Hon Peter L Plummer - A remembrance


by Suzanne Sonneborn   |   Michigan Bar Journal

With the passing of Hon. Peter Plummer on November 30, 2020, a light dimmed in the legal community and within state government, especially at the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules (MOAHR).

At the time of his death, Plummer served as an administrative law judge assigned to MOAHR’s General Adjudication Division, responsible for deciding a wide range of complex case types. From 2011 to 2014, he also served as an administrative law manager, overseeing the agency’s administrative law judges and staff handling utility and other Public Service Commission matters.

Prior to 2011, Plummer was executive director and chief administrative law judge of MOAHR’s predecessor, the State Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules (SOAHR), a role to which he was appointed in 2005 by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Created by an executive order in 2005, SOAHR represented the first centralized hearing panel in the country whereby state government functions relating to processing and promulgating administrative rules and the conduct of administrative hearings were assigned to one agency. Subsequently reorganized as the Michigan Administrative Hearing System and later as MOAHR, the agency takes on many different administrative case types and, under Plummer’s leadership, developed processes, policies, and administrative rules for handling thousands of cases each year as well as oversight of promulgation of all rules in the state.

My friendship with Plummer began more than 20 years ago when he joined the Michigan Department of Attorney General and was assigned to the same division that I was in. His ability to quickly connect with people and treat everyone equally regardless of their station in life was one of the skills that I most immediately admired in him. Yet his legal acumen was equally impressive and made more relatable by his quick wit and kind humor, which he delivered often and made for a lighter work environment. I was grateful for the opportunity to again work with and learn from him in 2010 when I became an administrative law judge at SOAHR under his leadership, and once more in 2020 when I returned to MOAHR in my current role.

It is almost impossible to quantify the loss of a friend, colleague, and mentor in a few words or a paragraph on the pages of the Bar Journal. But following his passing, one of his friends and colleagues shared with me an old English idiom that he thought described Plummer well: a hail fellow well met. The phrase is used, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “when referring to a person whose behavior is hearty, friendly, and congenial.” Plummer was a hail fellow well met; here at MOAHR, we are still not used to a world without him in it.

Several months before his passing, Plummer poignantly wrote the following in response to the unexpected loss of another colleague at MOAHR:

[T]rying times like these remind us of who we are by nature. We have faith in each other. We have faith in humankind’s ability to face tragedy with perseverance. It reminds us that it is our nature to care for each other. It reminds us to include love and kindness in our every deed and thereby avoid the regret that we missed that chance. The highest honor we can pay those who have passed is to redouble our efforts to show compassion, love, and kindness as they would were they still with us.

May we all heed Peter Plummer’s wisdom and pay him this highest honor by treating one another with more compassion and kindness in our work and in our lives — as he would were he still with us.