State Bar Representative Assembly to Honor Three Award Winners on Sept. 19


The State Bar of Michigan Representative Assembly will present its Michael Franck and Unsung Hero awards to three outstanding members of the legal community on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013 at the Lansing Center. The presentation will take place at 9:10 a.m. during the assembly's general session, which is being held in conjunction with the SBM Annual Meeting.

Michael Franck Award

Hon. James H. Fisher has affected many people in a positive and meaningful way. "I can honestly say I do not know if I would have enjoyed the success in my career had it not been for the guidance and caring of Judge Fisher," said attorney Stephanie S. Fekkes." As a prosecutor, private attorney, and judge, Fisher's passion for efficiency, fairness, and respect have earned him praise from lawyers on both sides of the aisle as well as from those in need and the indigent. As Barry County Circuit Court judge from 1995 to 2011, he transformed the court into a model for the state. His charitable work has helped hundreds of adults and children in need. And his dedication to improving Michigan's indigent defense system has already changed the legal profession for the better. In 2010, Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Fisher as chair of the Michigan Indigent Defense Advisory Commission (IDAC), and Fisher has not disappointed. Chief Judge Thomas P. Boyd from the 55th District Court in Mason said, "Judge Fisher has been an exemplary leader as chair of the IDAC," where he "has fostered an environment of respect and creativity."


Hon. James H. Fisher

Unsung Hero Award

Judy B. Calton saw a broken bankruptcy process. The court was bogged down and debtors who should have obtained bankruptcies simply could not afford a lawyer to help them get a fresh start. That's when she came up with the novel idea of creating a nonprofit fund to subsidize attorneys representing debtors who could not otherwise afford a lawyer. She set up the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Access to Bankruptcy Court, and then found a way to fund it. After obtaining a $10,000 grant for start-up costs, she held a fundraiser that included a silent auction, which included about 50 bottles of wine from her own private collection, and raised nearly $5,000. Since its inception, the program has saved several individuals from horrible financial circumstances. In nominating Calton, the organization's board called her one of the finest bankruptcy attorneys in Michigan, but said her willingness to use her talents to improve the lives of those less fortunate than herself is what makes her an unsung hero."


Judy B. Calton

By day, Jeffrey S. Kopp is a highly successful commercial litigator. At every other time, he is a superhero advocate who has helped hundreds of people who otherwise may have been left in the dark. While on assignment in Iraq as a member of the Army and JAGS Corps, Kopp safeguarded the rights of detainees and worked with Red Cross officials to assure that captives were receiving humane treatment under the Geneva Convention. Foley & Lardner Managing Partner Daljit Doogal said Kopp's work for the detainees "helped erase the stain of Abu Ghraib." Following his return from Iraq, Kopp began volunteering more than 100 hours a year. Among other things, he heads up a program serving reserve members and their families in Michigan and Ohio, and volunteers as a lawyer for Project Salute, a pro bono program of the University of Detroit Mercy Law School that travels throughout Michigan offering free legal advice to low-income veterans on federal veterans' disability and pension benefits claims. Of his pro bono philosophy, Kopp says, "When you represent someone pro bono and take out the financial interest, the entire process becomes more pure."


Jeffrey S. Kopp