ICBA Bench/Bar Conference held

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

Ingham County lawyers, judges and support personnel did not spend last Saturday morning at a tailgate party before their favorite football team took the field. Instead, they streamed into Veterans Memorial Courthouse in downtown Lansing at 8 a.m. to attend the Ingham County Bar Association (ICBA) Bench/Bar Conference.

Hon. Janelle Lawless opened the conference. She spoke of the new "performance measures that are objective standards that are being applied by the Supreme Court and SCAO (State Court Administration Office) to evaluate how the courts are doing."

Time guidelines have been established, she explained, and lawyers could find some judges denying adjournments or other types of delay in the effort to meet them.

Rod Villarreal, Ingham County IS Specialist, was up next explaining the technology available in Ingham County Courts, which varies "depending on the courtroom that you're in--courtroom 1 is basic, only having microphones" while the most technologically equipped courtrooms have a large video screen on the wall, monitors at the attorney tables and in the jury box and microphones around the room. All of the equipment can be accessed with a laptop or a tablet computer.

Villarreal recommended that lawyers contact him to come in and use the equipment when preparing for trial to make sure it all works easily and correctly.

A panel discussion "What I like About You," with Hon. Janelle Lawless, Hon. Rosemarie Aquilina, Scott Mandel, Joseph Potchen and moderated by Gary Gordon was held in the Jury Assembly room. Judge Aquilina led off recommending that lawyers remember to:

* Place their appearance on the record.

* Speak with good diction, not too fast, so that a complete record can be made.

* File briefs on time.

* Review and honor the court rules.

* If a matter is settled, cancel it with the court

Judge Lawless added that as a family court judge, "we often see cases where people are representing themselves and situations where only one party has a lawyer. In those situations, please talk to the other party in an effort to work things out if possible."

Potchen, a lawyer who works all over the state, said he likes practicing in Ingham County because the judges and lawyers are prepared, engaged and professional. Scott Mandel agreed, mentioning the "level of courtesy" he finds practicing in Ingham County.

Asked about oral arguments in the motion practice, both Judges agreed that they are important. Judge Lawless said effective oral arguments are succinct and get to the point. Judge Aquilina agreed, saying, "I have read the brief and I want to know the major differences between the two."

Rebecca Dewitt, Clerical Services Supervisor led the discussion "From the Counter to Trial." Dewitt began explaining that Ingham County accepts pleadings in person at the counter or by mail.

The Ingham County Circuit Court is assigned as the Michigan Court of Claims for the state. "Cases filed in the Court of Claims," she said, "are governed by MCL 600.6404 Et all. Documents that do not conform to this statute will not be accepted for filing."

Judge Donald Allen, Jr. and Hon David Jordan spoke of the treatment court programs in their respective courts. Judge Allen offers Sobriety Court and Judge Jordan holds hearings in Veteran's Treatment Court.

Judge Jordan brought up the issue of courtroom safety, particularly in his courtroom where there is no security prior to entering the building.

"If an attorney has a client who might become violent, it is wise to mention any concerns to the officers of the court and the judge."

Judge Allen said that treatment courts are most effective if the clients can be brought into the program sooner rather than later.

"As an attorney, there are legal maneuvers that you can do but as a counselor, there may be other considerations," he said, such as urging the client to be evaluated for possible addiction problems and suggesting treatment if needed.

A discussion of the ethical issues involved when there is a conflict between a lawyer's duty to zealously represent a client versus advising the client to admit guilt and seek treatment for a social problem, such as suspected alcoholism.

The group then broke up into three separate groups:

* Civil Motion Practice led Hon. Joyce Draganchuk and Pat Gallagher,

* Criminal Law led by Stuart Shafer and Nick Bostic

* Family Law led by Nan Casey and Bob Hotchkiss.

The closing session was an open forum for the exchange of ideas and concerns led by Max Hoffman.

Jason Hanselman, Chairman of the Bench-Bar Committee, and committee members, Hon Laura Baird, Hon Joyce Draganchuk, Nan Casey, Bob Hotchkiss, Stuart Shafer, Max Hoffman and Richard Krause, put the conference together.

The Ingham County Bar Association holds a Bench/Bar Conference every two years. Sponsors for the this year's event included KI Technology Group, Law Office of Catherine Groll, Ingham County Legal News, Foster Swift Collins and Smith, Dickinson Wright, PLLC, Thrun Law Firm, P.C. , Fraser Trebilcock, Dykema Gossett, Speaker Law Firm, Loomis, Ewert, Parsley, Davis & Gotting, Rancillo & Associates, and Law Offices of Shawn Weera.

Published: Thu, Oct 11, 2012