Chartier honored with Leo A. Farhat Outstanding Attorney Award

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Criminal defense attorney Mary Chartier, partner and litigator at Chartier & Nyamfukudza, P.L.C. with offices in Okemos and Grand Rapids, has been selected to receive the 2020 Leo A. Farhat Outstanding Attorney Award from the Ingham County Bar Association. The award is named for the late Lansing attorney who was one of the founders of what became Farhat, Story and Kraus.

“It’s such an honor to receive the Leo Farhat Outstanding Attorney Award,” Chartier says. “Leo Farhat is a legend. For my name to be in the same sentence as his definitely makes me smile, especially this year, which has been tough for all of us. This award is certainly a bright spot.

 “Every day, as criminal defense attorneys, we live and breathe our commitment to the Constitution. To have other attorneys recognize the importance of criminal defense attorneys by honoring me with this award means a great deal to me. I like to think that I get in ‘good trouble’ through my work—this award confirms that.”

The Farhat Award is given to an attorney who has shown exemplary character, integrity, judgment, and legal scholarship while adhering to and advancing the highest principles and traditions of the legal profession. In addition to the traditional qualities of excellence in the practice of law, the award recognizes an attorney who has provided outstanding service to the public and who possesses an exemplary reputation in the legal community, the highest of ethical standards, and who revels in maintaining a life that balances a passion for professional excellence with the joy of family and friends. In addition, the award recognizes a person who exhibits qualities of openness and humility, coupled with a sincere concern for the interests of others, including the professional development of newer practitioners.

Chartier was nominated, in part, by Marisa Vinsky, an associate attorney at the firm, who described Chartier as “outstanding….a compassionate, hardworking constitutional warrior who serves as a role model for any woman who wants to excel in the legal field—or the fan favorite, ‘a pitbull in high heels.’”

Chartier’s business partner Takura Nyamfukudza says, “Clarence Darrow said, ‘To be an effective defense counsel, an attorney must be prepared to be  demanding,  outrageous,  irreverent,  blasphemous,  a  rogue,  a renegade, and a hated, isolated, and lonely person –few love a spokesman for the despised and the damned.’ Mary is clearly a unicorn; she is respected and adored by one and all who  make  her  acquaintance.  Prosecutors and judges alike have recommended Mary to people whose freedom hangs in the balance.”

The Farhat award adds to Chartier’s list of kudos, including being named one of Michigan Lawyers Weekly's "Leaders in the Law" in 2018 and one of the top "Women in the Law" in 2013. She also received the Distinguished Barrister's Award in 2018 by the Davis-Dunnings Bar Association. Last year, she was honored with the State Bar of Michigan Michael Franck Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Legal Profession; Exceptional Achievement in Criminal Defense, Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan; Recognition for Exceptional Achievements, Women Lawyers Association of Michigan; and Lawyer of the Year, Appellate Practice in Lansing, Best Lawyers.

Chartier has successfully defended clients in many federal and state trials. She has served as lead counsel in numerous cases, representing clients accused of white collar crimes, such as health care fraud, mortgage fraud, and money laundering, as well as clients accused of drug dealing, terrorism, crimes against the United States, bank robbery, criminal sexual conduct, and homicide. She has litigated and won numerous motions, and she has also had numerous appellate successes, including winning three cases at the Michigan Supreme Court in one year, one of which resulted in the release of a man wrongfully convicted of homicide.

She also won the medical marijuana case of People v Koon at the Michigan Supreme Court, which related to impairment and medical marijuana use, and for which she was honored with the Hiawatha Award for Outstanding Appellate Advocacy. She currently serves on the State of Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission.

Chartier also is a co-host on the television show “In the Name of the Law,” where she discusses different legal topics every week, and a co-host of the podcast Constitutional Defenders, which discusses important criminal defense cases from around the country.

She is a member of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (CDAM) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. She is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, Michigan State Bar Foundation, and the Ingham County Bar Founation. She is past president of the ICBA and chair of the ICBA's Criminal Defense Section, and a member of Attorneys for Animals.

Chartier is a nationally recognized speaker having taught criminal defense, constitutional law, and evidence at conferences held in Cambridge, Orlando, Aspen, and Key West to name just a few. She has presented at many state conferences on topics related to criminal defense, including conferences organized by CDAM, the Michigan Judges Association, the Michigan District Judges Association, the State Bar of Michigan, the Institute for Continuing Legal Education, and the National College for DUI Defense. She has also taught at the Hillman Advocacy Program, which provides federal courtroom training to trial lawyers and is sponsored by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

Chartier and the Chartier & Nyamfukudza team recently exonerated a man who spent 26 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. They worked pro bono for six years to achieve this result, and Chartier said walking him out of prison was one of the highlights of her career.




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