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Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Kurtis Wilder Talks Life After the Bench

By Steve Thorpe

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Kurtis T. Wilder has rejoined Butzel Long, where he practiced earlier in his career, as Of Counsel. He served on the Michigan Supreme Court following his appointment by Governor Rick Snyder on May 9, 2017. Wilder also served as a judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals from 1998 to 2017 and a judge of the Washtenaw County Trial Court from 1992 to 1998. He is a Past President of the Michigan Judges Association, and Past Chairman of the State Bar Judicial Conference. Wilder graduated from the University of Michigan with an A.B. degree in Political Science in 1981, and from the University of Michigan Law School with a Juris Doctor degree in 1984.
 
Thorpe: The CEO of Butzel Long described this change as a “homecoming.” Is that how it feels?

Wilder:
There’s no question that coming to work with Butzel Long again feels like I’m coming back home. I’ve maintained close friendships over the years with many of the firm’s members, and the quality of the work being done by the firm is as good as ever. In many ways, my transition has been seamless, and I’ve become actively engaged in assisting the firm’s clients and given tremendous support to begin building my own practice.

Thorpe: What will be the main focus of your practice going forward?

Wilder:
I’ll be back in litigation with a primary focus on handling appeals and representing our automotive supplier clients. In addition, I’ll be doing a substantial amount of ADR work; I’ve already received referrals from judges and also expect to handle matters for litigants who are looking for someone with significant litigation and judicial experience to assist them in resolving their disputes.

Thorpe: You have a history of involvement with both the State Bar and the Wolverine Bar. What direction might that go?

Wilder:
I plan to continue my involvement with both organizations. I’ve always believed in doing whatever I can to help make the profession be as good as it can be in serving the public. As a judge, I was active with the Michigan Judges Association and the State Bar Judicial Council. Now that I’m back in private practice, I’m sure I will find other avenues to give back to the profession which has given me so much.

Thorpe: With your active involvement in civic and philanthropic work throughout your career, are you hoping to devote even more time to those causes?

Wilder:
The short answer is yes. Butzel Long believes in civic engagement and has encouraged me to continue to serve on the boards of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation, and Interlochen Center for the Arts. And, I’ve had requests from other philanthropic organizations to assist them with their important missions. I’m sure I’ll find a way to balance my obligations to my clients with my desire to support the arts, children’s and health organizations, Detroit, and all the things I am passionate about.

Thorpe: You were born and raised in Ohio and got both your degrees at U-M in Ann Arbor. How on earth did that happen? Are there relatives still not speaking to you?

Wilder:
The University of Michigan and The University of Michigan Law School are not only two of the finest educational institutions in the world, they provided the keys and path to my growth and success as a lawyer, judge and human being. Once my parents stepped foot on Michigan’s campus they were hooked. My father, who worked as a soil conservationist in rural Ohio, had Michigan bumper stickers on his car, at the risk of his life. And other than when Michigan plays Penn State, where my mother received her PhD, she’s also a loyal Wolverine. On the other hand, my younger brother went to the dark side and is an Ohio State fan. The last few years he has spoken to me once a year – after OSU’s victory over the Wolverines. I expect that he won’t want to talk to me on November 30 after the Wolverines crush the Buckeyes... Go Blue!

 

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