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Attorney trains focus on municipal law field

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney Daniel DuChene recalls a client who was arrested and charged for robbing a bank. "The bank had a sign that said they were giving away money and the client simply went in and asked for it," he says.

It's just one of several interesting cases he's seen in his career. An attorney with Barr, Anhut & Associates in Ypsilanti, DuChene's caseload includes municipal law, criminal defense and prosecution, family law, contract law and collections, as well as probate law and estate planning.

"I like that I meet new people and learn something new most every day," he says.

Most of his practice is in representing municipal clients, and he is an assistant city attorney for the City of Ypsilanti. "That, in and of itself, is quite diverse, and I like that my work has a direct benefit for my community," he says.

Before becoming an associate at Barr, Anhut & Associates, DuChene spent three years as a law clerk for the firm, researching and drafting documents and pleadings in diverse areas of law for the jurisdictions of several county district and circuit courts, the Michigan Court of Appeals, and the federal U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. He drafted legislation for municipal clients and performed special investigations relating to employment law.

In one challenging case in his law clerk days, the firm was hired as special counsel to represent Taylor City Council in a mandamus action against its then mayor, which ended up going to oral argument in the Court of Appeals. Wayne County Circuit Court judge Prentis Edwards ruled the mayor had to accept a two-year $8.1 million federal grant for the Fire Department, issued through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which would bring back 32 laid-off firefighters.

"I helped to draft pleadings and prepare for oral argument both at the circuit court and Court of Appeals. I also traveled to court to get the emergency orders entered and personally served the mayor when the litigation required," DuChene says. "I enjoyed it because it was a unique situation and a unique legal issue. Mandamus actions are not common."

DuChene earned his J.D. from Cooley Law School at its former location in Ann Arbor, where he was a finalist in the school's moot court competition.

"Moot court was fun because the case we were assigned, Obergefell v Hodges, was both interesting and timely," he says. "It also got me a little out of my shell to transition from writing to oral presentation. I did better than I thought I'd do with argument, which was great.

"My education definitely prepared me well for practice, but I'd say the Ann Arbor campus was particularly great because the students were all very friendly and respectful with one another," he adds. "I also think the Ann Arbor campus was good because of its interaction and involvement with the legal community in Washtenaw County. It is missed."

He spent four months as a student attorney for the Washtenaw County Public Defender's Office in Ann Arbor. "The Public Defender gave me the independence and caseload to develop my skills in client interaction and representation at court," he says. "The environment was great for pushing us to go out and do it, while having a great staff of attorneys for support and direction."

He spent a further four months as a judicial intern for 14A District Court Judge J. Cedric Simpson in Ann Arbor. "Clerking for Judge Simpson exposed me to both the internal operation of a court and also gave me a great understanding of how judges look at and proceed with a case from the other side of the podium and in chambers," he says.

As a legal intern for the Ann Arbor medical device manufacturer Terumo he assisted with discovery in employment litigation, drafted demand letters and pleadings for contract litigation, tracked, reviewed, and drafted company agreements and contracts, and assisted with internal intellectual property and patent file work.

Two projects from his 18 months with Terumo are particularly memorable: drafting and revising internal policies and procedures; and conducting compliance training for the staff. "I did a lot of different tasks during my time there, but I'd say these two, more than others, carried over and helped with my current practice."

DuChene came to the law after a career in journalism, and earned his undergrad degree in political science and journalism from Eastern Michigan University. "I took an interest in politics in middle school because of the music I was listening to," he says. "By high school I was on the student newspaper hoping to be a political columnist. When I got to college and started writing for the Echo, I branched out and started writing for the news section and got very interested in that. I liked investigating and telling peoples' stories."

A staff writer for The Ypsilanti Courier for close to two years, he then helped launched MoJo News Group, a local media company that published an Internet news site and an arts/entertainment magazine, before deciding to follow a career in the law. "The jump from political science to law is not an enormous one, and the thought was probably always in the recesses of my mind," he explains. "However, I think the clincher was probably my time as a community journalist. I covered a fair amount of court proceedings and legal matters and thought that it would be interesting and rewarding work not only learning someone's story but finding ways to help them directly address their problems."

Last fall, DuChene returned to EMU to teach an advanced course on journalism law and ethics that covered the First Amendment, defamation, invasion of privacy, and sunshine legislation. "I'm learning a lot because I have to refresh and educate myself in order to adequately address all the topics in the course and because I have to reflect and evaluate how I learned the material in order to best impart it to the students," he says. "The best part, by far was after my first semester when students came up to me and told me they enjoyed the class and learned something they will be able to use as future journalists."

A Detroit native and graduate of South Lyon High School, DuChene also has lived in Whitmore Lake and Pinckney, as well as Ypsilanti where he and his wife Jenny, both EMU alumni, make their home and where Jenny works for the Office of International Students and Scholars at EMU.

"Ypsilanti is the perfect blend of small town feel with more urban amenities," he says. "I can walk down and grab a locally brewed beer or some Vietnamese food and run into people I know along the way. There's a huge influence from the two universities that add a lot of culture to the community. It seems like there's a different festival or something else going on every weekend in the summer. There's an immense amount of history and diversity."

In his leisure time he enjoys watching Tigers games, playing guitar, camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities. He also serves as an officer of the nonprofit Knights of Equity (KOE), one of the oldest Irish-Catholic fraternal organizations in the country.

During his undergrad days, DuChene spent six months studying abroad at the University of Derby in England, and enjoyed visiting the cities of Nottingham, Birmingham, Liverpool, London, as well as hopping across the border into Wales. He spent a week in Ireland while school was in recess. "I went all over and spent a couple days with a family that still lives in the house my great-grandfather grew up in," he says.

During his stay, the local soccer team, the Rams, was purchased by a Detroit company. "I was interviewed a couple times by the local BBC Radio station about Detroit that was a lot of fun," he says.

Published: Mon, Apr 11, 2016

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