Inductee: Retired judge to be saluted at Hall of Fame ceremony

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Retired Judge Tony Viviano is flanked by his son, David, and daughter, Kathy, in this photo from several years ago.

Photo by John Meiu

By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

Less than a month after joining the octogenarian ranks, retired Macomb County Circuit Judge Tony Viviano will be inducted into another select circle on November 19 when he is among the honorees at the 32nd Heritage Hall of Fame Celebration at Detroit’s Cobo Center.

Viviano, who served on the Macomb County bench from 1993 to 2010, will join a class of four other Hall of Fame inductees at the event sponsored by the International Heritage Foundation. Aside from Viviano, the class includes Fouad Ashkar, manager of Ethnic Marketing at DTE Energy; Manoj Bhargava, CEO of 5-Hour Energy; Dr. Philip Stella, medical director of the Oncology Program at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Cancer Center; and Steven Vogel, co-founder of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center.

The Heritage Hall of Fame was founded in 1984, and “gives honor and recognition to leaders from various ethnic backgrounds who have made outstanding contributions to the American way of life while demonstrating a commitment to ethnic diversity, cultural heritage, and community involvement,” according to an event spokesman.

Former chief judge of the Macomb Circuit Court, Viviano has been a champion for the “well-being of children” throughout his career as a “renowned Macomb County Circuit Court judge,” the Heritage spokesman said. During his time on the Circuit Court bench, Viviano helped spearhead the Juvenile Drug Court program, working to steer young drug and alcohol offenders into a better way of life.

A graduate of De La Salle High School in 1953, Viviano earned his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in 1957. He was awarded his juris doctor from the University of Detroit School of Law four years later, whereupon he embarked on a two-year stint as a teacher at Regina High School in Harper Woods. From there he would begin putting his legal knowledge to use, working with the Legal Aid Bureau of Detroit for two years before spending nine years as an attorney with the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office.

One of eight children, Viviano earned his share of kudos while working as an assistant prosecutor, eventually serving as director of the Organized Crime Division, a plum assignment for an up-and-coming attorney. In 1974, he entered private practice in Mount Clemens, spending nearly 18 years as a general practitioner. He was elected a probate judge in Macomb County in November 1992, taking office the following January in the Juvenile Division where he handled neglect, abuse, delinquency, and adoption cases. He served in the Family Division of the Macomb Circuit Court from 1998 until his retirement in 2010 due to age limits.

During his time as chief judge of the Circuit Court, Viviano impressed judicial observers with his leadership style and his thirst for learning, regularly devouring books on enlightened management techniques. One of his favorites, aside from “The Fifth Discipline” by Peter Senge, is “Lincoln on Leadership,” a 1993 book by Donald Phillips that examines “Executive Strategies for Tough Times.” It has a special place on Viviano’s learning curve.

“I’ve probably read 50 books about Lincoln – his life, his presidency, his legacy,” Viviano said. “But this book is particularly interesting since it looks at the strategies and tactics that Lincoln used during his time in power and relates them to the challenges facing businesses and our country today. It is a powerful book.”

A native of Detroit, Viviano is proud of his Sicilian heritage, due in part to the strength of character displayed by his parents, Elizabeth and Frank. His father was the founder of Viviano Flower Shop. The business, which he started in 1937 on the east side of Detroit, blossomed over the years into one of the most successful floral operations in the state.

“My dad was the salt of the earth,” said Viviano. “He had an earthly wisdom that is hard to put into words, but he had a way of making everyone feel special. It served him well in business and throughout life.”

Viviano’s mother had a love of literature that rubbed off on her children.

“My mom was an avid reader and I really modeled myself after her,” Viviano said. “She read all types of books and was conversant on virtually any subject. Both of my parents stressed the importance of reading and the value of education. They drilled that into me and my brothers and sisters.”

Viviano and his wife of 51 years, Alice, made the same vow for their seven children. All seven are graduates of Hillsdale College, each earning an academic scholarship to the private liberal arts college that prides itself on its high scholastic standards and institutional independence. Mary Beth, Janet, Kathy, Michele, David, Joseph, and Melina are “the best kids a father could ever have,” Viviano said with conviction. Three are attorneys and three are CPAs, and collectively they have blessed Viviano and his wife with 21
grandchildren, ranging in age from 6 months to 25 years old.

Their son David is a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court and formerly served on the Macomb Circuit Court bench with his father. Their daughter Kathy was elected to the Macomb Circuit Court in 2010, and fittingly took over her father’s docket and courtroom following his retirement that year.

His family, undoubtedly, will turn out in force November 19 for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, paying tribute to a man who has embodied the finest qualities the legal community has to offer.

“I am humbled by the honor, especially since it has been five years since I retired from the bench,” Viviano said. “It is a most unexpected honor and one that I will treasure.”
 

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