Michael J. Flynn, attorney and theologian, inducted into Workers' Compensation Hall of Fame

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By Diana L. Coleman
Legal News

A reception held at Boyne Mountain in 2013 honored attorney Michael Flynn when he was nominated and selected by his peers in the State Bar Workers’ Compensation Council for induction into the Workers’ Compensation Hall of Fame. The council is made up of workers’ compensation attorneys from around the state and consists of both plaintiff and defense attorneys.

The reception was attended by two of the Flynns’ four sons, his late wife Sandra’s sisters, other family members, and colleagues in the administrative law field. Son John, who is an attorney in Ann Arbor, attended and son Dennis, who is an attorney, presented the award. Dennis, who sits on the other side of the table from Flynn as a workers’ compensation defense attorney, made an eloquent speech
about his father, their family, and his father’s work ethic.  The speech went on for almost 17 minutes and would have made any father proud.

Flynn lost his beloved wife, Sandra, in August 2012.  “She was the biggest and most profound influence in my life,” said Flynn. “I married above my grade. She was a real looker, and a good kisser, and what she saw in me I’ll never know.  We were engaged in 1960, married in 1961, and had our first child in 1962. I know it was hard on Sandra. I worked days at Chrysler as a labor relations claims adjuster and attended college at night, finally graduating in 1969. She was presented with the honorable degree of Per Scholam Ponere Virum in recognition of her patience, moral support and material support in my pursuit of a law degree.”  Sandra was caring for three young sons by the time law school was finished. Dennis, their fourth child, was born in Muskegon.  Sandra was diagnosed with lupus in 1977 and was able to manage her disease very well for many years, but passed away in 2012. “She was so afraid that I would die before her,” said Flynn. “She said she didn’t know what she would do without me and was afraid of being alone. She devoted her entire life to me and our sons.”

Flynn is taking time to regroup following Sandra’s death. Gary Neal has taken over many of his workers’ compensation cases and he is getting back on his feet and is focusing on Social Security disability.
Flynn is the second McCroskey attorney to be inducted into the Workers’ Compensation Hall of Fame. The late Jerry McCroskey was inducted in 1994, posthumously. “Jerry had already passed away when I started at McCroskey’s,” said Flynn.  “I remember early in my practice that McCroskey treated me very well, not like a rookie. We flew to Wisconsin together for depositions for Lakey Foundry employees.  I was pretty impressed to get a ride in the chartered plane. I sat in the deposition and watched Jerry McCroskey ask questions and discuss issues for two and a half hours, never once repeating himself.  When he was finally done, he looked at me and asked, ‘Any questions counsel?’  I quickly said no questions and one of my colleagues told me I was getting smart because I knew enough to keep my mouth shut.”

About the Hall of Fame election, Flynn says, “The workers’ comp secretary from the State Bar called twice and I just thought the bar wanted to sell something or it was something political so I didn’t return the call. Then Ella Parker left me a message saying the State Bar has been calling you, please return their call — you have been elected to the Workers’ Compensation Hall of Fame.”
It is a great acknowledgement for 44 years of legal practice.

In 2004, Flynn was honored at the State Bar of Michigan Annual Meeting when he was presented an award from fellow attorneys and magistrates for his many years of dedicated service to the Workers’ Compensation Section of the Michigan bar. Again, the late attorney Jerry McCroskey was the only other recipient of this award from Muskegon.

Flynn has also served on the workers’ compensation section council which is structured with both a geographical and ideological balance. The council divides the state into In-State (Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland counties) and Out-State (all other counties) and maintains a balance so the council is not dominated by plaintiff or defense attorneys, or by the more populous counties in Southeast Michigan.
Flynn could not go through the interview with the Muskegon County Legal News without giving thanks and praise to his secretary of 41 years, Mary Schaub.  Schaub retired at the end of 2013. “I remember when we started the firm Halbower, Ruck and Flynn and I needed secretarial help,” said Flynn. “I had gone through five secretaries in thirteen months.  Evelyn, Judge Larnard’s secretary, said Judge Pearcy’s bailiff, Bob Nichols, had a daughter who was working at a bank and just hated it.  She was just 20 at the time and had no legal experience, but we called her for an interview.

“John Ruck, in his Rhode Island Republican voice, told Mary we would get back to her following the interview,” said Flynn. “I followed Mary out into the lobby and caught her and asked her to sit down, and went back and told John that this is the one. Her first week of work my desk was clean on Monday, my files were all laid out neatly on Tuesday, and the letters were waiting on my desk in perfect order on Wednesday.  On Friday, I told John it wasn’t fair to pull his secretary off the job and I would struggle through with the new girl.”  The next 41 years are history as Schaub supported his practice. Jessica Holden joined the team 21 years ago and continues to work with Flynn. They are a great team. “Our son, Dennis, was only five years old when Mary came to work with me,” said Flynn. Dennis Flynn now has a family of his own.

The next phase: Master of Theology, Notre Dame University

A devout Catholic, Flynn spent twelve years completing summer course work at Notre Dame. “I would spend three weeks on campus. Sandra would come down the first weekend and stay until the second weekend,” said Flynn. “Then the third weekend I would come home. Mary Schaub also helped me through course work. I would fax my notes home or dictate over the phone and she would type them up and send them back. I was sixty-eight years old when I received my Masters of Theology. President Obama was the guest speaker at my commencement in May, 2009.

“I had to take an oral exam and a comprehensive exam to complete the degree,” said Flynn. “The university knew I was too slow to type competitively and let me use the office in the theology department. When it was time to take my comprehensive exam, the University let me bring down Mary. At 8 a.m. the school put me in an office with a window and I dictated and Mary typed for four hours. It was a great day. Mary went home and Sandra came down. On Thursday, I was scared to death as I went before the former Theology Department Chair, Lawrence Cunningham, the current Chair John Cavadini, and Richard McBrien, a world class theologian.

“I contend that I have never had an original thought in my life,” said Flynn. “I had studied Georgetown Theologian Charlie Curran who was considered in the top three in the world in Catholic social teaching. In fact, his teachings were actually at variance with practice. The examiners laughed when I kept saying Charlie Curran-blah, blah, blah. They asked ‘Well, what do you think?’ and I replied that I
thought he was probative as an evidentiary in matters and carries great weight.

“When we were finally done with oral and comprehensive exams, Cavadini ,who was a Casper the Ghost, Milquetoast type, informed me that there was a party in the student union for those who passed their comps,” said Flynn. “Former theology department chair Cunningham said ‘If I know Mike, he is going to get his wife and have a martini.’”

Flynn added, “I remember after I received my Masters of Theology from Notre Dame, my friend and peer, John Ruck, took out an ad in the Lawyers’ Weekly. The ad wasn’t in the regular classified, but it read: ‘Michael J. Flynn, lawyer and theologian specializing in Dante’s Inferno. If what is at stake is being burned at the stake, then stake your life on Flynn.’ Judge Ruck and his secretary, Susie, had cut out my picture and created the ad and probably had great fun putting it together.”

Mike Flynn concluded in his rather humble manner, giving credit for his many blessings to all the people who have been a part of his life. He adds with a bit of a mischievous Irish grin, “It is better to be lucky than smart.”