State Bar meeting covers a broad range of member-based interests

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by Cynthia Price
Legal News

From topical keynote speakers to commissioner and section meetings, the State Bar of Michigan (SBM) Annual Meeting held last week at the Amway Grand and DeVos Center had something for every attorney.

SBM gave out prestigious awards at a Wednesday night banquet; inaugurated its officers, including new President Bruce Courtade of Grand Rapids’ Rhoades McKee, on Thursday; and honored attorneys who have put in 50 years of service at a luncheon Friday.

All of this was held at the same time as the Institute for Continuing Legal Education’s Solo/Small Firm Institute, which attracted about 260 attendees.

All in all, over 1,250 people came to the 2012 annual meeting, which SBM staff pulled off as smoothly as always, despite its size and scope.

In addition to Courtade, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert Young swore in President-Elect Brian D. Einhorn, Vice-President Thomas C. Rombach,  Secretary Lori A. Buiteweg; and Treasurer Lawrence P. Nolan, in a brief ceremony before which outgoing President Julie Fershtman addressed the luncheon attendees.

Courtade was everywhere during the meeting, filling the high-profile role of President. He and Fershtman expressed mutual admiration, and Courtade’s refreshing candor met with good response. After his inauguration, he addressed the gathering to give thanks, including recognizing the former Rhoades McKee SBM President, Bruce Neckers (1991-1992), as a mentor.

One Grand Rapids and one Kalamazoo attorney won SBM Champion of Justice awards:  Bud Roegge of Smith Haughey Rice and Roegge (see Grand Rapids Legal News 8/24/12), and Thomas K. Thornburg of Farmworker Legal services of Michigan, part of Legal Services of South Central Michigan.

Grand Rapidian Katherine Smith Kennedy of Pinsky, Smith, Kennedy and Fayette won the prestigious Respected Advocate Award from her colleagues on the other side of the aisle at Michigan Defense Trial Counsel, and the Representative Assembly gave its Michael Franck Award to former Barry County Judge James H. Fisher, now at Law Weather and Richardson in Grand Rapids.
Watch for upcoming articles on the details of these awards.

In addition, The Robert P. Hudson Award went to Frederick M. Baker, a Michigan Supreme Court commissioner; the Frank J. Kelley Award to Hon. Willie G. Lipscomb Jr.; other Champion of Justice Awards to Kathleen L. Bogas, working in civil rights and non-discrimination; Hon. Karen M. Fort Hood, who has devoted her career to helping children; and Frederick W. Lauck, for representing the indigent. The John W. Cummiskey Pro Bono Award, named for the Grand Rapids attorney who co-founded Miller Johnson, went to Sister Ann M. Ozog (see photo below). The John W. Reed Lawyer Legacy Award went to Wayne State Law Professor Robert A. Sedler; the Liberty Bell Award, for a non-lawyer, went to Sergeant Major David Dunckel; and the new Access to Justice Award to SBM Director of External Development Candace Crowley. The Kimberly M. Cahill Bar Leadership Award was given to the Oakland County Bar Association Pro Bono Mentor Match Program.
The other Respected Advocate Award, from the Michigan Association for Justice, went to Laurel F. McGiffert of Plunkett Cooney.

The Representative Assembly met on Thursday to conduct business and, in addition to recognizing Judge Fisher, gave out Unsung Hero Awards to Judy B. Calton who has helped low-income people obtain bankruptcy status; and Jeffrey S. Kopp for extensive pro bono work in the Detroit area.

The RA elected Dana M. Warnez   of Macomb County’s Schoenherr, Cahill & Warnez as its chair.

Section meetings, most of them annual meetings, popped up all over the schedule, and all over DeVos Convention Center which was also adorned with ArtPrize works. Many of the meetings were small, but some made use of conference calls to include members and officers who could not be physically present.

Receptions abounded, including general-interest get-togethers like the Diversity Reception and a variety of law-school-sponsored gatherings, separately and jointly.

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