Michael Pitt Will Receive Champion of Justice Award Sept. 17 in Grand Rapids


Once a person becomes a convicted felon, most people only worry about whether or not she receives the proper punishment for her crimes.

Michael Pitt is not most people.

Upon discovering that scores of convicted women in Michigan Department of Corrections facilities suffered sexual harassment and abuse from prison guards, he did something about it.

He became a member of a legal team that built a class-action lawsuit against the corrections department, charging that male prison guards raped and abused more than 500 female inmates housed in the state's prisons. Litigation ensued for more than a dozen years, until the case was finally settled for $100 million and the state government undertook significant reforms to prisons, including instituting a new regulation that male prison guards no longer staff female residential units in the state's prisons and jails.

Pitt, managing partner at well-known employment and civil rights law firm Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers, has also devoted thousands of hours to volunteer work on behalf of other cases via the American Civil Liberties Union.

Because of Pitt's work on a case in Saginaw County, involving a cell called "the hole," into which misdemeanor pre-trial detainees were stripped by prison personnel and held naked in full view of detainees and employees of the opposite sex, the practice was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge.

Pitt and the ACLU resolved a class action lawsuit representing 250 women who charged that Livingston County Jail personnel violated their privacy rights. The county had to build adequate housing facilities for women and grant them equal privileges to men.

Currently, Pitt is involved in litigation challenging the state legislature's passage of Public Act 349 of 2012, more commonly known as the Right to Work law, under the Open Meetings Act.

He has served as a leader in the legal community, on the Executive Committee of the Board of Visitors at Wayne State University, president of the Michigan Association for Justice, and as a member of the Michigan Judicial Selection Task Force. He established and funded the Dean Robb Lecture at Wayne State. And each year the Michael L. And Peggy Goldberg Pitt Endowed Scholarship is awarded to a law student at Wayne State with a severe disability.

"He is a Michigan treasure," wrote Kari Moss in his nomination. "He is both an exemplary lawyer with an outstanding work ethic as well as a man of compassion who gives time, empathy, and financial support to preserve and enhance the integrity of the democratic process and our justice system."

Story by Samantha Meinke


Michael L. Pitt

Click the caption below Michael PItt'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.