Short Takes (March 16)

State Bar seeks law firm applications for Pro Bono Circle of Excellence

The State Bar of Michigan invites all law firms of two or more attorneys to apply for the Pro Bono Circle of Excellence, which recognizes every firm that has fully complied with the State Bar’s Voluntary Pro Bono Standard. The application deadline is Wednesday, March 31.

“The Pro Bono Circle of Excellence is important, not only because it provides much deserved recognition to law firms, but also because their examples of service inspire others to meet our pro bono standard and underscore the importance of pro bono assistance for those in need,” said SBM President Charles Toy, who noted that legal service to the poor is the legal profession’s first public service priority.

Both volunteer legal services for low-income individuals and organizations, and financial support for eligible nonprofit organizations providing free civil legal aid for the poor are included in the Voluntary Pro Bono Standard. For a full explanation of the Voluntary Pro Bono Standard, visit Contributions to the Access to Justice Fund ( count toward fulfilling the Standard. For other ideas on how to fulfill the Standard, or to share the story of your pro bono contribution, visit the State Bar’s “A Lawyer Helps” Web site at

The Circle of Excellence is published frequently in the Michigan Bar Journal, posted on the State Bar and the Michigan State Bar Foundation’s Web sites, and is distributed at the Annual Meeting.

To apply for the Pro Bono Circle of Excellence, visit


County saves taxpayers nearly $1 million with court refunding bonds

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced his Department of Management and Budget is saving Oakland County taxpayers $977,000 on refunding bonds for 52-3 District Court. The savings is due to Wall Street’s recent reaffirmation of the county’s AAA bond rating.

“Such significant savings during these challenging economic times allows my staff to maintain a high level of customer service for Oakland County residents and businesses,” said Patterson. “This is great news for our taxpayers.”

The AAA rating and subsequent savings are due to the county’s three year budget process, according to Moody’s Investors Services. “The long-term planning positions the county to successfully weather the economic downturn,” Moody’s says.

Management and Budget Director Laurie VanPelt says the county will work to continue to identify ways to save taxpayers money and maintain the AAA rating, which becomes more difficult to do as southeast Michigan struggles to regain its economic foothold. “We have one mission in Management and Budget—to find savings where we can so the county maintains a balanced budget.”

The refunding bonds refinance $12.56 million in bonds that funded the construction of the new 52-3 District Court building in Rochester Hills. Essentially, it is like refinancing the mortgage on a house when there is a lower interest rate. In Oakland County’s case, the high AAA credit score allows the county to refinance the bonds on the district court at a 2.77% interest rate.