From courtroom to back room: Attorney returns to Lansing to counsel senators

By Tom Gantert

Legal News

Sometimes the two sides of Peter Langley's professional life intersect.

That happened last year when Langley was troubled to realize that the legal consequences of mistreating animals could be more severe than those of mistreating humans.

Langley, an attorney who worked for the Jackson County Prosecutor's office and dealt with domestic violence cases, is now the director of the Senate Majority Policy Office in Lansing. His job is to oversee a staff of 11 who review and analyze the legislative bills and counsel the Republican senators.

"You could get more time for beating your dog than for beating your wife," the 37-year-old Jackson man said.

He was referring to the state statute on animal cruelty that can be up to a four-year felony while a first-time domestic violence offense is a 93-day misdemeanor.

"We worked on a package of bills and we got it passed to enhance the penalties," Langley said. "We changed it so you can get more jail time for habitual domestic violence offenders."

Langley's career is now a blend of his political and legal backgrounds.

"It allows me to combine my legal experience and knowledge along with my passion for politics," said Langley, who served last year as the. president of the Jackson County Bar.

Becoming a lawyer was not Langley's first career choice. It wasn't until he saw how volatile a political job could be that he thought of adding "attorney" to his resume.

The uncertainty of politics became a concern in 2003 when Langley worked for Republican State Representative Jerry Kratz, who died one month into his term. He had just had a child and was uncertain about what would happen to his job.

"I wanted something more long term professionally," he said.

So Langley, who had graduated from Northern Michigan University with a degree in public administration, went to Cooley Law School and graduated in 2007.

He was hired by the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office and worked there for three years as an assistant prosecutor who worked with the domestic violence court in Jackson.

He enjoyed the daily interaction with people that came with the job.

"I loved being on my feet in the court room," Langley said. "I like people. I like getting out."

Langley said he enjoyed talking to the judges as well as the defendants.

"It wasn't glamorous," he said. "It wasn't high profile murder cases. It was everyday people who got hit with a drunk driving, for example. You get a different perspective in life when you get a chance to sit down and talk to these folks. These are normal people who just made mistakes. I just dealt with a lot of good people who slipped and made a mistake."

But in 2011, the "political bug" hit Langley again. And he moved on to work for the Senate Republicans.

Langley, who is divorced and has three children, discovered that his political work can sometimes have the same drama as the courtroom.

In December, he was embroiled in the right-to-work controversy when the state legislature passed the law that gives people the option of joining a union.

When thousands of protesters showed up in Lansing, Langley and his staff had to get past them to get to their office.

"My concern was for my staff," Langley said. "It was a powder keg. That day, there was a lot of emotion. I'd never seen so much police in my life."

However, most days are not filled with such drama.

Most of the work by Langley's office is done in committee meetings. Then there are times during an on-floor debate when Langley and his staff will have to answer questions about amendments to bills and how they impact the law.

Down the road, Langley says he may someday return to the courtroom.

"I wouldn't rule it out. I'd love to do it," he said. "I had such a great time with all the judges I was assigned to. I really enjoy being in the courtroom and I would never rule it out."

Published: Thu, Feb 21, 2013

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