Parting gift: Federal court offers salute to its second ombudsman

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By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

It was April Fools’ Day, yet there was nothing but genuine appreciation expressed at a recent ceremony honoring retired Judge Fred Mester for his service to the U.S. District Court as its ombudsman for the past four years.

Mester, who served as an Oakland County Circuit Court judge from 1982 to 2009, was the second ombudsman for the federal court in Detroit, succeeding George Bedrosian in March 2015.

The ombudsman, according to Chief Judge Denise Page Hood, serves as an intermediary between the judges of the Eastern District of Michigan and the bar, acting on an informal basis to resolve matters lacking an institutional mechanism or forum for redress.

“He has fulfilled his role respecting the roles of litigants, lawyers and judges in the legal system,” Hood said of Mester. “He effectively handled all matters that came to him. Judge Mester was a pleasure to work with and the court will miss him. We wish him the best and extend our thanks for his service to the court.”

In turn, Mester said his work as ombudsman “was once again a meaningful way to serve both the public and the judiciary” at large.

“Serving in this capacity revealed a need for this very position, and for that I congratulate this court for its vision,” said Mester, a former captain in the U.S. Army. “Providing access to the court and its workings available to all in the form of an ombudsman instills confidence in our judicial system.”

A 1959 graduate of Central Michigan University, Mester has a history of distinguished community service, including at his alma mater, where he held the post of president of the CMU Alumni Association.

He also has served in key leadership capacities with the William Booth Legal Aid Clinic and the Reading to Reduce Recidivism program.

Interestingly enough, the Royal Oak High School alum also is the founder and president of the Pontiac Alumni Foundation, a nonprofit organization that spearheads mentoring and scholarship programs for disadvantaged students.

He helped launch the nonprofit in 1999 when he saw the need for a local organization that could serve as a unifying force to help “resolve the widespread problems affecting the Pontiac community and its youth.”

At the time, he was dismayed at the splintered approach to problems, which invariably ended up in the laps of judges across the Oakland County judicial system.

“It was apparent that there were literally dozens of organizations out there trying to help, but they weren’t working together for the benefit of those in need,” said Mester. “The Pontiac Alumni Foundation was created out of a desire to bring the needs into focus and to direct fund-raising efforts so that these different organizations weren’t competing for the same dollars.”

A past president of the Detroit chapter of the Federal Bar Association, Mester served as administrator for the Oakland County Circuit Court from 1975-82, which followed assignments as chief of the civil division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit and as an attorney with Chrysler Corp.

In 2006, Mester was honored by the State Bar of Michigan with the Champion of Justice Award.

He also has been the recipient of the CMU Centennial Award, the 2006 Women’s Bar Association Award and the Earl W. Kinter Award for outstanding leadership and service to the FBA.

In 2017, he was presented with the Humanitarian of the Year Award by RESULTS Mentoring, a nonprofit that has been “lending support to underserved urban youth with educational enrichment opportunities” since 1999.

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