider of legal services and guarantees satisfaction; and
  • Violates Rule 5.3 to the extent that the conduct of the matching service when performing administrative “back office” services traditionally done through the law firm does not comport with the professional obligations of the lawyer.

As the proposed opinion describes, a number of other states have addressed this issue.

Members of the State Bar of Michigan and the public are encouraged to submit comments on the proposed opinion and on whether the current rules should be modified by filling out an online form located at

Comments should be submitted by July 16. After the period for comment has closed, the State Bar Board of Commissioners will consider whether to approve or modify the opinion.


The Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC) were adopted effective Oct. 1, 1988, by the Michigan Supreme Court. The MRPC comprise the Supreme Court’s authoritative statement of a Michigan lawyer’s ethical obligations.

Consistent with its jurisdictional mandate and rules, the SBM Professional Ethics Committee drafts ethics opinions when requested to do so by the SBM president, the Board of Commissioners, the Representative Assembly, the Attorney Discipline Board, the Attorney Grievance Commission, the SBM executive director, or individual members of the State Bar inquiring about their own contemplated conduct. The committee may also draft opinions on ethical matters its research indicates need clarification or resolution.

Informal advisory ethics opinions, designated with an “RI” before the opinion number, are issued by the committee without review and approval by the Board of Commissioners and are intended to provide informal guidance on the MRPC. Informal advisory opinions must be approved by at least two-thirds of the committee membership.

The committee may also draft proposed formal advisory ethics opinions, designated with an “R” before the opinion number, for consideration by the Board of Commissioners. These proposed formal opinions must be approved by at least two-thirds of the committee membership before they are presented to the Board of Commissioners. Formal advisory ethics opinions are intended to deal with matters of general and substantial interest to the public, address situations which affect a significant number of members of the Bar, or modify or reverse prior formal opinions. The Board of Commissioners may approve or modify the proposed formal opinion and direct its release as an informal or formal advisory ethics opinion, or it may reject the opinion and direct that no opinion be issued on the matter.

Neither informal opinions of the SBM Professional Ethics Committee nor formal advisory ethics opinions have the force and effect of law. They provide guidance only and may not be relied upon as an absolute defense to a charge of ethical misconduct.

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State Bar of Michigan Announces 2018 Election Results

ElectionresultsSBM Board of Commissioners

Five  attorneys — Lisa J. Hamameh, Thomas H. Howlett, Joseph P. McGill, Dana M. Warnez and Erane C. Washington — won contested seats in this year’s Board of Commissioners elections. All will serve three-year terms expiring at the close of the 2021 NEXT Conference.

Dana M. Warnez was elected to serve District D, representing Macomb and St. Clair Counties. She concentrates on probate and estate planning, drafting and administering trusts and real estate matters at Schoenherr, Cahill & Warnez in Center Line.

Erane C. Washington was elected to serve District G, representing Jackson and Washtenaw Counties. She owns and operates The Law Firm of Erane C. Washington-Kendrick in Ann Arbor, and provides services to businesses and individuals in real estate, business, personal injury and commercial litigation.

Joseph P. McGill was elected to serve District H, representing Monroe, Lenawee and Wayne Counties. He is a principal at Foley, Baron, Metzger & Juip in Livonia, concentrating on complex litigation and transactions.

Lisa J. Hamameh and Thomas H. Howlett were both elected to serve District I, representing Oakland County. Hamameh is a shareholder with Foster Swift Collins & Smith in Southfield and practices municipal, zoning/land use and liquor licensing law. Howlett is a partner and chief operating officer of The Googasian Law Firm in Bloomfield Hills, where his litigation practice focuses on malpractice, catastrophic injury, wrongful death and pursuit of consumer class actions.


The SBM Board of Commissioners provides oversight to the State Bar on finance, public policy, professional standards and member services and communications.


Judicial Tenure Commission

Judge Brian R. Sullivan, of Detroit, won a contested election for a three-year term on the Judicial Tenure Commission that will commence Jan. 1, 2019 and will expire on Dec. 31, 2021. Judge Sullivan was elected to the Wayne County Third Circuit Court in 1998.

The JTC is a constitutionally created body that promotes the integrity of the judicial process and preserves public confidence in the courts. 


SBM Representative Assembly

Samantha J. Orvis, of Grand Blanc, won a contested race for a three-year term on the Representative Assembly in Circuit 7, representing Genesee County.   

Fifty-eight attorneys won unopposed races in the State Bar Representative Assembly. These new members are:

First Circuit—Hillsdale County
Karlye A. Horton

Second Circuit—Berrien County
Amber D. Peters
Mary Margaret-LaSata Spiegel

Third Circuit—Wayne County
Julia A. Gilbert
Susan L. Haroutunian
Christina B. Hines
Diane Hutcherson
Sean M. Myers
John C. Philo

Fourth Circuit—Jackson County
Terry J. Klaasen

Sixth Circuit—Oakland County
 Heather J. Atnip
James P. Brennan
Colleen H. Burke
John Chau
David J. Eagles
J. Scot Garrison
Karen R. Geibel
Dawn M. King
Mathew Kobliska
Brian D. O’Keefe
Ryan A. Paree
Margaret A. Scott
Louis A. Stefanic
Mark L. Teicher

10th Circuit—Saginaw County
Jennifer A. Van Benschoten Jones

11th Circuit—Alger, Luce, Mackinac and Schoolcraft Counties
Chad W. Peltier

13th Circuit—Antrim, Grand Traverse and Leelanau Counties
James L. Rossiter

14th Circuit—Muskegon County
Jennifer J. Roach

17th Circuit—Kent County
Michael D. Adams
Nicholas V. Dondzila
Elizabeth J. Fossel
Patrick M. Jaicomo
Joshua Z. Kosmerick
Nicholas M. Ohanesian

20th Circuit—Ottawa County
Christopher M. Wirth

22nd Circuit—Washtenaw County
Mark W. Jane

23rd Circuit—Alcona, Arenac, Iosco and Oscoda Counties
Duane L. Hadley

25th Circuit—Marquette County
Patrick C. Greeley

29th Circuit—Clinton and Gratiot Counties
Cassandra R. Green

30th Circuit—Ingham County
Yolanda M. Bennett
Nicole A. Evans
Carmen G. Fahie
Christopher L. Jackson
Jessica L. Zimbelman

32nd Circuit—Gogebic and Ontonagon Counties
Anna R. Talaska

33rd Circuit—Charlevoix County
Kevin G. Klevorn

35th Circuit—Shiawassee County
Michael L. Herendeen

36th Circuit—Calhoun County
Adam D. Bancroft

38th Circuit—Monroe County
Anne M. McCarthy
Michael C. Brown

44th Circuit—Livingston County
Dennis L. Perkins

45th Circuit—St. Joseph County
John L. Barnes

48th Circuit—Delta County
Avery D. Rose

50th Circuit—Chippewa County
David E. Bulson

52nd Circuit—Huron County
Dallas Rooney

53rd Circuit—Cheboygan and Presque Isle Counties
Melissa Goodrich

55th Circuit—Clare and Gladwin Counties
Hon. Thomas R. Evans

56th Circuit—Eaton County 
Kristen L. Krol

The 150-member Representative Assembly was created in 1972 to increase the proportion of members who actively participate in State Bar policy; it serves as the SBM final policy-making body.

SBM Young Lawyers Section Executive Council

Two attorneys — Choi T. Portis, of Detroit, and Ryan Zemke, of Clinton Township — won uncontested elections in District 1, representing Wayne and Macomb counties, for a two-year term expiring in 2020.

Four attorneys — Angela L. Baldwin, of RochesterKristina A. Bilowus, of Royal Oak, Jerome Crawford, of Troy, and Brande N. Smith, of Farmington Hills — won uncontested elections in District 2, representing Oakland County, for two-year terms expiring in 2020.

Three attorneys — Samantha J. Orvisof Grand Blanc, Erica N. Payneof Marquette, and Christopher B. Wickmanof Okemos— won contested elections in District 3, representing all Michigan counties except for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb, for two-year terms expiring in 2020.

The Young Lawyers Executive Council governs the members of the Young Lawyers Section, one of the State Bar's largest sections. The section provides education, information, and analysis about issues of concern through meetings, seminars, public service programs, and newsletters. The section has won numerous awards for its public service and educational programs.

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