Bidding adieu: Magistrate calls an end to long public service career

Photo by Paul Janczewski

By Paul Janczewski
Legal News

Michael J. Hluchaniuk, who worked in Jackson County in the ’70s, has led a successful and rewarding career as a lawyer in private practice, as an Assistant United States Attorney, and a federal magistrate judge.

But on December 23, Hluchaniuk will retire from the bench, and possibly his legal career, to enjoy family, friends, and hobbies.

Born in Manitoba, Hluchaniuk moved to Allen Park when he was 2 years old. A graduate of Allen Park High School, he earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Michigan in 1969, before applying to Wayne State Law School.

During his first year there, Hluchaniuk worked part-time loading trucks at the old A&P Grocery store. “(My parents) didn’t have any money to support me, so I basically paid my own way through law school,“ he said, while also taking advantage of student loans.

After his first year at Wayne, he qualified for a work-study program based on financial need, offering him the opportunity to work at a free legal aid clinic during his second and third years of school.

There, under the supervision of practicing attorneys, he received practical experience, heading down to the Detroit Recorder’s Court and trying criminal cases in domestic relations.
“I got into court a fair amount as a law student,” he said. “And I liked being in the courtroom, and that became what I wanted to do for the rest of my career.”

Hluchaniuk graduated from law school in 1972, and his first job was working for the Michigan Supreme Court in the court reporter’s office in Lansing. While he gained valuable experience editing the opinions of Court of Appeals judges, Hluchaniuk was less than thrilled with the work.“It was not a completely satisfying work experience because I was basically sitting in an office and doing research and writing, which I didn’t find to be all that appealing from a professional standpoint,” he said.

He then landed a job as a staff attorney with the Jackson County Legal Aid Society, handling mainly domestic relations cases and various civil matters. He was there for nearly two years when he joined the Greater Lansing Legal Aid Bureau as a staff attorney.

“The position I had was a little more specialized,” he said. “I didn’t have the broad range of civil litigation that I was engaged with in Jackson County.” 

His primary job there was working on a class-action lawsuit relating to a sub-standard housing development, suing the developer. He enjoyed the challenge, but the assignment did not last long because the Lansing City Council “pulled the funding from the program under pressure from the developer,” Hluchaniuk said.

After that, Hluchaniuk went into private practice in East Lansing, handling criminal defense work, plaintiff’s personal injury cases, domestic relations, and legal work for a few nonprofit organizations in the area.

But after five years in private practice, he decided to head to the public service sector, becoming an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan in Bay City.
Hluchaniuk would remain there for the next 27 years.

“When I started, I was the only lawyer there,” he said. “They eventually added some others and some staff and made me the branch office supervisor.”

Hluchaniuk said it was the “most enjoyable legal experience” he had because he was in court often, prosecuting criminal cases. “I liked the trial process and I tried a lot of cases,” he said.

The jurisdiction encompassed the northern division of the Eastern District, from Saginaw north to the Mackinac Bridge. Hluchaniuk handled a significant number of drug cases, and prosecuted one case where individuals were smuggling drugs into several state prisons. Another newsworthy case involved a drug-related homicide involving members of a motorcycle club.

In 2007, Hluchaniuk was named a magistrate judge in Flint. He sought the position “to see the law applied from a different vantage point,” he indicated.

As a magistrate judge, Hluchaniuk performs a variety of judicial duties, presiding over arraignments, detention and competency hearings, civil matters, as well as suppression hearings.
Magistrate judges serve 8-year terms, and with Hluchaniuk’s coming to an end, he has asked for permission to work part-time, called recall status, and is awaiting word of approval. He also could have asked for his term to be extended.

“I elected not to do that,” he said. “I was ready to find some more things that I wanted to do with my life other than work. Since I started with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, my job has been very time consuming, and it’s prevented and limited my ability to do other things. So I thought, at age 69, I’d like to find some more time to travel and spend time with my grandkids.”

He also plans to spend more time on outdoor activities, such as fishing, kayaking, cross-country skiing, and hiking. “Anything that gets me outdoors,” he said with a smile.
Hluchaniuk and his wife, Janet, met at U-M, and have been married since 1971. They lived in Frankenmuth for 30 years, and now reside in Williamston.

“I’m very satisfied with my legal career,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of things that I’ve hoped to do, litigated cases of significance, and I’ve gotten to see the practice of law from the judicial side, which has been an interesting and rewarding experience.”

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