Butzel Long attorney honored with posthumous award

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By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

A student of history, attorney Mike Lavoie got his due – posthumously – on coincidentally one of the most important dates in U.S. history.

The 63-year-old Lavoie, who died of a heart attack October 13, was chosen as the 2016 recipient of the “Avern Cohn Award for Excellence in the Collection, Preservation and Interpretation of Michigan Legal History.” The honor was accepted by Lavoie’s wife, Kristin, at the Federal Bar Association’s annual holiday party held recently at the Westin Book Cadillac in Detroit.

A longtime attorney with Butzel Long in Detroit, Lavoie formerly served as president of the Historical Society for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, and helped spearhead several important projects during his tenure as head of the organization.

Fittingly, Lavoie also was instrumental in helping establish the Avern Cohn Award, which serves as a lasting tribute to the distinguished federal jurist who has been a member of the U.S. District Court bench since 1979. The award bears the following inscription on its plaque: “This award is named in honor of United States District Judge Avern Cohn, in recognition of his immeasurable contributions to the cause of legal scholarship and the study of legal history. As an active, prolific, and thoughtful writer, Judge Cohn has led by example throughout his distinguished legal career spanning more than 60 years. As a notable collector of historic legal documents and artifacts, Judge Cohn has served to inspire others through his generous support and guidance of worthwhile organizations that promote the study of Michigan’s rich legal history, bestowing upon future generations the legacies of curiosity, scholarship and wisdom.”

Cohn, a University of Michigan Law School alum who was a partner with Honigman, Miller, Schwartz, & Cohn in Detroit before joining the bench, counted Lavoie among his circle of friends and admired his efforts to advance the understanding of legal history.

“Whatever project Mike undertook, he gave a 100 percent plus,” Cohn said of Lavoie.

“He offered comprehensive leadership to the Historical Society, and he invigorated the board to approve tasks and projects that will have longstanding value to the court and community at large. His presence is indeed sorely missed.”

Lavoie, a native of Pontiac, was a 1975 honors graduate of the University of Notre Dame. He spent two years in the Peace Corps following college, working as a well digger in the West African country of Burkina Faso.

Following his Peace Corps work, Lavoie enrolled in law school at the University of Detroit earning his juris doctor with honors in 1980.

He served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Detroit, rising to become the assistant chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He joined Butzel Long in 1986, eventually becoming one of the leading members of its business litigation practice group.

A youth mentor in Pontiac, Lavoie was honored by the State Bar of Michigan in 2008 with the “Champion of Justice Award” for his tireless devotion to community service. In 2010, the Oakland County Bar Association honored Lavoie with the Leon Hubbard Community Service Award in recognition of his efforts “to promote diversity and economic advancement and opportunities throughout Pontiac and the world.”

In recent years, Lavoie had served as president of the Friends of Burkina Faso a national association of former Peace Corps volunteers in the African nation.

His death came just weeks before he and his wife, a teacher in Pontiac who recently earned her doctoral degree, were scheduled to travel to Burkina Faso on their latest in a series of goodwill missions.
 

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