Post brings judicial experience, temperament to build Lakeshore ADR practice at Varnum

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PHOTO COURTESY OF VARNUM

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Retired Ottawa County Judge Edward R. Post brings 26 years of judicial experience to the table as he joins Varnum, working out of the firm’s Lakeshore office.

And during those 26 years he has seen a lot that makes him think Alternative Dispute Resolution is a viable alternative to trial, a marketable practice area, and a great fit for him.

“From the perspective of a judge,  you’re convinced you could always make an argument to win for either side,” he says, adding with characteristic good humor, “Of course, you’re never put to the test.”

Presiding over thousands of civil and criminal cases and hundreds of jury trials, Judge Post also handled settlement conferences across disciplines, from business to personal injury to family law to property disputes.

What he saw convinced him that ADR can help solve one of the biggest challenges parties face: the high cost of going to trial.

“In the final 30 days when the lawyers hunker down and get all their exhibits together, draft their opening and closing arguments, all of that, there’s a huge commitment of time that the client is paying for.”

He notes that the movement to ADR has come over the past ten years or so in his experience, and that now the Ottawa Circuit Court requires mediation in all domestic and civil trials. “The procedure is, the parties are ordered to mediation and the lawyers mutually select a mediator. If they can’t agree, then the court appoints one from the list of pre-approved mediators, but in this county most of the lawyers agree on who the mediator will be,” he explains.

He believes this has been highly beneficial.

“If you look at the numbers it’s very effective not only in relieving the cost and expense of trial, but all the human benefits,” Post says. “It is empowering to be the master of your own fate. People don’t have to agree to anything, but when they do, they’ve bought into the resolution. Both people can walk away winners — both can walk away from mediation without saying, ‘I had to give in.’
“And there’s something very cathartic about being able to say what’s on their mind and how they feel about a case. Once you talk to a lawyer, you do all your talking through the lawyers and legal papers, which are often mired in language that’s difficult to understand and also sometimes inflamma-

tory. From time to time it even hurts people’s feelings unnecessarily. So it feels good when you get an opportunity to sit across from the opposing party and talk to them.”

At the same time as he expresses a desire to focus intensively on facilitative mediation, Post says he will not necessarily be limited to that in his Varnum practice.

“I still have a trial or two in me,” he says. “When you watch a lot of lawyers ply their trade, you realize that some practices are very effective.”

Before running for District Court Judge in Ottawa County, where he spent two years before being elected to the Circuit Court, Post worked for 15 years in a litigation practice. When the firm he was with, Miller Johnson, opened a Grand Haven office, he moved there, and five years later ran for judge at the urging of a colleague.

Born in Milwaukee but raised in Allendale as the son of a physician, Judge Post attended Calvin College for his B.A. in Political Science, and then University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. He comments, “When I was younger, I never thought I would return to Ottawa County. Sometimes I feel more like a pinball in terms of my career than a rifle shot. You react to things and end up in places you never thought you would.”

He spent 16 years as the Chief Judge. “I maintained a caseload while having the administrative responsibilities for all the circuit court operations, including the family court and the juvenile and the civil/criminal, the Friend of the Court. That took a lot of my time, but it was interesting work,” he adds.

Post’s 2016 retirement stemmed mainly from a desire to relax a little after so many years. “I felt that I had done what I came to do, and it seemed like a good time to step back and do something that takes less effort on a daily basis. There’s a huge difference between coming in at 8:30 and coming in at 9:00,” he says with a smile.

Says Post, “As a judge, primarily what I tried to do was to be fair. Obviously, I also tried to follow the law, but do it in a way that understood there’s a human dynamic to everything. For me, that’s where the fairness comes in. You can apply the law in a very unfair way.

“I remember when President Obama was making his nomination for the Supreme Court, the whole idea of empathy came up, and a lot of people said that empathy has no place in the law. But I don’t agree; empathy plays a big role for a judge, understanding where people come from.”

Despite his initial misgivings about returning to the county of his youth, Judge Post has become a highly respected member of the community.

Contributing to that has been his passion, and gift, for photography. “It provides some balance in your life. A lot of what I did as a judge involved people in crisis, so with photography, you get out in the woods and it’s an entirely different world,” he says.

Post has won multiple prizes for his photographs, most in the tri-cities area. Grand Haven hosts an event called ArtWalk each year at the same time as ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, where the public walks around town looking at art and votes on their favorites. Post entered the first two years and won “Best in Show” both years.

“I told everybody on probation that they had to vote for me, it was a term and condition of their probation,” he jokes.

Though most of his exquisite photographs are of nature subjects, in particular birds, Post was a stringer photographer for the Grand Haven Tribune for several years. He teaches occasional classes, and they are well-reviewed.

“Just a little before I started as a judge, in 1990, my wife bought me a one-week workshop in photography, so she has only herself to blame,” he says.

The Posts have four children, now “scattered to the wind:” two live in the Bay Area of California, one in Florida, and one is now moving back from Portland Ore. “My daughter who’s moving back here, to Grand Rapids, is expecting twins. That will be in March and then my life will change,” Post says, grinning.

A high point for Judge Post, and a good reflection of the esteem in which he is held, was receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the TriCities Chamber of Commerce in 2016.

“That was really a big deal for me — what an honor,” he comments.