All business: A symposium on 'Corporate Oppression Actions' draws socially distanced crowd

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Santa found time to stand watch over some of the proceedings at the symposium in Grand Rapids. Also pictured is Troy attorney Mark Rossman (left) and Shaun Fitzpatrick of Fortz Legal.


By Tom Kirvan

Legal News

Twenty-five speakers were featured during a two-day symposium titled "Corporate Oppression Actions and Business Law Oppression in the Age of the Pandemic" on November 11-12.

The somewhat catchy title proved to be a draw, attracting a record number of registrants for the mostly virtual event that was hosted by Fortz Legal in Grand Rapids, and was sponsored by the State Bar of Michigan Business Law Section in cooperation with Wayne State University Law School and the Wayne State Journal of Business.

More importantly, the symposium focused on subject matter that is "very germane, as I am seeing more corporate separations since this pandemic started than ever before," according to attorney Mark Rossman, who served as the principal moderator and host of the two-day event.

"I started the program for the State Bar three years ago, and this year's program was our largest in terms of speakers and registration, and was a great success notwithstanding the pandemic," said Rossman, a University of Michigan alum and head of a Troy law firm that bears his name. "I think it is noteworthy that we were able to grow the symposium notwithstanding the pandemic and run a very informative and expansive program remotely with participants all over the country something we never would have thought possible pre-pandemic."

The speakers featured members of the bench and bar, and included: Oakland County Circuit Court Judge James Alexander; Noman Ankers of Foley & Lardner; Charles Ash of Warner Norcross + Judd; John Below of Bodman; R.J. Cronkite of Dinsmore; Shaun Fitzpatrick of Fortz Legal; Jonathan Frank of Frank & Frank; Thomas Frazee of FVF Consulting; Bernard Fuhs of Butzel Long; David Hansma of Seyburn Kahn; Ethan Holtz of Jaffe Raitt; Jonathan Lauderbach of Warner Norcross; E. Powell Miller of The Miller Law Firm; Professor Douglas Moll of the University of Houston Law School; H. Joel Newman of H. Joel Newman, PLLC; retired Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Potts, now a mediator with the Detroit office of JAMS; Daniel Quick of Dickinson Wright; Judge Brian Sullivan of the Wayne County Business Court; Linda Watson of Clark Hill; Ian Williamson of Mantese Honigman; I.W. Winsten of Honigman; Judge Christopher Yakes of the Kent County Business Court; Judge T.J. Ackert of the Kent County Circuit Court; Professor Erick Zacks of WSU Law School; and Linda Roelans of Rossman PC.

Rossman, who earned his law degree from Wayne State University, offered a tip of the hat to Fortz Legal for helping host the symposium and for coordinating the production out of its Grand Rapids location, while P.J. Muer Productions provided the voiceover and musical transitions from Nashville.

"Other than a small handful of registrants who attended in person in Grand Rapids, where the event was catered by Carolina Low Country Kitchen, the vast majority of the over 100 registrants appeared remotely," Rossman said. "The event was very well received by the practitioners who attended, and it went off with only a few technical glitches."

Day one of the symposium include a roundtable discussion of "Trial Preparation and Trial Strategies," featuring attorneys Norman Ankers, John Below, E. Powell Miller, H. Joel Newman, and Ian Williamson.

On the closing evening, a roundtable of business court judges highlighted the program. The panelists included Judges T.J. Ackert, Wendy Potts, Brian Sullivan, Christopher Yates, and James Alexander, in a discussion moderated by retired Judge Jonathan Lauderbach, formerly of the Midland County Circuit Court.

Following the roundtable talk, a tribute to Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Alexander was offered by Jaffe attorney Ethan Holtz. Alexander, a 1970 graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio who received his law degree from the University of Detroit, will retire at the end of the year following a distinguished career on the bench that began in 2001.

In fact, it was September 11, 2001.

It was quite a first day, Judge Alexander acknowledged.

"I started on 9/11 and now I will end my career in the midst of a pandemic," Alexander mused in an interview with The Legal News earlier this year. "How's that for bookending a career?"

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