DeBoer v. Snyder Plaintiff Legal Team Will Receive Champion of Justice Award Sept. 17 in Grand Rapids


Over the course of two years, eight days of testimony during trial, and an ongoing appeals process, a team of four Michigan attorneys, including Kenneth M. Mogill, Dana M. Nessel, Robert A. Sedler, and Carole M. Stanyar, served as a model of superior lawyering.

In DeBoer v. Snyder et al., the four attorneys represented the plaintiffs, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, a lesbian couple who sought to jointly adopt their three children born with special needs. The lawsuit was originally filed to overturn Michigan's ban on adoption by unmarried parties. At the judge's suggestion, the complaint grew to serve as a legal challenge to the Michigan Marriage Amendment to the state Constitution, banning same-sex marriages in the state.

"The four attorneys worked tirelessly and largely on a pro bono basis," wrote Valerie Newman, in her nomination of the team. "They expertly crafted a legal strategy that included the top experts from around the country, to meticulously lay out the facts and the law. This case unfolded in the media and the team maintained professionalism at all times."

Kenneth M. Mogilll Dana M. Nessel
Robert A. Sedler Carole M. Stanyar

Kenneth M. Mogill, a partner at Mogill, Posner & Cohen, practices in the areas of professional ethics and criminal defense. He is a past president of Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, and an adjunct professor at Wayne State University Law School, where he teaches criminal procedure and professional responsibility.

Dana M. Nessel, an attorney at Nessel and Kessel Law, focuses on criminal defense, and also handles civil rights actions, family law matters, and general tort litigation. Prior to her work in private practice, she worked for more than a decade as a Wayne County assistant prosecutor, devoting much of her work to special assignment units.

Robert A. Sedler is a distinguished professor of law at Wayne State University in Detroit, where he teaches constitutional law and conflict of laws. He was the chair of the State Bar of Michigan Constitutional Law Committee and of the Legal Education Committee. He is the author of Constitutional Law in the United States.

Carole M. Stanyar focuses her Ann Arbor-based law practice on criminal appeals, federal criminal law, Internet crimes and money laundering. She is an instructor for the Wayne County Criminal Advocacy Program, and she previously served as a public defender in Wayne County and contributing editor to Gillespie Michigan Criminal Law and Procedure Lawyers Co-Op.

Story by Samantha Meinke


Click the caption below each winner's photo to download a high resolution version. Read about all SBM Award winners. More information about the Annual Meeting can be found in the SBM Annual Meeting Media Kit.