Local attorney authors chapter on appeals, co-edits handbook

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

To hear Gaëtan Gerville-Réache  of Warner Norcross and Judd tell it, one thing led to another along the path that will ultimately result in his co-editing a revised Michigan Appellate Handbook.

First, he became fascinated with the ten-year process of updating the rules governing the appeals process undertaken by the Circuit Court Appellate Rules Revision Committee. He then wrote an article for the Michigan Appellate Practice Journal’s Winter 2012 issue after the Michigan Supreme Court adopted the committee's amendment to subchapter 7.100 of the Michigan Court Rules in December 2011 — an article which grew to over 9000 words.

That article then led to his being chosen to update the appeals chapter in the Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE) Michigan Basic Practice Handbook, which includes more general information, as well as contributing his writing skills to the Michigan Appellate Handbook.

And now he is in the process of co-editing and updating that appellate handbook, along with another ICLE author, Brian G. Shannon of Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss in Southfield.
The circuit court appellate court rules, Gerville-Réache says, were very much in need of amending to bring circuit court appeals procedure in line with that of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. The new rules, which took effect May 1, are comprehensive, and the attention paid to their revision was painstakingly detailed.

According to Gerville-Réache’s article, “The circuit courts have heard appeals from inferior courts and tribunals since Michigan’s Constitution of 1850.  But in the last half century myriad government agencies have sprung to life through enabling statutes, some of which prescribe bi-zarre and wildly inconsistent rules for judicial review.” The original rules were written in 1963 but even when other procedures were updated in 1985, the circuit court appeals process was not. He points out that there were not even instructions for how to appeal a local zoning decision.

“Moreover,” the article continues, “the old rules had strange provisions, such as the rule allowing the trial court under review to dismiss the appeal without the consent of the circuit court.”
Familiar with the sweeping changes in the new rules, Gerville-Réache contacted ICLE about getting the word out in advance of the May 1 effective date. In the chapter he wrote, he says, “I covered very significant difference between the old rules and the new, plus I wanted to think about how to interpret the new rules in light of what they were designed to

He adds, “Although change is likely to be accepted slowly and there is still case law to come, I thought it would be helpful to at least inform appeals counsel so they would know how to use those procedures to their client’s best advantage.”

Gerville-Réache and ICLE hope that, at the very least, an attorney faced with appealing, for example, a permit decision from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will at least know that the rules have changed and look at the handbooks’ chapters online. He stresses that nothing he has written is intended to take the place of sitting down and reading the new rules.

Gerville-Réache’s own practice is 75% appellate cases, and in addition focuses on dispute resolution, including international dispute resolution.  He says he greatly enjoys litigation.  Why? “Well, I think it’s a different kind of problem-solving. I would say that litigators tend to enjoy argument, debate, strategy ... the strategy of litigation can be very different than other types of legal work.”

Gerville-Réache was born in Paris to a French father and American mother. He jokes that he is “100% Parisian — my mother comes from Paris, Tennessee.” The family resettled in the United States when he was an infant.

Northwestern University was Gerville-Réache’s educational home, both for his undergraduate degree and his J.D., which he received cum laude, and he was Senior Articles Editor, for
the Northwestern University Law Review. He then clerked for U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois Judge James B. Zagel. He also served in the Navy for four years.
In addition to being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star this year, Gerville-Réache received the Distinguished Brief Award recognizing advocacy in the Michigan Supreme Court in 2009 for an amicus curiae brief he submitted on behalf o Michigan Defense Trial Counsel.

He is active in the Litigation Section of the Grand Rapids Bar Association, in the Michigan Supreme Court’s Advocates and the on the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, as well as serving on the Council for Appellate Practice with the State Bar of Michigan and the Executive Committee of the American Bar Association Council of Appellate Lawyers.
He credits Warner Norcross for informing his appellate law writing. “I’ve had the benefit of some very good mentors here,” he says. “John Bursch [now Solicitor General of Michgan] was great, but really all of our appellate attorneys are super.”

Gerville-Réache’s family is quite international, since he is a French citizen (and speaks French) and his wife is Chinese. His daughter Camille, 7,  and son Tristan, 5, are going through the Mandarin language immersion programs in their school.

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