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State Bar to Honor 2009 Award Winners at Sept. 16 Banquet in Dearborn


State Bar of Michigan members will gather at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn on Wednesday, Sept. 16, to honor the best in the legal profession. Five major SBM awards will be presented at a special banquet held in conjunction with the SBM's Annual Meeting, held on Sept. 16-18.

Frank J. Kelley Distinguished Public Service Award

Grenkowicz Powell

Although Dennis P. Grenkowicz has spent the majority of his 26-year legal career in the small town of Alpena, there's nothing small about his contributions to justice and state law. In the 16 years he spent as Alpena County's prosecuting attorney, he has managed to help change the state's search and seizure law, and the state's criminal procedure, requiring defense to disclose its evidence prior to trial just as the prosecution is required to do. Grenkowicz is also an innovator. In 2004, he invoked a relatively new legislative change in Michigan's law of marital privilege to obtain the testimony of a husband against his defendant wife in a first-degree murder case. In the same year, he worked with legislators to develop a statute giving vulnerable adults the same protections from abuse that children have under the law.

For nearly four decades-including 29 years as the chief public defender in Washtenaw County—Lloyd E. Powell has been a tireless promoter of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. During his tenure, his office achieved economic parity with the county prosecutor's office. Powell has worked to help the county's police forces develop race-neutral approaches to fighting crime. He has discussed racial profiling and bias awareness with Ann Arbor police. And for nearly 10 years, he has orchestrated a public forum entitled "Enhancing Police and Community Trust" in conjunction with the Washtenaw County Bar Association's Bias Awareness Week. Powell is especially devoted to children and young lawyers, helping them whenever asked. Powell's office is part of the Judicial Oversight Demonstration Project, which works on domestic violence cases. He also works closely with mental health providers and helped create a plan to provide services to mentally ill inmates in the Washtenaw County jail.

Champion of Justice Award

Benson Johnson

The Hon. Robert A. Benson is so committed to the legal system, some claim that he spends more time at the Kent County Courthouse now than he did before retiring from the 17th Circuit Court bench in 2000. That's because he continues to serve as a visiting judge in several district and circuit courts in western Michigan. Benson was appointed to the bench in 1980, and his tenure was highlighted by his opinions related to sentencing guidelines and the Open Meetings Act. A passionate supporter of appellate indigent defense, Judge Benson served on the state Appellate Defender Commission for six years, and chaired the panel from 2006-2008. He is renowned as a legal scholar, and is often sought out by other attorneys and jurists for his wisdom. He has served as a trustee of the Grand Rapids Bar Association and has been part of the American Inns of Court.

E. Christopher Johnson is nationally recognized for his efforts to promote diversity in the legal profession, setting the standards for excellence, and bringing business and community together. A former vice president and general counsel of General Motors North America, he is currently director of the graduate program in corporate law & finance at Thomas M. Cooley Law School's Auburn Hills Campus. He also continues to serve the legal profession in many groups, as a member of the American Bar Association's Presidential Advisory Council on Diversity in the Legal Profession, the ABA Council for Legal Education Opportunity, and the Standards Review Committee for the ABA Section of Legal Education. He chairs the SBM Access to Justice Initiative Corporate Pro Bono Committee, and co-chairs both the Legacy Justice Campaign for the Detroit Legal Aid and Defender Office and the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Foundation.

Lloyd Reingold

The Hon. Leonia J. Lloyd, of Detroit, serves as a judge on the city's 36th District Court, and has been instrumental in many programs that aim to tackle problems plaguing the city. She has presided over the city's Drug Treatment Court since 2002, and under her leadership it has been named one of the top three drug courts in the nation, and received the National Association of Drug Court Professional's prestigious Transformation Award. She works with local law enforcement, including the Detroit Police Department and Wayne County Sheriff's Department, to reduce prostitution and illicit drug use. She also participated in the development of the 36th District Court's Handgun Intervention Program, and helped create the court's Dose of Reality Tour, which shows offenders the consequences of their behavior. She sits on the boards of the Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals, Alternatives for Girls, and the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.

In his 30-year legal career, first as a legal services attorney and currently as professor and director of the Clinical Law Program at the University of Michigan, Paul D. Reingold has fought to protect the constitutional rights of people who don't often get a voice in the legal system. He has argued cases about prisoners' civil rights, and the most significant of these, Foster-Bey v. Sampson, dealt with prisoners who had been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, who almost never got serious consideration for parole. With the help of a team of law students, he won the argument in federal court that this violated the constitution, and helped hundreds of Michigan's prisoners get parole reviews. Many of them have now been released. In another case, Jindow, et al. v. Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, his success led to the creation of a free health insurance program that currently serves over 10,000 people.

Schrupp Basta

The Kimberly M. Cahill Bar Leadership Award

The Kimberly M. Cahill Bar Leadership Award for excellence in promoting equal justice or responding to a compelling need within the community will be awarded to the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit. Since it was founded in 1977, the FHC has served more than 10,000 clients, investigated more than 5,000 housing discrimination complaints, and assisted in more than 400 court complaints, resulting in 320 successful suits, settlements and plaintiff rewards in excess of $10 million. The FHC has also spearheaded more than 35 major fair housing surveys on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and sends testers into the community to verify discrimination complaints. The FHC educates leasing agents, apartment owners, property managers and real estate agents, and gives awards to those who have shown a great commitment to fair housing. A supporter of the FHC's award wrote that Clifford Schrupp, FHC's director, is viewed as the father of fair housing across the country, and that similar organizations from coast to coast have emulated the strategies, programs and procedures he has implemented.

John W. Cummiskey Pro Bono Award

Although his practice at Dykema Gossett in Ann Arbor focuses on complex commercial litigation, Joseph C. Basta has donated more than 1,500 hours of his time to clients in many other areas over the course of his 34-year legal career. Most notably, he donated over 700 hours to represent Robert Newland, a man sentenced to death in Georgia. Basta traveled to Georgia on numerous occasions, and devoted more than 20 years to Newland's appeals process, even filing a petition for a writ of certiorari on his behalf. Basta's pro bono work began when he argued a prisoner civil rights case in Michigan. Since then he has gone on to provide over 500 hours of his time as a pro bono mediator at Wayne Mediation Center, averaging two or more mediations a month. He also mentors young attorneys on pro bono matters, trains new mediators, and has addressed a mediation skills clinic at Wayne Mediation Center.


Liberty Bell Award

The Liberty Bell Award is given each year to a non-lawyer who has contributed to the cause of justice. In Monroe County, Edna Kinsey is known as "the Queen of Scouts." She and her husband, Ed, got involved with Boy Scout Troop 579 in Monroe more than 50 years ago, when their oldest son, Greg, became a member. All four of their sons joined the troop, two of them became Eagle Scouts, and at one point, there were four generations of Kinseys in the Scouts. Ed remained involved with Scouts until his death in 2001, and Edna continued on without him until this June, when she finally retired at the age of 80. In her 50 years with the troop, Edna organized innumerable meetings, events, and dinners, and worked with countless youngsters. She and her husband contributed so much to the troop that Troop 579's building on the grounds of the Monroe Rod and Gun Club is now named in their honor.