Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed John Keuvelaar to the Bay County Probate Court.
Keuvelaar has served as assistant prosecuting attorney in the Family Support Division for Bay County since 1998. He has managed dependent neglect, mental health and juvenile cases. Prior to his work in Bay County, he worked for the Gratiot County prosecutor's office. He is a Bay County child abuse protocol training instructor and has been a presenter to the Gratiot County Multi-County Sexual Assault Program, the State Court Administrative Office Child Welfare Conference, and the Department of Human Services family-to-family kick-off community.
Keuvelaar earned a bachelor’s degree from Albion College and a law degree from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.
He fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Karen A. Tighe. He must seek election in November 2016 to fill the remainder of the term.
Gov. Rick Snyder appointed David J. DiStefano to the Van Buren County Probate Court.
DiStefano has most recently worked as a general practitioner focused on probate work in Van Buren County. He has also served as Bangor city attorney from 1987 to 2014 and as general counsel for multiple companies. He is a member of the Van Buren County Economic Development Corp. board of directors and the Van Buren County Restorative Justice Committee. He previously served on the Van Buren County Mental Health Board and the Bangor Public School Board. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
DiStefano fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Frank D. Willis. He must seek election in November 2016 to fill the remainder of the term.
The State Bar of Michigan Pro Bono Initiative will sponsor the Annual Spring Pro Bono Workshop from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 19 at the SBM Michael Franck Building in Lansing.
The training will help legal services providers access the tools they need to recruit pro bono attorneys and to successfully and efficiently manage pro bono programs.
Many topics will be discussed, including Future of Legal Services, ABA Pro Bono Standards, 2015 Update on Pro Bono Standards, Techniques for Recruiting Pro Bono Attorneys, Successfully Managing Your Pro Bono Program, Using Technology to Enhance Your Pro Bono Program, Planning and Preparing for Pro Bono Month.
The State Bar of Michigan invites all law firms of two or more attorneys to apply for the 2015 Pro Bono Circle of Excellence, which recognizes every firm that fully complied with the State Bar's Voluntary Pro Bono Standard during 2014. The application deadline is April 4.
Both volunteer legal services for low-income individuals and organizations and financial support for eligible nonprofit organizations providing free civil legal aid for the poor are included in the Voluntary Pro Bono Standard. The Pro Bono Standard calls for lawyers to annually take three pro bono cases, devote at least 30 hours of pro bono service, or make a monetary contribution to a legal aid provider organization. Contributions to the Access to Justice Fund count toward fulfilling the standard.
The Pro Bono Standard now asks lawyers to make an annual financial contribution of $500 for those whose income allows a higher contribution. It continues to recognize lawyers who maintain the original (1999) recommended contribution of $300. Those firms whose aggregate contributions of 30 hours of service and/or a $500 standard were recognized last year in a new Leadership Level. The 2015 Circle of Excellence will continue to include two tiers of recognition – the higher contribution Leadership Level, and the original 30-hour or $300 standard.
"We are extremely proud of the increased number of law firms that appeared on last year's Circle of Excellence," SBM President Tom Rombach said. "Fifty four firms achieved that recognition, up from the previous year's 45 firms. We especially laud the 23 firms who achieved the new Leadership Level, and we continue to encourage firms to establish a presence on the Circle at either the original or the Leadership Level." Rombach also noted that individual lawyers who meet the Pro Bono Standard are celebrated locally through their Access to Justice programs, and in the SBM A Lawyer Helps program.
Four teams have won top honors in the State Bar of Michigan 41st Annual Wade H. McCree Jr. Awards for the Advancement of Justice.
The first McCree Award goes to a Michigan Radio team, including Jennifer Guerra, Sarah Alvarez and Sarah Hulett. Their series, called “Finding Home: A Documentary about Foster Care in Michigan,” investigated improvements made to Michigan’s foster care system, which oversees the care of over 13,000 children and has been under federal oversight since 2008. The series of reports introduced listeners to the system by examining the lives of the Kley family, who adopted three foster children. The series also expanded in scope to inform and educate listeners about the difficult situations faced by the children in the foster care system, the role of the law and the courts in the system, a general overview of the state’s child welfare system and suggestions to improve it, and legal and legislative efforts needed to update and modernize laws surrounding broken adoptions in the foster care system.
The second McCree Award goes to Detroit Free Press reporters Nathan Bomey, John Gallagher and Mark Stryker for a special report about Detroit’s bankruptcy, called “How Detroit Was Reborn.” The piece, marking the end of months of Free Press coverage of the historic bankruptcy, told the backstory of the behind-the-scenes conversations and deals that ended in Detroit’s Grand Bargain. A companion story profiled bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes and the role he played keeping the city’s survival in the spotlight as negotiations ensued. The reports served as the centerpieces of a multimedia experience that included photos, videos, infographics and other integrated content, and drew 70,000 desktop views and more than 3,500 shares on Facebook.
The third McCree Award goes to a team of WDET journalists, including Joan Isabella, Sandra Svoboda and Courtney Hurtt, for the website, NextChapterDetroit.com, and a series of broadcast reports and open community forums on Detroit’s historic bankruptcy case. The journalists at WDET and NextChapterDetroit.com created a valuable, easily understandable community resource about a very difficult topic that delivered breaking news about developments in the proceedings and daily updates about events in and around the courtroom. NextChapterDetroit.com will live on as a comprehensive archive of information for readers, legal researchers and attorneys seeking a better understanding of the largest municipal bankruptcy in history.
The fourth McCree Award goes to MLive Media Group reporter Brad Devereaux for a series, “Small Town, Big Problems,” that chronicled a number of legal actions involving a small town police chief and an unorthodox program to raise tens of thousands of dollars in unregulated funds. The alleged pay-to-play scheme has resulted in a small Saginaw County village of less than 300 residents having 100 reservist officers. The series examined the role and processes of local village government, local public policy issues, the role of courts in reviewing the actions of local government officials and how local police agencies interact with state agencies.
An Honorable Mention Award goes to Detroit News reporter Mike Martindale for a story, “Judge on leave to quit after re-election,” that brought to light a deal worked out among court officials to allow a district judge suspected of improper behavior in his official position to seek re-election and then quietly retire from the court system. Martindale uncovered emails indicating that city, court and state officials knew of the scandal and agreed to keep it from voters.
SBM President Tom Rombach will present the McCree Awards at the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on April 19 at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing. The McCree Awards are given each year to foster greater public understanding of the inherent values of the legal and judicial system.
The 2015 McCree Awards were judged by retired Detroit Free Press Editor Ron Dzwonkowski, Central Michigan University Journalism Professor John Hartman and former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Michael Cavanagh.
The Wade H. McCree Jr. Awards for the Advancement of Justice are named for one of the most venerable lawyers and judges in Michigan's history. During his remarkable career, Wade H. McCree Jr. served as a federal judge, University of Michigan law professor, and solicitor general of the United States. For more information about the awards, visit SBM McCree Awards.
State Bar of Michigan President Thomas C. Rombach has appointed distinguished legal leaders to a new 21st Century Practice Task Force to recommend how the State Bar can best support lawyers’ professional development in a rapidly changing legal marketplace. The task force will also look at the potential for modernizing Michigan’s attorney regulation in response to those changes. SBM Past Presidents Julie Fershtman, of Farmington Hills, and Bruce Courtade, of Grand Rapids, will co-chair the task force. Some of the other members of the task force include three other past presidents of the State Bar, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Mary Beth Kelly, the deans of all five Michigan law schools, former American Bar Association President Robert Hirshon and former Judge James Redford, Governor Snyder’s legal counsel.
“The willingness of such exceptional leaders to serve on the task force reflects the growing awareness in Michigan of how technology and globalization are profoundly changing the world in which lawyers practice and the importance of meeting the challenges these changes present,” Rombach said. He emphasized that the task force will focus on recommending concrete, practical steps to keep Michigan a leader in legal initiatives.
The 21st Century Practice Task Force will build on the work of the State Bar of Michigan Judicial Crossroads Task Force. Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. has credited the 2011 Crossroads report as making valuable contributions to a number of transformational and cost-saving changes now underway in Michigan’s court system.
The task force will work for a year and release a public report in March of 2016. Meetings of the task force will be held in open session so that State Bar members and the public can follow its work and offer comment on the 21st Century Practice Task Force website.
The task force recommendations will be developed from the work of three committees comprised of prominent Michigan attorneys, judges, academicians and public officials. The three committees are Affordability of Legal Services: New Tools for Breaking through the Access Barrier, Building a 21st Century Practice: Developing and Maintaining Professional Excellence in a Dynamic Marketplace and Modernizing the Regulatory Machinery: Building Resilience and Capacity in the Delivery of Legal Services.
The foundation for the new task force was laid in November of 2014 at a forum on the future of legal services convened by the State Bar in Lansing. The forum was held in conjunction with the American Bar Association Commission on the Future of Legal Services. ABA President William Hubbard told those gathered at the forum that the justice system is at an inflection point, and he challenged the legal profession to develop a new model to meet the needs of the underserved while enhancing the opportunities for lawyers to thrive in their practices.
Eric Liu, a civics educator and founder of Citizens University, thinks we need to make civics education sexy again.
He thinks we make civics sexy by empowering amateur political activists (ordinary citizens) to take action on local political issues, so that they begin to understand power and government within their local communities.
What do you think? Do you have any ideas on how we can work together to make civics education better?
How about ideas on improving Law Day or Constitution Day?
Do you know a lawyer who always goes above and beyond the call of duty? A lawyer who has exhibited the highest standards of practice and commitment for the benefit of others?
Please nominate him or her for an Unsung Hero Award today. The deadline for submitting your nomination is March 13.
The State Bar of Michigan Representative Assembly gives out Unsung Hero Awards each year at the SBM Annual Meeting. Last year's winner, Susan Reed, believes everyone deserves quality legal defense regardless of the horrific crimes they are accused of committing. She has represented drug dealers, serial rapists, and murderers. Recently, she represented a notorious handyman-turned-alleged hitman in a very tough case since the defendant gave multiple stories to police and details of the murder have been leaked to the media. The judge said he assigned the case to Reed because he believes she does an exceptional job with clients in challenging situations. Beyond representing clients other attorneys may not want, Reed works to improve the work of all defense attorneys. A longtime active leader in the Wayne County Criminal Defense Bar, she currently serves as the organization's president.
James L. Shonkwiler, Jr. of Grand Ledge, died February 24 at the age of 79, after a long and exemplary career in criminal justice. He was a 1963 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, developing a passion for criminal justice by serving as court-appointed counsel for indigent criminal defendants, serving in leading capacities for most of Michigan's criminal justice enterprises. In 1967, he was appointed associate director of the Michigan Crime Commission. In 1970, when the Commission created the first state-level office in the United States to train and support county prosecutors -- the Michigan Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council -- Mr. Shonkwiler became the Council's executive secretary, a position he held for 27 years, while simultaneously holding the position of Executive Director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan. His work was felt well beyond Michigan as he advised other countries on the creation of councils and commissions similar to Michigan's. In 1995, at the request of Vietnam, the United Nations sent Mr. Shonkwiler to Hanoi as part of a three-person team to help improve Vietnam's criminal justice system.
Mr. Shonkwiler was also a driving force behind the Criminal Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan, editing and writing for the section's monthly newsletter, summarizing developments in state and national law. Jim served on the Standing Committee for State Bar Character and Fitness, and in retirement was able to see one of his longstanding dreams come to fruition, the establishment of an Indigent Criminal Defense Commission to reform Michigan’s indigent criminal defendant system.
Mr. Shonkwiler is survived by his wife Dotti, sons Daniel and John, five grandchildren, and brothers and sisters-in-law.
Visitation will be Sunday March 1, 3:00-6:00 PM, at Palmer Bush and Jensen, 6020 West Saginaw Highway (west side of Lansing). A memorial service will take place Monday, March 2, 11:00 AM at, University United Methodist Church, 1120 S. Harrison, East Lansing.
In lieu of flowers the family would appreciate memorials to University United Methodist Church or the Refugee Development Center, 122 South Pennsylvania Ave., Lansing, MI.