Widgeon takes position with Cooley Law Judge to focus on ethics, professionalism


By Frank Weir

Legal News

Well-known retired 14A District Court Judge Betty Widgeon is taking on a new assignment.

Cooley Law School Ann Arbor campus has appointed her assistant director of ethics, service and professionalism.

She has been involved with the Cooley campus since it was established while continuing her work with Widgeon Dispute Resolution and Consultation Services PLC, which provides business services arbitration and conciliation services.

"I'm simply delighted to be working with Deans Vestrand and Moore in this new position," Widgeon said this week. "During the past year, I've spent a lot of time with both of them and at the Ann Arbor campus while teaching classes in Alternative Dispute Resolution.

"It's exciting to be a part of Cooley's continuous focus on ethics and professionalism, and to see the way so many members of the local bar have joined in this effort. I have experienced first hand the outstanding response from our judges, lawyers and community leaders in partnering with Cooley on so many levels -- from Cooley's Professionalism in Action orientation program which is presented each term -- to the many hours these professionals have donated as judges in Cooley many mock trial, moot court, negotiation and mediation competitions and tournaments."

Widgeon noted that as the assistant director for for ethics, service and professionalism, she will "help widen the dual flow of communication, service opportunities and connections among Cooley students, lawyers and the community at large."

A "large part" of her duties will be cultivating new partnerships with the local bar and service agencies in order to identify and create a wide range of pro bono opportunities.

She is especially excited about a "pro bono kick-off event" scheduled for mid-October at Cooley's Ann Arbor campus. Chief Judge Donald Shelton will be the guest speaker and will administer the "Pro Bono Pledge," in which Cooley students will make a commitment to complete pro-bono service during their time in school as well as after graduation.

"Our goal is to see not only Cooley students but members of local firms and solo practitioners publicly commit or renew their support to pro bono services at that time," Widgeon said.

She notes that a number of attorneys would be able to donate more services if they had assistance with client interviews, research, document preparation and "a lot of the busy work that goes in to getting cases ready for court and follow-through."

She is confident that Cooley can supply a steady flow of competent, mature students trained and ready to follow cases from inception to completion.

"The second leg of my focus will be on ethics and professionalism. We want to continuously present our students with outstanding judges, lawyers and community leaders who excel in these areas as both models and mentors. Several have already agreed to participate in this endeavor and I have many more candidates in mind."

"We are incredibly excited to have Judge Widgeon join our leadership team," said Joan Vestrand, associate dean and professor at Cooley's Ann Arbor campus.

"She brings a great deal of real-world knowledge with her, is admired and respected within the community and will be a great resource for our students."

Widgeon was appointed to the 14A District Court bench by Governor John Engler in March, 1994, to complete the term of then retiring Judge Thomas Shea.

She was elected to that seat in November of the same year.

Widgeon has worked extensively in the field of alternative dispute resolution since leaving the bench in 1999.

She has 30 years of experience handling and resolving civil and criminal disputes as an attorney, judge, visiting judge, mediator, arbitrator and fact-finder.

She serves on the Board of Directors and volunteers as a community mediator for the Dispute Resolution Center for Washtenaw and Livingston counties and she occasionally accepts visiting judge appointments in Michigan as well as arbitration, mediation, and fact-finding cases in Michigan and Ohio.

Published: Fri, Aug 5, 2011