Tertzag Tribute Dinner: Lujan receives Purple Sportcoat

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By John Minnis

Legal News
 
Southfield attorney Mike Butler said the second annual Tertzag Tribute Dinner and Purple Sportcoat Award ceremony would be a sellout, and he was right. 
Some 200 family, friends and members of the bar turned out Thursday, Feb. 24, to honor Kaye “Chach” Tertzag, retired Wayne Wayne County Circuit judge and accomplished facilitator, who died Feb. 4, 2009.
“I’m honored to be part of the Tribute Committee and emcee of this event,” said Butler, who as a blogger suggested the Purple Sport Coat Award. “This is the second year, and we want to make it an annual event.”
The tribute dinner and Purple Sportcoat Award event at Dearborn’s Park Place Banquet Hall was organized by the Tertzag Tribute Dinner Committee, consisting of family friends and colleagues: wife, Kathy Tertzag; daughter, Kara Tertzag Lividini; son, Kyle; Wayne County Circuit Judges David Allen and Gregory Bill; Butler; Robert Cassar; Anthony Guerriero; Lance E. Mermel; and Norm Tucker.
Among the many judges, lawyers and elected officials attending the dinner were Michigan’s newest Supreme Court justice, Brian Zahra, and former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox.
Former Gov. James Blanchard, who appointed Kaye Tertzag to the Wayne County Circuit Court in 1987, was the keynote speaker.
Blanchard, who served as Ambassador to Canada under the Clinton administration, is now a partner in the Washington D.C. law firm of DLA Piper. Still involved in U.S.-Canada relations, Blanchard flew in from Ottawa to attend the Tertzag dinner.
“What do you say about a guy whose favorite color is purple?” Blanchard said. “I never knew him as ‘Chach.’ I knew him as ‘Judge.’ It was a great pleasure to appoint Chach as judge.”
Blanchard appointed 160 judges during his eight years as governor. “One of the best was Chach, no question about it,” he said. “When you are talking about red states and blue states, purple is perfect.”
The former governor said he and Tertzag had many things in common. Both loved animals, ran track and worked as janitors at some point in their lives. The comparisons stop there. Tertzag played basketball in college; Blanchard didn’t even make the bench.
“It seems like only yesterday I was in office,” Blanchard said. “By the way, when I was elected to office, Michigan had 17 percent unemployment.”
He said he is often recognized in airports: “I know you. You’re the weatherman on TV, on Channel 4!”
“I haven’t fallen off the planet,” Blanchard said. “I have a home in Beverly Hills (Mich.) and work for the largest law firm in the world. My son Jay just turned 40.”
Blanchard said he stills sees Bill and Hillary Clinton quite a bit. He also talks to former Govs. William Milliken, John Engler and Jennifer Granholm. He has been in conversation with new Gov. Rick Snyder’s team.
“They have been good enough to reach out to me,” he said. “Anyone can run a state during times of prosperity, but in tough times, leadership is really needed.”
He indicated that he and Snyder and others favor a second bridge to Canada.
“We’re all supporting a new bridge two miles south of the existing bridge. We do more trade with Canada than anyone else. Canada is our largest supplier of energy and oil, and the auto industries are intertwined.”
A consultant to the Michigan Department of Transportation for years, Blanchard said the second span over the Detroit River is “the most important infrastructure decision we can make. It would create 10,000 jobs. We’re talking about a huge stimulus here in Michigan.”
As a congressman, Blanchard sponsored the Chrysler loan guarantees back in 1979. Some 32 years later, his loyalty to the automaker was rewarded.
“I was invited to sit on the Chrysler board,” Blanchard announced, “and I am honored to say I am on the Chrysler board. We’re not only going to survive, we’re going to thrive!”
The large Dearborn-Livonia-Allen Park contingent was quick to point out that Ford belonged in the winners’ circle as well, and Blanchard agreed.
“The name of the game is jobs and the economy,” he said, “not the Tea Party baloney. Don’t read too much into what people are saying about the deficit. It is not as serious as getting the economy going right now. We balanced the budget. We can do it again. Don’t let them tell you there is a problem with Social Security. Don’t let anyone tell you it is broken.”
 Blanchard said he was born and raised in Michigan and still believes in the state.
“There is so much talent here,” he said. “It concerns me that we look at the long term. We will get through this current stagnant economy. This state has way too much talent to be kept down too much longer. And in the spirit of Chach, this state will rise again.”
Following the former governor’s talk, Butler explained the significance of the Purple Sportcoat Award.
“Kaye wore a purple sportcoat,” he said, “but it was just one of an array of colorful clothes. However, the purple sportcoat was the jewel in the crown.”
Butler described how as a judge, and afterward, Tertzag was a skilled facilitator “without imposing his power or will on litigants.”
Tertzag is fondly remembered for his selfless commitment to family, friends and the law. His motto to attorneys coming before him was “Be Prompt. Be Prepared. Be Polite.” His parting words to everyone were “Be Well.”
“In an era when we are short on civility, Judge Tertzag exemplified civility,” Butler said.
The Purple Sportcoat Award is presented to those who best exemplify Tertzag’s words and life. Last year’s recipient, retired Judge James Rashid, served with Tertzag on the Wayne County bench and in retirement went on to follow his colleague’s example as a facilitator.
This year’s recipient, Joseph G. Lujan, was a Detroit College of Law classmate and lifelong friend of Tertzag. Lujan opened his own firm, Lujan ADR Services, after 36 years at Plunkett Cooney. He and his wife, Mary, have been married for 45 years and are the proud parents of four daughters: Rebecca, Deborah, Jennifer and Christine. 
Lujan became choked up after last year’s recipient, Judge Rashid, helped him on with his own purple sportcoat in honor of his old friend.
“This coat is not just a coat,” Lujan said. “It is an obligation, a responsibility. It is my obligation to live up to that, and I will to the best of my ability.”
He thanked the Tribute Dinner Committee and the Tertzag family members present.
“He had the ability to make you feel better. You felt he truly liked you,” Lugan said. “He exhibited mutual respect. When we lost him it was a great void. You people help fill that void. You carry a part of him in each of you. He set the standard, and we have some obligation to carry on that legacy.
“From me to you I say, ‘Take care.’ But from my friend to you, I say, ‘Be well.’”
“I would like to end with what has become a tradition,” emcee Butler said, “a Sambuca toast.” 
Daughter Kara Tertzag Lividini first offered the Sambuca toast at her father’s memorial gathering. 
“I speak on behalf of my family,” she said. “My dad would be so pleased to see all of you together. My dad emphasized inclusion and civility. The belief in the good of others was a core value of my dad.
“Would he be proud of me? What advice would he give me if I could caucus with him one more time?”
With that, she offered her toast: “In his memory and may his joy live on. Anoush ala (sweet life)!”