Attorney leaves private practice for position as FOC referee

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 By Tom Gantert

Jackson Legal News
 
Jackson attorney Allison Bates, a Pioneer High School graduate who spent years working in the Washtenaw County and Jackson county prosecutor’s offices, says she is returning to her true calling.
 
Bates is the new referee with the Jackson County Friend of the Court. She replaces Janet Gage, who retired last year.
“The change from private practice to public service is a better fit for me,” she said.
 
Friend of the Court is an adjunct of the Circuit Court set up to serve families via education as well as helping the court in domestic relations matters. Bates started her job as the domestic relations attorney/referee on Jan. 2.
 
As a referee, Bates deals with post-divorce situations, such as a change of life circumstances. She handles parenting time, custody and child support issues, attends evidentiary hearings and makes recommendations to the court. 
The parties have the right to disagree with the referee’s recommendations and go to the judge, which means the job will put Bates in potentially contentious situations.
 
“Even if you try your best, there are going to be dissatisfied customers,” Bates said. “The Friend of the Court doesn’t make the law. They apply the law. They enforce the law. It’s the government’s best try at looking out for the best interests of the child.”
 
Although Bates’ work in the private sector did have some public benefit, she said she enjoys helping those who may be less fortunate than she worked with in the private sector.
 
“What I’ve always liked about being an attorney is trying to help people,” Bates said. “There are very few people who are comfortable in the legal system. For most citizens, the legal world is a strange world.”
 
Beginning in 1998, Bates worked 12 years as an assistant prosecutor for Jackson County. In 2010, she went to work for the Brandt & Dehncke law firm. Bates did criminal defense work and handled divorce and custody cases in family court.
 
“I really enjoyed having her in the office,” said Jackson attorney Susan Dehncke. “She is a very talented attorney. Her true love is public service. … She would like to be in a position where she can make a difference and make things better for people. This gives her a great opportunity to do that where people are feeling like they are being heard.”
Bates attended Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, graduated from the University of Michigan and then attended University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. During her summers off from law school, she was an intern with the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s office. 
 
She took on a fulltime job as an attorney with the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s office after graduating from college, and worked there from 1991 to 1995. 
 
Bates went into the real estate business briefly before taking a position with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office in 1998.
 
She ran for the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office this past fall, but narrowly lost in the Republican primary to Jerry Jarzynka, with a vote of 6995-6674.

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