State Bar to Honor 2013 Award Winners at Sept. 18 Banquet in Lansing

State Bar of Michigan members will gather at the Lansing Center on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013 to honor the best in the legal profession. Eleven major SBM awards will be presented at a special banquet held in conjunction with the SBM Annual Meeting, which will take place Sept. 18-20.

Roberts P. Hudson Award winner is Kurt E. Schnelz who has been deeply involved in Bar work for more than 20 years. He's held just about every position one can hold, and done just about everything one can do. He credits his father Honorable Gene Schnelz's example for that, noting that his dad won the Hudson award in 1994, making them the first father-son combo to win the award. Current SBM President, Bruce Courtade said, he's been a key player on hundreds of issues over the years and a great mentor to new Bar leaders. ''He was an integral part of several executive committees, chaired or co-chaired many BOC work groups, and always offered solid, sound input on issues before the Board."

Frank J. Kelley Distinguished Public Service Award goes to Hon. Donna T. Morris, Midland probate judge. For more than 12 years she headed up efforts to plan, fundraise, construct, and operate the Midland County Juvenile Care Center, now the cornerstone of the Midland County probate court. She also worked with the Michigan legislature to update the Michigan Mental Health Code, allowing for judges to travel to hospitals to hear competency hearings. Judge Morris also established the Dorothy Dow Arbury Pinecrest Endowment Fund for the operation of Pinecrest Farms, a facility that provides assisted living care to elderly, mentally ill, and developmentally delayed people.

Champion of Justice Award will be presented to Eugene Driker, Michele L. Halloran and Valerie R. Newman. Driker gives back to his community, chairing Carl Levin's Judicial Selection Committee for 35 years, served on the Wayne State Board of Governors for ten years and chaired the Waynes State Law School Campaign for the 21st Century, which raised more than $15 million for the school. Halloran does whatever it takes to help those in need. She has served on the Michigan State University Curriculum Committee, University Steering Committee, Faculty Senate, University Council, and as faculty coach for MSU teams that took first place in the American Bar Association Student Tax Challenge competitions. She has increased the clinics offered at MSU from two to eight providing a variety of legal services to the community.

Halloran, assistant defender with the State Appellate Defender Office and Criminal Defense Resource Center and an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan Law School, works every day to improve the system, and lately has been getting big results for her efforts. She argued Lafler v. Cooper at the Supreme Court of the United States, and the justices ruled 5-4 in her client's favor last March.

Additional Champion of Justice Award winners are:

= Ann L. Routt-deputy director of Legal Services of South Central Michigan-Ann Arbor, the surrounding counties, and the state are better places. During her nearly three decades with the organization, Legal Services of South Central Michigan has grown from an organization serving four countries to one covering 13 counties and overseeing five statewide programs: The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, the Michigan Poverty Law Program, Farmworker Legal Services, Michigan Law Help, and the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative.

= Kay Stanfield Spinks is a woman of firsts. She was the first female attorney at the Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority, rising to senior assistant general counsel. She was the first African American female jurist in Oakland County-she was appointed a 46th District Court magistrate in 1987 and held the position for 23 years while maintaining a private practice. In 1990, Stanfield co-founded the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association and served as its first female president. She was also the first president of the D. Augustus Straker Bar Foundation and spearheaded its law school scholarship fund. Annette Kay Stanfield Spinks died in December, succumbing to cancer on her 60th birthday. The scholarship program she helped create was renamed the Kay Stanfield Spinks Law Student Scholarship in her honor.

John W. Reed Michigan Lawyer Legacy Award will be presented to Professor James J. White, Professor, University of Michigan College of Law. White really did write the book on commercial law. His "Handbook of the Law Under the Uniform Commercial Code," co-authored with Cornell Law Professor Robert Summers, remains the leading treatise on the UCC, not to mention the best selling hornbook of all time.

John W. Cummiskey Pro Bono Award to Robert G. Mossel, Ford Motor Company's pro bono chairman. Mossel spearheaded an effort to refocus the program to better address community needs and determine how the corporation's 85 in-house attorneys could use their skills to have the greatest impact on the state. Ford attorneys are now involved in a number of legal programs ranging from food-stamp clinics and criminal expungements to nonprofit assistance and veterans' benefits projects.

Kimberly M. Cahill Bar Leadership Award will be presented to Elizabeth A. Kitchen-Troop whose efforts led to creation of the Modest Means program, which provides legal representation at a reduced rate for individuals at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty guideline. As Modest Means chair, Kitchen-Troop has mentored several volunteers, focusing on young attorneys or attorneys not experienced in family law.

Liberty Bell Award will be presented to Marge Palmerlee. Twenty years ago, Marge Palmerlee and her then 13-year-old son volunteered to help out at Degage Ministries in Grand Rapids, a facility that serves the homeless, unemployed, mentally ill, and physically disabled. They were looking for a way to give back. And that's exactly what they did. In fact, Palmerlee gave back so much and with such passion that Degage hired her to be their executive director just a few years later.

Published: Thu, Sep 5, 2013

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