Honigman attorney spent two decades in state government circles


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney Eric Eggan is involved in a long-term lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and a large mining company over the environmental impact of a sulfide mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula being constructed beneath a navigable waterway.

“Sulfide mines pose an indisputable risk to the environment – to the land, the air and ground and surface water near them,” explains Eggan, a partner in the litigation department of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn.

“The legal and factual issues are incredibly complex. The challenge for lawyers on both sides has been to distill the scientific opinions and evidence into an explainable and understandable story. The lawyering on both sides of the case and among the several parties involved has been terrific.”

Leader of the Governmental Practice Group, Eggan serves a diverse clientele related to governmental regulatory matters including gaming and liquor licensing, and has handled numerous civil and criminal jury and nonjury trials and appeals in state and federal courts. He is also a frequent lecturer on effective trial advocacy, effective representation of clients before state administrative agencies, liquor regulation in Michigan and gaming regulation.

Eggan joined Honigman’s Lansing office in 2004 after a distinguished 23-year career in state government, where he served as assistant in charge of the Michigan Attorney General’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division and as chief counsel to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, Michigan Lottery Bureau, and Michigan Horse Racing Commission.

As a trial lawyer he handled a varied caseload that included everything from criminal sexual conduct to murder. On the civil side, he handled a series of challenges to the state’s tort reform legislation and numerous jury trials against state government agencies and officials. In 1996, as head of the Attorney General’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division he co-drafted the legislative amendments to Michigan’s Gaming Control and Revenue Act and the Gaming Control Board’s Administrative Rules governing the operation of the State’s three licensed Casinos.

“I was fortunate to have worked with and been mentored by outstanding attorneys who instilled in me the value of hard work, professionalism and integrity that are the essence of good lawyering,” he says. “Some of the finest lawyers I know are or were public servants. Public service and representation of the public interest is very rewarding, and I enjoyed handling high profile cases involving meaty constitutional or socially significant issues.”

When Eggan joined Honigman, this previous experience in state government was a natural segue into the firm’s Government Practice Group.

“As a private practitioner, I enjoy the opportunity to see regulations from the other side of the fence,” he says. “Having spent so much time defending the state’s side, I hope I have credibility with state regulators and I think I offer a unique perspective to my representation of clients affected by government regulation.”

Litigation – whether in a state or federal court in a criminal matter or before an administrative agency – is both challenging and satisfying for Eggan, who has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America since 2006 and in Michigan Super Lawyers since 2007.

“Working with skilled lawyers and a quality judge to resolve a life-changing dispute among litigants is very rewarding,” he says.

As an additional honor, Eggan was recently elected as a Fellow into the American College of Trial Lawyers, at the ACTL annual meeting in London and Paris.

“I was thrilled to be elected to the College and to be inducted as a Fellow, undoubtedly the highest honor I will receive as a lawyer,” he says. “To be mentioned in the same breath as some of the country’s finest trial attorneys is a wonderful and unexpected honor. The importance the College places on professionalism and integrity, as well as a Fellow’s trial skills is very meaningful to me. The induction in London was unforgettable – festivities included private receptions at Westminster Abbey and the Middle Temple in London and at the Palais de Garnie, the famous Opera House in Paris.”

Eggan set his sights on a law career as a youngster, when he grew up idolizing his older brother Andy, now an attorney with Pear Sperling Eggan & Daniels in Ypsilanti and a Washtenaw County Public Administrator. Listening to his sibling’s stories about his practice sparked Eggan’s interest in attending law school and practicing law. “Once I dipped my toe in I was hooked,” he says. After earning his undergrad degree in political science, cum laude, from Central Michigan University, Eggan received his J.D., with distinction, from Cooley Law School.

Now he stands on the other side of the lectern, as an adjunct professor in the Trial Practice Institute at Michigan State University College of Law. “Teaching is fun – and working with energetic law students keeps me young,” he says. “It sounds cliché but I know I learn more from my interaction with my students than I teach them in class.”

He has also been on the faculty of the Hillman Advocacy Program for two decades. One of the premier trial skills programs in the United States, this annual three-day trial skills workshop is sponsored jointly by the Western Michigan Federal Bar Association and the Judges of the United States District Court in Grand Rapids.

Lawyers from throughout the Midwest attend and learn from experienced trial lawyers using live witnesses in the federal courtrooms in Grand Rapids. “Members of the federal bench circulate through the courtrooms on all three days observing the student exercises and offering constructive feedback,” Eggan explains. “The program’s advanced sections present a mock jury trial to real jurors who decide the case and offer feedback on their experiences.”

Eggan and his wife Jean currently call Lansing home, but both are originally from Alpena on Michigan’s Lake Huron coastline and were high school sweethearts. “I’m proud to be from northern Michigan and feel I’ve maintained the positive values I learned growing up in a small community,” he says. The couple’s son, Bryon, is a financial adviser in Arizona, and daughter, Kelly Anne, is a neuro-physiologist who lives with her husband in Connecticut.

Eggan gives back to the community by serving on the Board of Directors of the local Big Brothers Big Sisters, something he was introduced to by a friend. “I quickly learned the organization plays a critical role in the future of our community,” he says. “Having a role in its mission – mentorship of disadvantaged boys and girls – is tremendously rewarding. Watching the good our ‘Bigs’ do for our ‘Littles’ and the growth we see in the children served by the agency is inspiring.”