Buiteweg, Nichols, Gillett, Shiemke: Area lawyers figure prominently at State Bar annual meeting

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By Frank Weir

Legal News

Washtenaw County was well represented at last week's annual meeting of the State Bar of Michigan including award recipients.

Long-time executive director of what is now called Legal Services of South Central Michigan, Bob Gillett, received the Michigan State Bar Foundation's Access to Justice Award at the Wednesday night awards banquet.

And Rebecca Shiemke, managing attorney for the Michigan Poverty Law Program, received the SBM Champion of Justice Award.

Also, Ann Arbor's Lori Buiteweg was sworn in as SBM treasurer at the Thursday luncheon.

Gillett was presented the award by another Washtenaw County attorney, Margaret Nichols, who is president of the Foundation.

In introducing Gillett, Nichols noted that, "Recognizing legal advocates for the less fortunate is one reason the Foundation created its new Access to Justice Award and its a privilege for me to present it for the first time.

"And there is no better choice for our first recipient than Robert Gillett. Bob is a long-time colleague of mine and a personal friend. He has been the director of what is now called Legal Services of South Central Michigan for over 30 years."

Nichols added that Gillett was the best choice because of his "remarkable dedication and remarkable skill.

"Fortunately, one of those skills is leadership. Bob has the rare ability to identify needs, design solutions and motivate people to collaborate and achieve effective results."

In accepting the award, Gillett said that, "We really see the State Bar and Foundation as our partners to promote access to justice. Michigan is one of only a handful of states where legal services enjoy the support that we have here."

Gillett thanked and recognized his family who he said, "gave me the normal life I never thought I wanted but provides me with great joy."

He also thanked his colleagues at LSSCM.

"I can't imagine a more talented and more committed group of people. I am fortunate to work on issues I care deeply about with tremendous people."

He noted that LSSCM along with other legal services programs in the state see access to justice as a "tremendous goal."

"I can say that we have even loftier goals. We see access as an important component to a just society. That's our ultimate goal. We hope that all people can be provided with the basic human needs and be treated with basic human dignity."

Gillett noted that it is "a tough time" for legal services.

"It feels like basic values are under attack. On October 1, the state will terminate family assistance to 40,000 people. This is a serious impact on the low income community. In the legal services community, we are looking at the impact in a very personal way on our clients and what will happen to them over the next few months.

"And there are attacks on immigrants, disabled persons, and by the continuing attempts to reduce legal services funding."

He thanked the State Bar and Foundation for its support noting that, "our work is cut out for us when we get back to our desks tomorrow morning."

Published: Thu, Sep 22, 2011

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