Forward thinking: New OCBA president sets positive tone for 2017-18


Group Photo: Members of the new OCBA president’s family turned out in force for the Annual Meeting. Pictured, back row, l-r, are John Gerald Gleeson (father), Gerry Gleeson, Rose Gleeson (wife), Jaclyn Giffen (sister-in-law and attorney at Littler Mendelson), John Gleeson (brother), and Michelle Erwin (sister-in-law); front row, Margaux Gleeson (niece), Sydney Gleeson (niece), and Mary Ellen Gleeson (mother).

By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

Shortly after he stepped to the podium last month as the new president of the Oakland County Bar Association, Gerry Gleeson was quick to display his self-effacing nature.

“There are a number of people here that are disappointed this isn’t a roast,” Gleeson said, as he scanned the hundreds in attendance at the OCBA’s Annual Meeting at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.

“And believe me, I’m grateful because Lord knows there’s plenty of material out there.”

The comment set the tone for a speech that was rich in thought and in tributes to others, particularly those who have played instrumental roles over the course of his 22-year legal career.

“My parents (Mary Ellen and John) gave me the gift of education,” said Gleeson, who earned his bachelor’s degree in 1992 from Kalamazoo College and his J.D. from Wayne State University. “They encouraged me to read and read a lot. They introduced me to interesting places, people, and things.

“Prior to retiring, my dad was an accomplished trial lawyer,” Gleeson said of his father, a former Dow Chemical attorney who specialized in environmental litigation with Howard & Howard in Royal Oak. “When I clerked for him, we drove to work together and on the way home each night he made sure I had learned something practical that day. He taught me what a reputation is, what it takes to build one and how easily one can be tarnished.”

His mother, who was awarded a master’s degree in nursing, served as grant coordinator for the March of Dimes before retiring. She, aside from being “the nicest person anyone could ever meet,” possesses two other special qualities, according to her son.

“First, she deserves an honorary juris doctorate, as between my dad, my brother (John Jr.), and myself, she went to law school three times and took the bar three times,” Gleeson told those at the OCBA Annual Meeting. “Second, she should be considered for sainthood, having had to put up with my dad, my brother, and me all these years.”

He also was effusive in his praise of his wife, Rose, a Central Michigan University alum who serves as major gifts officer for the Detroit Institute of Arts. The couple met on a blind date nearly 8 years ago and now make their home in Bloomfield Township, where they are neighbors to retired Oakland County Circuit Judge Ed Sosnick.

“Those of you who know her tell me that I overachieved and that you all like her better than you like me,” Gleeson said at the Annual Meeting. “But you may not know that she has achieved far more in her professional life than I have in mine. Her reputation in the greater Detroit community is stellar. And that is simply because of who she is. She is an amazing person.”

Gleeson graduated in 1988 from Birmingham Brother Rice, where he was a key member of the swim team. He continued to excel at the sport in college, serving as captain of the K-College swim squad as a senior.

“Anyone who has ever swum competitively knows how demanding the sport can be, and how much discipline and stamina it demands,” Gleeson said of the lessons he learned in the pool.

His athletic efforts translated well when it came time to enroll in law school at Wayne State, where his father earned his J.D. while attending classes at night.

“In law school, I had a second family, the lawyers at Dawda Mann Mulcahy & Sadler,” Gleeson related. “Back then, it was a small firm, just a fraction of the size it is today. But Ed, Sue, Tyler, Sherwin, Mike, Curt, and Amy all took the time to show me, a law student, what it meant to be professional. That ‘work product’ wasn’t a doctrine, it was a level of quality that clients expected and they delivered.”

Upon graduation from Wayne Law, Gleeson was encouraged by his father to seek trial experience.

“‘Real lawyers try cases,’ he kept telling me,” Gleeson said.

With that in mind, Gleeson joined the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, a place that has served as a proving ground for countless up-and-coming attorneys.

“It’s a job where you see it all,” Gleeson said of his days as an assistant prosecutor. “I tried murder cases, sexual assaults, child abuse, fraud, racketeering, you name it. No two days were alike there.”

During the bulk of his time with the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, Gleeson was assigned to courtroom of Circuit Court Judge Steven Andrews, a distinguished jurist with a well-established “no nonsense” reputation.

“He demanded that lawyers be absolutely prepared,” Gleeson said of Andrews, who administered the presidential oath to him at the Annual Meeting. “His standard for lawyers was very high and he expected us to be on time. Some people may have been a little nervous in his court. I was never scared of him; I was scared of letting him down by performing poorly. I never had better job satisfaction than when I knew I had objected with the right rule number.”

After spending nearly a decade with the county, Gleeson was considering plans to open his own law firm when he sought input from Miller Canfield attorney Tom Cranmer, one of the most prominent criminal defense attorneys in the state.

“Tom asked, ‘Why don’t you come with us instead?’” Gleeson recalled. “You don’t say ‘no’ to someone of his stature.”

Upon joining Miller Canfield in 2005, Gleeson would soon discover that “it’s a special place to work,” a firm where he regularly rubbed elbows with Matt Leitman, now a judge on the U.S. District Court bench, and Cranmer, a past president of the State Bar of Michigan.

“I’m never the smartest guy in the room and I am always learning something new,” Gleeson said of the firm, where he specializes in criminal defense litigation.

His responsibilities range among a “variety of complex matters, including unlawful and unfair business practices, strike suits, non-competes, shareholder oppression, breach of contract, malpractice, and fraud cases.” He also has handled numerous divorce cases of high-net-worth individuals, in addition to conducting internal investigations on behalf of companies, universities, and organizations.

“We were fortunate enough to be able to ‘steal’ Gerry a number of years ago from the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office,” said Cranmer, who also began his legal career as an assistant county prosecutor. “In addition to being a great person and a terrific trial lawyer, Gerry is a problem solver, which is one of his greatest attributes. If you have a problematic case or a thorny issue, Gerry is someone you can always turn to for help or advice.”

Cranmer’s remarks were echoed by Daniel Lemisch, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

“Gerry has always been a consummate professional, a man of his word, and an outstanding advocate,” said Lemisch, who formerly served as Chief of Appeals for the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office. “He’s a fearsome competitor in the courtroom and a gentleman across the negotiating table. He’s an astute student of the law and a keen observer of the human condition. In sum, Gerry Gleeson is everything a lawyer should be: honorable, courageous, and effective.”

At the Annual Meeting in June, the OCBA recognized Gleeson with its Distinguished Service Award, an honor he shared this year with Moheeb Murray, an attorney with Bush Seyferth & Paige. In 2005, Gleeson was the recipient of the OCBA’s Distinguished Public Servant Award.

The honors reflect the high regard that the local legal community has for Gleeson, who was first elected to the OCBA board in 2008. In large part, it’s due to being mindful of some words of wisdom from his father.

“In 1995, my dad took me aside after Judge (Hilda) Gage swore me in and said to me, ‘Remember, you serve justice,’” Gleeson recalled. “He looked over his glasses at me and said, ‘That’s two words: service and justice.’ I often think about that, because it’s the essence of our oath and the essence of what great lawyers do day in and day out. We serve justice today in hopes that our efforts have a positive effect on community both now and in the future.”



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