SBM to Honor 2018 Award Winners at Banquet

State Bar of Michigan members will gather at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, Sept. 26 to honor the best in the legal profession. Ten major SBM awards will be presented at a special banquet held in conjunction with the SBM NEXT Conference, which will take place Sept. 26-28.

Roberts P. Hudson Award

Bruce A. Courtade is one of those rare people who are born to serve and to lead. He has served the State Bar of Michigan for 20 years, as president, a member of the Board of Commissioners, chair of the Representative Assembly, and as a member of the Assembly. In 2014, leaders of the State Bar realized challenges confronting the legal profession had changed dramatically, but that the profession itself had not transformed to meet those challenges. So they established the 21st Century Practice Task Force and charged it with identifying the challenges of the legal profession, and recommending solutions. When the leaders of the Bar thought about who should helm the effort to propel the legal profession into the future of law practice, they chose Bruce Courtade and Julie Fershtman.

Courtade is vice president and a shareholder at Rhoades McKee in Grand Rapids and practices commercial litigation and mediation and construction law. In addition to volunteering for the State Bar, he has also volunteered his time and energy to many other organizations. He has served as a member of the American Bar Association House of Delegates, a trustee of the Michigan State Bar Foundation, on the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society Board of Directors, a member of Litigation Counsel of America, and as a panelist for the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board. He has also served on the Board of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan, the university’s Advisory Board of Intercollegiate Athletics, and the Board of Directors of Metro Health and West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology. He is not a passive member of any organization. For his efforts, he has received many other awards, among them the State Bar’s John W. Cummiskey Pro Bono Award, the Grand Rapids Bar Association President’s Award, and the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan Distinguished Service Award.

Bruce Courtade
Bruce Courtade

Roberts P. Hudson Award

When facing adversity, Julie I. Fershtman persists. In so doing, she has become a leader among lawyers. She has served the State Bar of Michigan for 20 years, as president, a member of the Board of Commissioners, chair of the Representative Assembly, a member of the Assembly, and chair of the Young Lawyers Section. In 2014, leaders of the State Bar of Michigan realized challenges confronting the legal profession had changed dramatically, but that the profession itself had not changed to meet those challenges. So they established the 21st Century Practice Task Force and charged it with identifying the challenges of the legal profession and recommending solutions. When they needed someone to lead the profession into the future, State Bar leaders reached out to Julie Fershtman and Bruce Courtade.

Fershtman is an equity shareholder at Foster Swift Collins & Smith in Southfield and represents clients in a broad range of business, personal injury, contract, and insurance coverage litigation pertaining to several industries, including major insurance companies. She is widely considered one of the nation's leading practitioners of equine law. She has served on the ABA House of Delegates, Board of Trustees of the Michigan State Bar Foundation, Board of Directors of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, American College of Equine Attorneys, Oakland County Bar Foundation, Michigan State Bar Foundation, American Bar Foundation, Oakland County Bar Association Board, the American College of Equine Attorneys, American Youth Horse Council, Equine Land Conservation Resource, Franklin Village Planning Commission, and Franklin Village Charter Committee. Not only does Fershtman volunteer for that many organizations, but she also does outstanding work for them, earning her the honors of Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s “Woman of the Year,” the SBM Representative Assembly’s Michael Franck Award, the Oakland County Bar Association’s Professionalism Award, and the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan Jean King Leadership Award.

 

Julie Fershtman
Julie Fershtman

Frank J. Kelley Distinguished Public Service Award

Michigan voters have elected former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn J. Kelly to public office six times. She has served as president of the State Board of Education, judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals, and justice and chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. During her tenure on the high court, she took the court “on the road” for oral arguments, and was the driving force behind Michigan Legal Help (the end result of her Solutions on Self-Help Task Force), which changed the game for self-represented litigants in Michigan. As of early 2017, the site had received just under 10 million page views and 11 self-help centers had been launched throughout the state. She is also responsible for distributing the first judicial pro bono tool kit to Michigan’s 600+ judges, and promoting assistance to help those with language or cultural barriers. She also devotes herself to professional and community service for a variety of groups, including the National Consortium for Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts, the Michigan State Bar Foundation, the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, and the Women’s Bar Association.

 

Hon. Bernard Friedman
Former Chief Justice
Marilyn Kelly

Frank J. Kelley Distinguished Public Service Award

Former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. served the citizens of Michigan as a judge and justice for 22 years. During a six-year run as chief justice, he tackled everything from “rightsizing” the judiciary to improving service to setting a tone of collegiality and civility at the top that trickled down through the system. Justice Bridget McCormack said his commitment to rightsizing the judiciary, which resulted in the reduction of more than 40 judgeships around the state and millions in savings, was long overdue and reflected his commitment to ensuring the state courts best serve their citizens. Meanwhile, he championed the use of technology in Michigan courtrooms by providing the hardware and encouraging the innovative use of software. Video conferencing, electronic filing, and the use of online programming were among the many improvements he advocated. In addition, he encouraged and supported the development and innovation of problem solving courts throughout the state, providing training and resources to trial courts, and partnering with the other branches of government for funding. As a result, Michigan leads the nation in veteran treatment courts.

 

Robert Young Jr.
Former Chief Justice
Robert Young Jr.

Champion of Justice Award

Miriam J. Aukerman’s willingness to become a voice for the least powerful people in society has led to legal precedents protecting them. Three federal court cases highlight the magnitude of her work with the American Civil Liberties Union in Grand Rapids. In 2013, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld her challenge to Michigan’s anti-begging law, which Grand Rapids had used to arrest nearly 400 people, on First Amendment grounds. In 2016, the Sixth Circuit agreed with her argument that the state’s sex-offender registry law was unconstitutional because it punished registrants without delivering a corresponding public safety benefit. Also in 2016, the Sixth Circuit agreed with Aukerman’s challenge of the state policy of automatically denying food assistance to qualified citizens based on a match with a computerized list of outstanding felony warrants. Assistance was restored to approximately 20,000 people. Prior to her work with the ACLU, Aukerman developed and oversaw the Legal Aid of Western Michigan Reentry Law Project to help people with criminal records fight legal barriers preventing them from being productive citizens.

 

Miriam Aukerman

Miriam Aukerman

Champion of Justice Award

Since being named deputy chief of the Juvenile Division of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in 2001, and then chief in 2004, Robert J. Heimbuch has developed and operated several highly successful diversion programs such as Right TRAC, Correct Course, and Erase Truancy, that give deserving youthful offenders a chance to bypass the formal court system and avoid delinquency adjudication. Young people who graduate from the programs have recidivism rates under l0 percent. This ultimately translates into efficiencies that have saved the county millions of dollars, and, more importantly, safer communities, which has been reflected in yearly declines in new delinquency complaints filed by police departments in the county. Judge Virgil Smith of said Heimbuch recently collaborated with the court to create a Juvenile Mental Health Court to address the special rehabilitative needs of delinquents with significant mental health issues. Judge Demetria Brue said Heimbuch’s style as a supervisor and unrelenting determination to administer justice has influenced the way she runs her courtroom.

 

Robert Heimbuch
Robert Heimbuch

John W. Cummiskey Pro Bono Award

Since first volunteering with Elder Law of Michigan in 2013, Charles “David” Jones has helped approximately 900 seniors with their legal issues and donated about 2,000 hours of his time to the effort. A retired administrative law judge with the Michigan Administrative Hearing System, Jones isn’t just an asset to the clinic’s clients, who often can’t afford legal services and need help with creditors, Medicaid and Medicare issues, and landlord-tenant disputes. He’s also a terrific resource for Elder Law of Michigan, sharing his knowledge and expertise with staff members and volunteers. Jones’ diligence and the sheer number of cases he’s handled has been a boon to Elder Law of Michigan. Jones was an administrative law judge for the Michigan Administrative Hearing System from 1996 until his retirement in 2013. Prior to that, he was an administrative law judge for the Department of Health and Human Services for nearly 20 years and spent just under two years as a staff attorney for Legal Aid of Western Michigan.

 

Professor Lawrence Dubin
Charles "David" Jones

John W. Reed Michigan Lawyer Legacy Award

Since 1975, Professor Lawrence Dubin has taught professional responsibility, civil procedure, evidence, trial practice and seminars in selected problems in legal ethics and law & psychiatry. He is widely considered one of the best law professors in Michigan. According to those who know him best, it’s the way he connects the subjects to real life that makes him special. Dubin was an innovator of a technique of applying story-telling to legal education, and his documentaries have been used in law schools around the United States. In addition, he has authored or co-authored books on the attorney discipline system, trial practice, evidence, and the particular legal problems of individuals on the autism spectrum, and he has worked to promote diversity in legal education through the production of a series of videos created for minority law students in collaboration with former ABA and SBM President and Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer on the challenges and benefits of law school.

 

Professor Lawrence Dubin
Professor Lawrence Dubin

Kimberly M. Cahill Bar Leadership Award

Women Lawyers Association of Michigan works to advance the interest of women in the legal profession, promote improvements in the administration of justice and promote equality and social justice. It has grown into a statewide organization containing nearly 600 members and seven regional chapters within which more than 350 women have taken on the leadership role of president, including Kimberly M. Cahill. WLAM and its seven regional chapters host over 50 events each year to improve communities across the state by reading to children, collecting donations for soup kitchens, and participating in charity fundraisers. WLAM currently works to advance gender pay equity and to end family responsibilities discrimination. It also encourages the professional improvement of members by engaging them in business development seminars, pro bono service, legal education, leadership training, and networking events. In 1983 WLAM formed a charitable arm, the Women Lawyers Association Foundation. To date, the Foundation has awarded over $500,000 in scholarships to 246 law students.

 

Donna MacKenzie
Donna MacKenzie,
WLAM President

Liberty Bell Award

Urban League of West Michigan was nominated by the Grand Rapids Bar Association for two programs that contribute to the effective functioning of institutions of government and foster a better understanding and appreciation of the rule of law. The Center for Housing and Community Development works with tenants and landlords to educate them on rights and responsibilities and advocate for homelessness prevention. ULWM provides four opportunities per month for renters to receive information. As of Aug. 1, this year the program has served 2,344 client-guests with housing issues, conducted 1,291 one-on-one counseling sessions and helped 453 households avoid eviction or foreclosure. The second program, the Parent Empowerment Network, advocates to support parents seeking educational success for their children in a complicated system of discipline and special education support and services. It offers an “opportunity line” parents can call for assistance, organizes and conducts parent advocacy courses, and facilitates the organization of the Parent Leadership Network to improve accountability of schools.


 

Joseph Jones
Joseph Jones,
ULWM CEO

 

   

Click the caption below each photo to download a high resolution version of each award winner's photo.