Award winner: Judge to receive a royal salute at Tertzag Tribute event


By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

For a man accustomed to wearing traditional judicial robes, Judge Mark Plawecki will sport a figuratively different look on February 27 when he steps into the spotlight at the 11th annual Tertzag Tribute Dinner in Dearborn.

That night, at the Park Place Banquet Hall, Plawecki will be saluted by a sellout crowd as this year’s recipient of the Purple Sport Coat Award, an honor named in memory of Kaye Tertzag, a Wayne County Circuit Court judge who died of cancer in February 2009 some five years after retiring from the bench.

“This dinner is really a testimony to my dad’s legacy,” said attorney Kara Tertzag Lividini, whose father was known for his colorful attire. “Eleven years, a sold out crowd every year, and people from all backgrounds and political parties come together for a moment of unity, which is so desperately needed in our legal community during this time in our country. My dad is a great example of a wonderful jurist, father, husband, mentor, and friend. Judge Plawecki has been to every Tertzag Tribute Dinner. He is a very deserving award winner. We are so excited to have him accept the award. During his 25 years of service on the bench, he has demonstrated Judge Tertzag’s three P’s – be prompt, be prepared, and be polite.”

Chief judge of the 20th District Court in Dearborn Heights, Plawecki was first elected to the bench in 1994 and has been re-elected four times to six-year terms. He will seek a sixth term in office this November.

“Prior to serving on the bench, he was president of the Rombach, Plawecki and Viggiani firm and also was Hazel Park’s prosecutor,” said Lividini. “He is the father to three daughters (Rachel, Lauren, and Monica). In his spare time, Judge Plawecki authored two books – ‘How Could You Trade Billy Pierce?’ and ‘Notes from Outside the Truman Show.’ He also is a stellar tennis player.”

Plawecki, in turn, said he is “deeply humbled” to be named a recipient of the award, which in past years has been presented to such notables as Chief Judge Denise Page Hood of the U.S. District Court, Chief Justice Bridget McCormack of the Michigan Supreme Court, Wayne County Circuit Judge David Allen, and Wayne County Circuit Judge Edward Ewell.

“It’s truly an honor to be in such company,” Plawecki said of the list of award winners from years past.

“I, of course, was an admirer of Judge Tertzag and considered him a great legal role model to members of the bench and bar,” Plawecki added.

A 1983 graduate of Michigan State, Plawecki earned his juris doctor from Cooley Law School in 1987. The youngest of four children, Plawecki is the second son of a father who spent 40 years with Ford Motor Co. before retiring from the giant automaker.

His late father helped inspire Plawecki to write “How Could You Trade Billy Pierce?”, a baseball gem that delves deeply into the art of pitching, offering a statistical look that foreshadowed the analytic craze that now consumes the national pastime.

“My dad may have given me a spark for the book by telling me how good such pitchers as Schoolboy Rowe and Hal Newhouser were in comparison to pitchers from my era,” Plawecki related. “It really gave me some incentive to come up with a way to ‘level the playing field’ when comparing pitchers from different eras.”

His second book – “Notes from Outside the Truman Show” – is compilation of columns he wrote from 2006-12 under the pseudonym “Confessions of a Condor.” Those columns were published in The Detroit Legal News and “offers illumination on the current state of affairs in America and the world,” providing a “way forward for the most difficult challenges of our time.”

The book was published in 2014, two years before Plawecki suffered the tragic loss of his wife Julie, who died of a heart defect while hiking in the Oregon mountains with two of their daughters.

Plawecki and his wife met while students at MSU and were married for nearly 28 years when tragedy struck.

“She had exhibited no signs of heart problems, so in a sense it was a bolt out of the blue,” Plawecki said of his wife’s death at age 54. “It was shocking and so unexpected, and yet I can only look at it in the light that I was blessed to have been married to her and to have known her for 34 years. She was truly an incredible person.”

On a professional level, she made her mark as a teacher and then as state legislator, where she worked in bi-partisan fashion to promote policies for the benefit of students, seniors, veterans, and the disenfranchised.

Shortly after her death, a fellow Democrat, State Sen. David Knezek, posted a glowing tribute to Plawecki on Facebook.

“She was whip smart,” Knezek wrote. “She had a heart of gold. She was a bulldog on issues she cared about. She was a bulldog on issues you cared about, too. She was the epitome of class. Her style and her grace came effortlessly. She loved with everything she had. She gave every ounce of her that she could. She was a model (State) Representative: absolutely zero ego, truly wanted to do good, treated her staff well and respected them. She got things done. The Legislature barely deserved her. Her constituents couldn’t have asked for better.”

Such a legacy lives on in the Wayne County Circuit Court, which twice a year presents the “Julie Plawecki Award” to a deserving graduate of the juvenile drug court program.

“Julie was a big proponent of the drug court program and I’m honored to present the award two times a year, in February and August,” said Judge Plawecki. “It’s a wonderful way to keep her memory alive.”


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