Legal 'giant': Late Wayne Law dean to be honored at event

 By Tom Kirvan

Legal News
The legacy of Jim Robinson, who at the age of 34 became U.S. Attorney in Detroit and later would serve as dean of Wayne State University Law School, will be enriched again this fall in what has become an annual tribute to “one of the true giants” of the legal profession.

A reception is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 26 in support of the James K. Robinson Scholarship Fund at WSU Law School. The event, which will be hosted by Rich and Patty Rossman at their Pleasant Ridge home, will run from 5:30-8 that evening with donations earmarked for the presentation of an annual $28,000 scholarship to a deserving Wayne Law student.

A former partner with Pepper Hamilton in Detroit, Rich Rossman served as Robinson’s chief assistant when he was the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and would succeed him in that leadership role when Robinson returned to private practice at Honigman Miller.

“Like many others, I considered Jim my mentor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, where we would become close colleagues and friends,” said Rossman, who now serves as executive director of the National Association of Former United States Attorneys. “He was an absolutely brilliant lawyer, at both the trial and appellate levels, and he also excelled as a leader, molding a staff that held firm to his beliefs in fairness and justice.”

Robinson, who died of gastrointestinal cancer in August 2010 at age 66, enjoyed a brilliant legal career that included stays with major firms in Detroit and Washington, D.C. Those career stops were sandwiched around public service appointments as U.S. Attorney in Detroit and Assistant Attorney General with the Department of Justice. In 1977 at the age of 34, he was appointed to the U.S. Attorney post by President Jimmy Carter. 

Robinson was president of the State Bar of Michigan from 1990-91, and served as dean of Wayne Law School, his legal alma mater, from 1993-98. A native of Grand Rapids, Robinson and his wife, Marti, created the endowed scholarship as a way to “give back” to the school that was dear to their hearts.

“Jim was so grateful to Wayne for the wonderful opportunities it afforded him during his legal career,” Marti Robinson said. “The scholarship that we created while he was still alive was a way to say ‘thanks’ for what Wayne meant to him.”
For Rossman, the annual tribute to Robinson stirs memories of the times when he worked side-by-side with the former federal prosecutor.

“When he asked me to join him as his chief assistant, I really only knew him on a ‘Hi, Rich,’ and ‘Hi, Jim’ kind of basis,” Rossman related. “He knew my work and my reputation as a defense attorney, however, and I will never forget the confidence he placed in me after I joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He brought the staff together and let everyone know that I was his alter ego and that I had full authority to act on his behalf and to issue orders. During all the years I worked with him, first in Detroit and then in Washington at the Department of Justice, he always held true to that word, never undermining a decision that I had made or faltering in his commitment. His word was his bond.”

The September 26 reception will be the fourth such event in support of the Robinson Scholarship Fund. Last year’s event was hosted by Joe and Linda Papelian, and was attended by a number of legal luminaries, including federal judges Ralph Guy, Avern Cohn, Gerald Rosen, and David Lawson. Wayne Law Dean Jocelyn Benson also attended the reception, as did Robinson’s wife, an attorney and recently appointed member of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Invitations for the event are expected to be mailed next month. Those interested in supporting the Robinson Scholarship Fund can contact Kristy Pagan at KPagan@