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 sbmcommittees@michbar.org 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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State Bar of Michigan Announces 2018 Award Winners

The 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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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 http://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 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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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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2018 SBM Election Information

Handsintheair2Are you interested in serving in a leadership role at the State Bar of Michigan or Judicial Tenure Commission? If so, check the March 2018 edition of the Michigan Bar Journal for the official State Bar election notice for the 2018 elections.

The following elections will be held in June 2018:

  • A statewide election for a judicial member of the Judicial Tenure Commission
  • Elections for the members of the Representative Assembly in 40 judicial circuits
  • Elections for members of the Board of Commissioners in five commissioner districts
  • Elections for members of the Young Lawyers Section Executive Council in three districts

If you're interested in running, submit a nominating petition between April 1 and April 30, 2018. Electronic ballots for the 2018 State Bar elections will be distributed by email beginning on Friday, May 25. SBM members who do not have an email address on file will receive a paper ballot. Online voting will end at 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday, June 15, and paper ballots must be received postmarked no later than June 15.

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Submit a Nomination for a 2018 Michigan Top Lawyer

The selection process for Michigan Top Lawyers for 2018 is underway. Make your nominations today.

Click Here To Nominate

Anyone can submit nominations, including: Current clients, past clients, lawyers, colleagues, marketing teams and consultants. Top Lawyers will be selected for each practice area. All nominations will be reviewed, confirmed, and approved by a Michigan Top Lawyers selection panel.

Share this link to encourage others to nominate you to be a Michigan Top Lawyer:


Michigan Legal Milestone 1: Ossian Sweet Trial

MichiganLegalMilestones_1In June 1925, prominent African American medical doctor Dr. Ossian Sweet and his family, who were arrested and charged with the murder of one member of a white mob who tried to shoot at the Sweet home in Detroit.

The NAACP enlisted the aid of famed attorney Clarence Darrow who came to Michigan to defend the Sweets.

Presiding Judge Frank Murphy instructed the jury that "a man's house is his castle" and that Dr. Sweet had the right to defend it, if he had good reason to fear for the lives of his family or their property. These rights, he noted, belong to black people as well as whites.

Acquitted, the Sweet family moved back into their home at 2905 Garland Avenue, Detroit, and an important legal precedent had been set.

More information about the Ossian Sweet Trial. 

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SBM Animal Law Section Announces Brandi and Sadie Award Recipients

StiggysdogsThe Animal Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan will present the Sadie Award to Stiggy’s Dogs at 3 p.m. on April 17 at the organization’s facility in Hamburg Township. Stiggy’s Dogs is a nonprofit organization that rescues and trains shelter dogs to be psychiatric service dogs for military veterans living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Traumatic Brain Injury. The psychiatric service dogs are trained and deployed at no cost to the veteran.  

The Sadie Award was created in 2001 to recognize contributions to the well-being of animals made by Michigan residents not involved in the legal or legislative systems. The award was named in memory of Sadie, a beloved family dog who died as the result of animal cruelty. Previous recipients of the Sadie Award include Michigan Humane Society Cruelty Investigation Team, Ron Kagan, Judy Dynnick, Melissa Rosenberg, West Michigan SPCA d/b/a Faithful to Felines, SASHA Farm and Connie Page and Tom Connor.

The SBM Animal Law Section will also present the Brandi Award to Katie Branigan Hawkins, an assistant prosecuting attorney with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, at 4 p.m. on March 29 at the Jackson Fraternal Order of Police Lodge. Branigan Hawkins formed an Animal Anticruelty Task Force with Dr. Cathy Anderson, shelter veterinarian for Jackson County Animal Control. Branigan Hawkins has personally taken cruelty and neglect cases arising from Jackson County Animal Control and empowered the shelter to pursue charges on felony and misdemeanor cases. Her contributions have been vital to the shelter, which has no animal control officers. The Brandi Award recipient can designate a $250 honorarium to a Michigan nonprofit organization. Branigan Hawkins has chosen the Friends of the Animals for the Jackson Area, Inc. to receive the honorarium.

The SBM Animal Law Section established the Brandi Award in 2000 to periodically recognize a person in the legal or legislative professions who does something remarkable for animals. The award was first presented to Hon. Kaye Tertzag, a Wayne County Circuit Court judge who ruled that a case seeking non-economic damages in the death of Brandi, a companion dog, should proceed. Other recipients of the award include Rep. Robert Kosowski, Hon. Steven Servaas, former Judge David Soet, Hon. John Hallacy, prosecutor Katherine Miller, former Sen. Carl Levin, Hon. Conrad Sindt, Senator Rick Jones, former Rep. Pamela Byrnes, former Rep. John Espinoza, and Senator Steven Bieda.

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