Law clerk displays knack for beating age-old odds


By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

Youth is more than a state of mind for a federal law clerk whose penchant for writing is evident elsewhere on this page (see story on tour of Holocaust Memorial Center).

Frankie Dame, who last September began a two-year clerkship with U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman in Detroit, earned his high school diploma at the tender age of 15 and obtained his bachelor’s degree in political science at an accelerated pace two years later, just in time to have his pick of law schools.

“I did well in college and on the LSAT (Law School Admission Test), affording me the opportunity to attend some of the premier law schools in the country,” explained Dame. “But my mind was set about staying in state so that I could be close to my family.”

And that family – headed by his father, Frank, and his mother, Susie – includes seven younger sisters, all of whom share a common educational thread with their brother.

“We all have been home-schooled by our mother,” said Dame, noting that his mom formerly worked for Kellogg’s in the graphic design department at the Battle Creek based cereal-maker. “She is a great teacher.”

The same can be said for Dame’s father, who was a public school teacher for 30 years before recently retiring. He taught English, social studies, and economics at Ogemaw Heights High School in West Branch, where he also coached the wrestling team of which his son was a member.

As parents, the Dames were understandably proud when their No. 1 son earned a full-ride scholarship to attend Michigan State College of Law, where last spring he graduated summa cum laude at the age of 21.

“I wanted to fully embrace the law school experience,” said Dame of his time at MSU, which traces its legal roots to the former Detroit College of Law. “I knew that the learning curve could be steep for someone my age and I didn’t want to ever lose sight of that challenge.”

While in law school, Dame served as a research assistant for law professor Anne Lawton, in addition to a series of internships with the Michigan Senate, the U.S. Department of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge David W. McKeague. He also played intramural rugby there, continuing a love of competitive sports that began with his interest in soccer, baseball, and wrestling while growing up.
He applied for a coveted clerkship with U.S. District Judge Friedman after reading The Detroit News article, “Federal judge cries after hearing Supreme Court ruling,” a story about the jurist’s decision in the DeBoer case declaring Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional, a ruling upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015.

“Discussions of jurisprudential philosophy or political orientation aside, I was moved by the emotion Judge Friedman displayed in that case,” Dame said. “People matter to him at such a personal level; he cares about them so deeply. In this regard, he is unlike any other judge I have ever met.”

A member of the federal bench since 1988 and a former chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Friedman was honored to conduct the swearing-in ceremony when Dame was admitted to the State Bar last fall.

“Frankie is a bright young attorney and he is committed to making a difference as he embarks on his career in the law,” Friedman said of his first year clerk.


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