A work force: Head of Attorney Grievance Commission to bid farewell

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By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

The path to retirement has been somewhat of an odyssey for Alan Gershel, grievance administrator for the Attorney Grievance Commission in Michigan.

Gershel, who was appointed head of the commission in October 2014, will retire from the chief administrative post this Friday, April 26, officially capping a 40-year career in the law.

His retirement journey began in the spring of 2008 when he left the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit after a distinguished 28-year career as a federal prosecutor.

Gershel’s work there included 20 years as chief of its Criminal Division and two stints as an interim U.S. Attorney. He also served as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice.

Shortly after leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Gershel joined the full time faculty at Cooley Law School, teaching criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence, and white-collar crime courses.

Eventually becoming a tenured professor at Cooley, Gershel left teaching in 2014 when he was appointed to lead the Grievance Commission, the “investigative and prosecutorial arm of the Michigan Supreme Court for allegations of attorney misconduct.”

He has served under three chief justices of the Supreme Court — Robert Young Jr., Stephen Markman and Bridget McCormick.

Now, after leading the commission for nearly five years, Gershel will look outside the legal profession for his next challenge, earning an appointment as a volunteer docent at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills.

Later this year, he hopes to begin conducting tours of the museum, where the atrocities of the Holocaust are documented and visitors are encouraged to be mindful of its lasting lessons.

Gershel, a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston who earned his law degree from the University of Detroit in 1978, will help choose his successor at the commission, working with a search panel to narrow the list of candidates for the job heading the 32-member staff, which includes 14 attorneys.

The Michigan Supreme Court will appoint the new Grievance Administrator, Gershel indicated.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Gershel was saluted at surprise retirement luncheon earlier this month in Detroit, enjoying the company of his entire staff, members of the Grievance Commission, along with his wife of 43 years, Linda.

As a retirement present, Gershel received a gift certificate for a new set of golf clubs.

“I’ve really enjoyed each aspect of my career, but there comes a time when it is ‘time,’” said Gershel of his decision to retire. “I’ve had the honor and the pleasure of working with very talented and skilled attorneys over the years, and their work has certainly made my jobs more enjoyable.”

In his leadership role at the Attorney Grievance Commission, Gershel acknowledged that he took particular satisfaction in settling charges filed last year against then Branch County Prosecutor Ralph Kimble.

Before the case was headed to trial, Kimble entered into a consent discipline agreement wherein he admitted to a number of sexual harassment charges.

He also agreed to resign from office and to accept a six-month suspension of his law license. If he decides to return to the practice of law, he will be required to go through a formal reinstatement process, according to Gershel.

“His conduct impacted a number of women who worked in the office and the courthouse there, and hopefully the settlement sent a message that such misconduct will be penalized,” said Gershel.

Gershel’s even-handed approach has been a hallmark of his, and was recognized by Gerald Rosen, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan when Gershel was appointed Grievance Administrator in 2014.

“There couldn’t be a better choice,” then Chief Judge Rosen told The Legal News at the time.

Miller Canfield attorney Tom Cranmer, a past president of the State Bar of Michigan, also has sung Gershel’s praises over the years. When Gershel left the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2008, Cranmer was among those who lauded his work.

“His tenure has spanned a number of different U.S. Attorneys, people who were appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents, and the fact that his tenure continued speaks volumes for the kind of person he was and is,” Cranmer said of Gershel in an April 2008 article in The Legal News.

“He never made any decisions based on politics or for political reasons, and just was a person and is a person of enormous integrity,” Cranmer added.

Retirement should allow Gershel more time to see his two children and three grandchildren. Daughter Jessica, who works in women’s programming for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, and her husband, Justin, have two children, Yoni and Ari, ages 6 and 4, respectively.

Son Bradley, a criminal defense attorney with Ballard Spahr in New York, and his wife, Dani, have an 18-month-old son, Noah.

Gershel’s mother, Fran, still lives in New York, while his father, Marvin, passed away at age 89 in 2017.

Come Monday, Gershel will look forward to a different role in life — that of retiree.

“I have to admit, it will be a strange feeling to know that when I get up on Monday I don’t have to go anywhere in the morning,” Gershel said. “It might take a while to sink in, but I have a feeling I’m going to like it.”

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