Profile in Brief Champion of children

By Tom Kirvan

Legal News

She calls it a "total team effort," an honor to be shared and celebrated with other members of a committee that already have appeared in a state award spotlight.

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Martha Anderson prefers to downplay her role in the success of the "Permanency Docket," a pilot program designed to speed the adoption of children who have suffered from abuse and neglect.

Yet, Oakland County officials certainly have taken note of Judge Anderson's leadership efforts on the project over the past two years, presenting her with the "Arthur Eugene Moore Champion of Children" award during a special ceremony November 24. The award presentation coincided with the annual Adoption Day celebration sponsored by the Family Division of the Oakland County Circuit Court, an event at which Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan was the keynote speaker.

The "Champion of Children" honor is named in memory of the former Oakland County judge who was "instrumental in the development of many programs geared to the special needs of children and the prevention of delinquency," according to county officials. Judge Moore served on the Oakland County Probate Court bench from 1938-63 and on the Circuit Court from 1963-76. His son, Eugene Arthur Moore, is currently a judge with the Probate Court.

"It is a great honor to receive, but it is one that deservedly should go to all members of the Adoption Forum Committee," said Judge Anderson. "We have worked well as a team to accomplish some of the goals we established."

The Adoption Forum Committee includes members of the Circuit Court Family Division, the Department of Human Services, private service agencies, attorneys, and Court Appointed Service Advocates of Care House. Its members are: Judges Anderson, Joan Young, James Alexander, and Linda Hallmark; Sue Hull, Dorothy Butler, Deborah Frye, Sharon Campbell, Kimberly Dobiesz, Doris Hunter, William Bartlam, Palmer Sesti, Gabrielle Osooli, Julie Berz, Lauran Howard, Charles Ludwig, Nancy Rebar, Lisa Westphal, Abbie Shuman, and Christina Piexoto.

"I want to point out that our court adoption staff put in a great deal of work in implementing the program for the court," Judge Anderson said. "Those people are Lauran Howard, William Bartlem, Palmer Sesti, Julie Berz and Gabrielle Osooli. In addition, Jodi Romero-Perez, our DHS liasion with the court, was very helpful at the hearings."

Earlier this year, the Adoption Forum Committee was recognized on a state level with the Robert E. Weiss award, an honor presented by the Michigan Supreme Court for "excellence in court improvement." In particular, the committee was cited for its work in "implementing innovative solutions to reduce delays in court process and procedure." The award was presented in memory of the late Flint judge known for his work on behalf of children, especially as it related to adoption, family reunification, and other permanent placements for those abused and neglected.

Judge Anderson, a graduate of Wayne State University and the University of Detroit School of Law, spent 23 years as a Friend of the Court referee before she was elected to the Oakland County Circuit Court bench in 2002. Re-elected to a second 6-year term in November 2008, Judge Anderson is scheduled to shift from the Family Division of the Circuit Court to the Civil/Criminal Division in January.

She has a history of community involvement, volunteering on behalf of a number of local organizations dedicated to helping the needy, children who have been abused and neglected, and victims of domestic violence.

She and her husband, David, an attorney in Troy who serves on the board of the Oakland County Bar Association, have one daughter, Elizabeth, an elementary school teacher in Troy.

Published: Wed, Dec 2, 2009