Jackson native enjoying new job as state's solicitor general

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 By Jo Mathis

Legal News
 
Jackson native Aaron Lindstrom says he knew his new job as Michigan’s solicitor general would require him to delve into many areas of the law on a daily basis.
But even knowing that, he didn’t fully appreciate the extent of it.
“It ranges from child services, environmental, labor, transportation, tax, corrections—everything the state’s involved in,” he said. “There’s always something going on ... It takes a lot of work to stay up on all the different cases we’re handling.”
Lindstrom, 40, began his new post in December. Appointed by Attorney General Bill Schuette, he represents the state government before the Supreme Court and heads the Department of Attorney General's appellate and opinions divisions.
Lindstrom grew up in Jackson and attended Jackson Baptist Christian School. He says he has great memories growing up surrounded by family, with his grandparents just up the street, and his cousins just a few miles away.
After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he served in the Army for five years on active duty as a cavalry officer.
After completing his service, he graduated from the University of Chicago Law School and clerked for the Honorable Jeffrey S. Sutton of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  He then worked in an appellate and constitutional law practice in Washington, D.C., and in the appellate practice group of Warner Norcross & Judd LLP in Grand Rapids, where he now lives.
In 2012, he joined Michigan’s Solicitor General Bureau.
Lindstrom says that most people who don’t work in law don’t know what Michigan’s solicitor general does, or that he supervises all major appellate cases and amici briefs in the attorney general’s office.
“It’s an appointed position, not an elected position, so most voters don’t know about it directly,” he said. “I just explain that I help oversee appeals for the state of Michigan. And then I have to often explain what an appeal is if I’m talking to non-lawyers.”
He explains that the appellate process is more focused on properly interpreting the law than are trial courts that are deciding only the one case before them.
“Trial courts are not precedential,” he said. “They are not establishing what the rule of law will be applied in future cases. They can be very persuasive. But they’re not binding on other courts.”
It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t have extensive experience in all the areas his office handles.
“The solicitor general is an appellate specialist, not a subject matter specialist,” he said. “We have very talented attorneys in all these different areas that know the substance well and are experts in their particular area.”
Like judges, those at the Solicitor General Bureau are generalists, he said. 
“By being a generalist, we’re able to realize the importance of sometimes simplifying very complex areas and focusing on what the key issue is, and communicating that effectively to judges who in general are not specialists in the subject matter,” he said.
He’s especially proud of the habeas case he worked on recently that reversed a federal district court decision that would have released a convicted killer on the grounds that there hadn’t been sufficient investigation of his alibi claim.
“That was important, because it was keeping a man a Michigan jury convicted of murder in jail,” he said.
He and his wife, Sharon, whose four children are ages 9, 7, 5, and 4, often return to Jackson to visit his parents, Jim and Phyllis.
Phyllis Lindstrom said she and her husband are proud of their son, who graduated from Jackson Baptist in 1992.
She said she could tell she had a lawyer on her hands when he was just seven years old.
“Everything was an academic debate with him at a very young age,” she said. “His son, Micah, who is 9, is just like him: very smart, studious, a big reader. And he’ll listen to what you say, then critique it.”
 

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