Three stars: Judges to be in spotlight at RESTORE reception

 By Tom Kirvan

Legal News

It is being billed as a “Big Ten Production.”

No, not that Big Ten, otherwise known as the conference that is numerically challenged.

Instead, this “Big Ten” is a group of 10 prominent area attorneys who are supplying their fund-raising muscle to a spring reception on Tuesday, May 6, for The RESTORE Foundation, the nonprofit organization that provides financial support for the drug court programs in Oakland County.

The event will take place at the Iroquois Club, 43248 Woodward Ave. in Bloomfield Hills, and will run from 5-8 p.m.  The “Big Ten” backers include such legal luminaries as Tom Ryan, Robert Badgley, Kurt Schnelz, Kelly Allen, Albert Holtz, Donald McGinnis, Jose Fanego, James Williams, Larry Russell, and Robert Kostin.

The May 6 reception will sport an Academy Award theme, according to retired Oakland County Circuit Judge Edward Sosnick, who serves as president of RESTORE.

“We will be honoring the three judges of the drug treatment courts, Colleen O’Brien, Joan Young, and Mary Ellen Brennan,” Sosnick said. “They are among the unsung heroes of the program and volunteer their time to the cause of helping participants overcome their battles with substance abuse. The success of the program is due in large part to their efforts and those of others members of the drug court team. They believe in the mission of the program and are committed to helping people get their lives back on track.”

The RESTORE Foundation was created in the fall of 2008 with the expressed mission of “restoring hope and dignity by helping individuals overcome substance abuse to the benefit of themselves, their families, and society by sustaining the Oakland County drug courts,” according to Circuit Court Judge Wendy Potts, who was a driving force behind the creation of RESTORE. Its formation came at a time when state and federal funding support for the drug court program was waning because of budget cuts.

Last year, at a spring fund-raiser for RESTORE, a graduate of the drug court program served as the featured speaker, telling a harrowing true-life tale that stirred emotions from the scores of supporters on hand for the reception.

The woman, named “Shea,” recounted her odyssey through the drug culture, a journey that began with pot and LSD, moving systematically through ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin. A product of an upper middle class family, she soon turned to thievery to support her growing drug habit.  A series of arrests would follow, sending her down a road where “I lost everything in my life.

“Towards the end I was living on the street, living in my car,” she said. “I couldn’t hold a job. I had gotten fired from every job I had and I was only 21 years old.”

Despite her troubled past, she was given the opportunity to participate in the drug court program. She made the most of it, “getting sober” and returning to school where she earned a 4.0 grade point in college. She then was accepted to a master’s program to become a physician assistant, once again excelling academically with a 4.0 GPA. Upon graduation, she landed a job as a physician assistant and has worked in cardiac surgery for more than four years.

Her success story is a testament to the value of “therapeutic jurisprudence,” which is at the heart of the drug court concept, according to Sosnick. The “team approach,” he said, is “rooted in the idea that we can solve societal problems by working together” in an effort to “create generations of healthy people” not saddled with the scourge of substance abuse.

Those interested in supporting RESTORE can visit its website at www.therestorefoundation.org. Tickets for the May 6 event, which includes appetizers donated by Talmer Bank and Trust, can be purchased online; by mail, RESTORE Foundation, 380 N. Old Woodward, Suite 120, Birmingham, MI 48009; or at the door. RSVP to Sosnick at Esosnick@spclaw.com by Wednesday, April 30.