State Bar Representative Assembly to honor three Sept. 19

The State Bar of Michigan Representative Assembly will present its Michael Franck and Unsung Hero awards to three outstanding members of the legal community on Thursday, Sept. 19 at the Lansing Center. The presentation will take place at 9:10 a.m. during the assembly’s general session, which is being held in conjunction with the SBM Annual Meeting.

Michael Franck Award
Martin P. Krohner loved working in the legal system. For nearly 28 years, he served as an assistant prosecuting attorney in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. Then in 2004, he founded his own firm, and spent the rest of his life focused primarily on family law and criminal defense. Before his untimely death last year, he devoted countless hours of his life to improving the system he loved so much. He was a member of the Farmington Hills Crime Prevention Advisory Committee, founded the Oakland County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 1982, and served as legal consultant for the state chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. He played an active role in the drafting of drunk driving legislation, and Michigan’s Crime Victim’s Rights Act. He served on the SBM Representative Assembly from 2007 to 2012, and served as co-chair of the Standing Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence and Practice, and as vice chair of the Criminal Issues Initiative. He also served on the SBM Standing Committee on Justice Policy, the Task Force on Attorney-Client Privilege, and the Custodial Interrogation Task Force.

Unsung Hero Award
James E. Brenner works for Clark Hill, one of the largest law firms in the state, heading its appellate practice department and concentrating on insurance, commercial, and benefits law. But what sets Brenner apart from other attorneys is that for more than two decades he has done pro bono work on appeals for inmates sentenced to death in other states. Brenner does not choose the cases he takes based on its merits; they are assigned to him. In his first case, which took 17 years to resolve, he saved the life of a Tennessee man by introducing important information his court-appointed attorney failed to present. He was also successful in reversing the death sentence of a Texas man. Brenner is currently working on his third pro bono death penalty case, a Tennessee case he received in 2007. He successfully reversed the inmate’s death sentence in 2009, but is fighting to overturn the original conviction by pursuing the state’s failure for 16 years to disclose a video helpful to the defense.

Elizabeth A. Stafford is tough, determined, and passionate about her work. In addition to prosecuting hundreds of cases in her 10 years with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, she has been just as active in the community. As co-chair of the Federal Bar Association’s Diversity Committee, Stafford spearheaded the FBA Diversity Mentoring Initiative, which pairs newer attorneys interested in developing a federal practice with more seasoned attorneys who can show them the ropes. She also partnered, on behalf of the FBA, with the Just the Beginnings Foundation, a judge-led effort aimed at creating a pipeline to the legal profession for high school students of color. And she co-chaired the FBA Diversity Summit, which brought lawyers, law firms, and other organizations together to talk about advancing diversity in the legal profession. The focus of the summit was the development of the Metropolitan Detroit Pipeline Coordinating Council (MDPCC), and a steering committee was formed shortly thereafter.

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