Redford tapped to be chief legal counsel to Michigan's governor



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

James Robert Redford has succeeded thoroughly in the quest that seems crucially important to him: to serve the people of the state of Michigan.

He may have narrowly failed in his bid to become a Supreme Court Justice last year, coming in third in a race where the top two candidates got the position, but he ultimately has emerged victorious this year with Governor Rick Snyder appoint him chief legal counsel.

Speaking from Lansing Tuesday, after taking a vacation day from his judicial position for a round of meetings, Redford said, “I’m really looking foward to the privilege of serving the people of the state of Michigan in this new and different capacity.”

For the last 12 years, Redford’s service has been as a circuit court judge in Kent County. During that time, he augmented his excellent reputation as a judge with significant outreach into the community, in particular centering around his past as a member of the U.S. Navy JAG (Judge Advocate General) Corps.

Redford was in the Navy from 1984 to 2012, starting out in active duty and then moving to the reserves. He served his country as a Staff Judge Advocate around the U.S. and the world, including in Sicily; a military judge; and Legal and Legislative Affairs Counsel in the Office of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon.

During his naval career, Redford received the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the  Navy Commendation Medal, the Navy Achievement Medal, the National Defense Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, and the Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, some of them more than once.

Redford started life out as part of a large family in Detroit. In a 2014 interview, Redford stated, ““My folks communicated to us that service to your community, service to your nation, service to your church is a fundamental part of being a whole person.”

He earned a bachelor’s of business administration degree at John Carroll University in Ohio and his law degree from the University of Detroit. He spent a year studying with the London England International Law Program at the University of Notre Dam London Law Center in 1984.

From 1990 to 1998, Redford was in the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Western District of Michigan, and has served in many positions on the Federal Bar there, including President from 2002-2003. His broad-based job, covering all levels of cases, included positions as Health Care Fraud Coordinator, and Financial Institutions Fraud Coordinator.

He went on to practice with Plunkett and Cooney in Grand Rapids from 1998 to 2002. He performed both civil and criminal litigation, and had a general corporate and health care business practice as well, before running for Judge in 2002, taking office in 2003.

His community and professional service also includes long service to the Girl Scouts of America and the Boy Scouts of America; he is an Eagle Scout himself. He also chaired the  state’s Committee on Model Civil Jury Instructions, at the appointment of the Supreme Court.

He has served on the Michigan Judicial Institute, including on the editorial advisory board for the Criminal Law Bench Book in 2009, and is on the board of the Alternative Directions  Community Half Way House, and a member of the Kent County Conservation League.

He is very proud that in 1976 he volunteered for the Gerald R. Ford Presidential campaign.

Currently an East Grand Rapids resident, Redford has three grown children. He included his family in the statement he released concerning his time as Circuit Court Judge:

“I would... like to thank the people of Kent County, for whom I have had the privilege of serving as a Circuit Judge since my election in 2002. Serving as a trial Judge in Kent County has been an enormous privilege. I thank all of my truly outstanding colleagues on the Kent Circuit and Probate Courts and the wonderful members of the Bar with whom I have had the privilege of working with these many years. I wish to also thank my staff and my family who were so professionally and personally supportive of me throughout this whole period of service. I could not have served with finer individuals or on a finer Court and I will always be grateful for the wonderful friendships and relationships I have as a result of this time.”

Michael Gadola preceded Redford as Chief Legal Counsel, which, as Redford himself points out, serves not only the governor but the whole executive branch. “I’ll be helping the governor’s staff and the governor himself on legal and policy matters on a daily basis that will affect all the citizens of the state,” he said Tuesday.

Gadola, originally from Flint, was long-serving, starting with the Engler administration and serving as House Majority Counsel and general counsel for the State Court Administrator's Office. As reported in last Friday’s Legal News, Gov. Snyder appointed him as a Court of Appeals judge, creating the vacancy.

Gov. Snyder commented on Redford as well as the appointment of John Walsh as his Director of Strategy (see “Duly Noted”), “It’s essential to have such talented individuals who have a passion for helping the people of our state and the vision and expertise to craft policy and build relationships that will help us accelerate our state’s dramatic comeback and work to

keep moving Michigan forward,” Snyder said. “I know I’ve found the right people in Rep. Walsh and Judge Redford.”

For his part, Redford comments, “I was surprised to be contacted by the Governor’s office and very humbled that they would ask if I were interested in being considered for the position. After a series of meetings with the staff with with the governor himself, the agreement was made that I would be leaving the bench to being services as the governor’s chief legal counsel.”

He adds, “I’m deeply honored to serve as Gov. Snyder’s Chief Legal Counsel. I hope that all the experiences that I’ve had professionally and personally will assist me in providing sound advice and recommendations to the governor and to the executive branch on behalf of the people of the State of Michigan.”

Redford will begin on Jan. 14, 2015, and applications are already being accepted for the circuit court judicial position.