'A worthy addition'

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Recently appointed to the state Court of Appeals, Judge Thomas Cameron (right) was in the spotlight last week at his ­investiture in Dearborn, a swearing in ceremony at which Chief Judge Michael Talbot served as emcee.

Photo by John Meiu

New Court of Appeals judge praised for his ‘work ethic’

By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

Twenty-two years ago, Thomas Cameron received the exceedingly good news that he had passed the bar exam, offering him the opportunity to begin work in the legal profession.

Immediately.

Or as soon as he could find a judge to conduct an impromptu swearing in ceremony that would allow the newly minted attorney the chance – that day – to argue a case before the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Raymond Charron, a longtime 25th District Court judge in River Rouge, was flagged down to perform the honors, interrupting his traffic case docket to administer the oath of admission to the State Bar.

Minutes later, Cameron was on his way to appear before the state appellate court, presenting an oral argument on his first official day as an attorney for an insurance defense firm. Such a heady assignment is normally reserved for a more seasoned lawyer, but Cameron suspects that he was chosen for one principal reason.

The case was a loser.

“Upon reflection, I guess I might have been a sacrificial lamb,” Cameron said with a smile.

The early setback was a “lesson learned” and served as motivation for “better days ahead,” said Cameron, who on Thursday, Nov. 9 at the Byblos  Banquet Center in Dearborn swore another oath. This time at his investiture as a judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Recently appointed state Supreme Court Justice Kurtis Wilder, somewhat fittingly, conducted the swearing in ceremony. Wilder’s elevation to the high court earlier this year created the vacancy on the Court of Appeals, an opening that was filled by Governor Rick Snyder with the appointment of Cameron in mid-July.

Elizabeth Clement, the chief legal counsel to the Governor, was among the featured speakers at the investiture, noting that Judge Cameron is “among a select few” who have earned two judicial appointments from Snyder and “possesses all of the attributes of an outstanding appellate judge.”

Cameron, a Trenton native who earned his law degree from Wayne State University Law School, was appointed by Snyder to the 3rd Circuit Court in Wayne County three years ago. During his time on the Wayne County Circuit bench, Cameron “played a lead role in reforming the indigent defense appointments process,” according to Clement. 

Early in his career, as an assistant prosecutor in Wayne County, Cameron became a colleague and friend of Benny Napoleon, former Detroit Police chief and current Wayne County sheriff. Napoleon, who holds a juris doctor degree from the former Detroit College of Law, also spoke at the investiture, praising the character and qualifications of Cameron as a judge who will work diligently to “ensure that we have justice in this great state.”

The remarks were echoed at the swearing-in ceremony by Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting, who told of Cameron’s perseverance in eventually landing a “part-time, $10 an hour internship” with the Prosecutor’s Office more than two decades ago.

“He came back six times over a 12-month period in an effort to get that job,” Getting said of Cameron. “That speaks volumes about his work ethic and determination.”

Such drive would play a role in Cameron later earning a job as an assistant prosecutor in Kalamazoo County, and then as an assistant attorney general and Criminal Justice Bureau chief in the Michigan Department of Attorney General.

William Schuette, the current A.G. and a former judge on the state Court of Appeals, also spoke in support of Cameron Thursday, saying that, “you are immensely prepared for this duty” and “are a worthy addition to this court.”

Michael Talbot, chief judge of the Court of Appeals and the master of ceremonies at the investiture, said that the desire to be “prepared” has been clearly demonstrated by Cameron during his first four months on the appellate bench.

And, he’s “low maintenance,” Talbot said with a chuckle, noting that is a particularly desirable quality for new members of the court.

When it came time for Cameron to take the podium, the Western Michigan University alum sung the praises of his family, specifically his wife, Mary, a physician, and their three children, William, Christopher, and Clare, ranging in age from 10 to 13. His mother, Geraldine, also was in attendance Thursday, as were his three siblings, all of whom traveled from out of state to enjoy the ceremony.

Cameron was just 13 years old when his father died of brain cancer.

“I spent the better part of a year helping care for him before he died,” Cameron said. “It had a profound effect on me, and drove home the importance of assisting others.”

That willingness to “give back,” said Cameron, is central to his D.N.A.

“It’s been a constant motivator throughout my years in public service, and I have faith that I will never lose sight of it in the years ahead.”

 

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