Janet E. Findlater of Ypsilanti, Jean Ledwith King of Ann Arbor, the Hon. William G. Schma of Kalamazoo, the Hon. Craig S. Strong of Detroit, and Eugene G. Wanger of Lansing have been named recipients of the State Bar of Michigan's 2005 Champion of Justice Award. The John W. Cummiskey Award winner is Nelson Miller of Grand Haven. The Liberty Bell Award will be presented to six coaches from Michigan's 3rd Congressional District.
These award recipients will be honored at a special noon luncheon, Friday, September 23rd at the State Bar's 70th Annual Meeting at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing.
Janet Findlater, an associate professor at Wayne State University Law School for 28 years, is being honored with a Champion of Justice Award for her role as an extraordinary teacher and legal scholar with a national and international reputation in the area of domestic violence and foster care. She has been named the law schools' Professor of the Year 14 times. She is the co-author of a text on domestic violence that has been described as "an absolute model of clarity in both thought and exposition," and that has helped spread the word about the long term problems caused by domestic violence and the importance of early intervention. Findlater sits on many committees and is a member of the National Advisory Council of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women. She also contributes her time to extensive pro bono work.
Jean Ledwith King is recognized for promoting equality in the democratic process in employment, in schools, and in the courts. Founder of the Women's Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Commission, the first organization of its kind, and Focus on Equal Employment for Women, King was instrumental in obtaining a 1971 administrative order against the University of Michigan, forcing it to address discriminatory issues, particularly in regard to women. In 1972, she argued that the Democratic Party was violating the McGovern-Fraser rules, and was successful in getting 11 women added to the Michigan delegation to the Democratic National Convention. A legal instructor at Wayne State University Law School, Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College, and U of M Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, King is a frequent speaker on Tile IX issues, as well as a highly successful litigator. She is a member of the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.
The Honorable William G. Schma is being honored for his leadership in creating drug courts throughout Michigan and the nation. He has been a prime mover in bringing the concept of therapeutic justice into the courts in this country and abroad. Judge Schma is a founding member of both the national and Michigan chapters of the Association of Drug Court Professionals. He has been instrumental in the creation of the Drug Treatment Court Foundation of Kalamazoo County. As a result of his leadership and actions, the Foundation has received $1.5 million dollars in contributions that will help provide the necessary treatment to participants in the drug courts in Kalamazoo County. His accomplishments have been achieved while handling all of his normal responsibilities as a circuit court judge in Kalamazoo County, a visiting circuit court judge in surrounding counties and serving on the Michigan Court of Appeals by assignment.
The Hon. Craig S. Strong is recognized for his work as a jurist known for his participation in professional, civic, and charitable organizations, and for his international efforts on behalf of greater understanding and democracy. Four months after becoming a lawyer, Strong became an officer of the Wolverine Bar Association and its youngest president at age 30. He later became a founding member of the Association of Black Judges of Michigan, and served as its president. He was also a member of the National Bar Association's delegation to South Africa, helping develop the International Black Bar Association and serving on the Supreme Court of South Africa. In 1997, Judge Strong was instrumental in the establishment of the nation's largest African American History Museum in Detroit, and has been honored with their Outstanding Museum Service Award for his extensive fund-raising efforts.
Eugene G. Wanger is being honored for his devotion to upholding Michigan's long-time public policy of opposition to the death penalty, and he is regarded as the state's leading opponent of capital punishment. As a delegate to the Michigan Constitutional Convention in 1961, Wanger authored the state's constitutional prohibition of the death penalty, as the convention's youngest Republican delegate. At the time of the Convention's 40th anniversary reunion in 2001, a conference room in the State's newest office building, Constitution Hall, was named in his honor. He is a past vice-chair of the Committee on Constitutional Law of the State Bar of Michigan, and his work, "Why We Should Reject Capital Punishment" is considered by many to be the definitive piece on this issue.
The John W. Cummiskey Pro Bono Award will be presented to Nelson Miller, an associate professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Grand Rapids campus. Since 1999, he has helped low income and minority communities in Muskegon, Benton Harbor, and Grand Rapids with their legal needs pro bono. He has served approximately 1,000 individuals. He not only met with clients but kept records and created a manual and guide to help non-profit centers seek funding and evaluate the needs of their constituents. His actions have helped 48 non-profit organizations to offer recreation, mentoring, housing and food pantries services to their clients. Miller is also the author of many legal publications, serves on various boards and is active in the State Bar as a member of the Representative Assembly and the Equal Access Initiative Committee.
The Liberty Bell Award, given to one or more non-lawyers who have strengthened the effectiveness of the American system of freedom under law, will be presented to six coaches from Michigan 's 3rd Congressional District and Kent ISD, organizers of "We the People," an essay competition that helps students understand the Constitution. Award recipients are Carolyn Bolthouse from Comstock Park High School, Pierre Sirois from East Grand Rapids High School, Deb Snow from East Kentwood High School, Tricia Hilgendorf from Tri-Unity Christian High School, Catherine Logsdon from Union High School, and Susan Laninga of Kent ISD.