SBM McCree winners to be honored April 19

Four teams have won top honors in the State Bar of Michigan 41st Annual Wade H. McCree Jr. Awards for the Advancement of Justice.

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 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,, and a series of broadcast reports and open community forums on Detroit's historic bankruptcy case. The journalists at WDET and 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. 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 reelection," 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.

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 are named for one of the most venerable lawyers and judges in Michigan 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

Published: Thu, Apr 09, 2015