Distinguished honoree

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– Photos by John Meiu

U.S. District Court chief judge in spotlight at Archer Award event

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Denise Page Hood, Eastern District of Michigan, was honored November 14 as the 2019 recipient of the Dennis Archer Public Service Award. The 15th annual award ceremony took place at the Detroit Yacht Club. The award is named in honor of former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, who also served on the Michigan Supreme Court and was the first African-American president of the American Bar Association.

A native of Ohio, Hood was honored for her many years of public service to the bench and bar. She grew up in the capital city of Columbus, where she became the first African American graduate of the Columbus School for Girls. She credits her upbringing in the AME church for her interest in fairness and justice. She is a graduate of Yale University and Columbia University School of Law, and has served on the federal bench for the past 25 years.

Hood was nominated by President Bill Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1994 – the first African American judge in 13 years to join the Eastern District of Michigan bench. She became chief judge of the court on January 1, 2016.

She was elected to the state court benches of 36th District Court, Detroit Recorder’s Court, and Wayne County Circuit Court, and previously worked as assistant corporation counsel in the City of Detroit Law Department.  While at 36th District Court, she participated in a court-wide case reduction program.
Hood currently serves on the Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions Committee and the Civic and Outreach Committee of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of
Appeals and the Criminal Rules Advisory Committee of the United States Judicial Conference.

She has served as the chair of the U.S. District Court’s Pro Bono Committee, co-chair of the Ad Hoc Jury Committee, and as a member of the Court’s Rules, Clerk’s Office and Criminal Law committees.

Hood is a member and has held leadership roles in several professional organizations: past co-chair of the Michigan State Planning Body for legal services; the State Bar Pro Bono Initiatives Committee; and the Detroit Bar Association Foundation Board. She is a past president of the Detroit Bar Association and the Association of Black Judges of Michigan.  She is also a volunteer in various community groups including: the Olivet College Board of Trustees; the Harper-Hutzel Hospital Board of Trustees; and the InsideOut Literary Arts Project Board.

The chief judge also has been honored with the 2019 Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s Woman Lawyer of the Year Award; the 2019 Kaye Tertzag Purple Sport Coat Award; the 2016 Damon J. Keith Soul and Spirit Humanitarian Award; the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association’s 2014 Trailblazer Award; the Fair Housing Center of Metro Detroit’s 2013 Fair Housing Attorney Appreciation Award; Olivet College’s 2009 Leadership in Individual & Social Responsibility Award; the 2008 Powerful Woman of Purpose Award, presented by the Rhonda Walker Foundation; the Michigan Women’s Foundation’s 2008 Women of Achievement and Courage Award; and the 2005 Michigan Anti-Defamation League’s Women of Achievement Award. She was named one of UPN’s 2006 Black History Month “Hometown Heroes” and she received the 1999 Alternatives for Girls’ Role Model Award. Her review, “Affirmative Action: Where Is It Coming From and Where Is It Going?” was published in the University of Michigan’s Journal of Race & Law (1998).

An active member of the United Church of Christ, Hood has served as moderator of the national church, the United Church of Christ (UCC), USA.  Hood has also chaired the national church’s Executive Committee and was a member of the Form, Function and Frequency Committee, the Committee on Structure, and chaired the General Synod Nominating Committee. She has performed the duties of general synod parliamentarian for the past three synods.  In the state-wide setting, she was elected moderator for the Michigan Conference UCC and chair of its Executive Committee. In her local church, Plymouth United Church of Christ (PUCC), Hood is a Bible Study leader and has been a member of the Board of Christian Education and the Intergenerational Women’s Dialogue Committee. She is a member of the Abatenjwa League—an interdenominational ministers’ wives and widows group in the Detroit area. Among its activities, the League supports prisoners by providing Christmas gifts to children of incarcerated men and women.

Hood is committed to a diverse judiciary and to mentoring lawyers, law clerks, and interns and speaking to students from various schools who visit her court. She has been a strong supporter of pro bono activities beginning with such programs sponsored by the Detroit Bar Association and Wayne County Legal Services in the 1980s. She currently participates in the RESTART Program of the Court which is a front-end alternative to incarceration program.

The group meets monthly to help federally charged defendants avoid a felony conviction. As chief judge, she has led the court through a $140 million renovation, due to be completed in 2020. Hood is very proud of her court, judges and staff and the court’s willingness to assist other courts and to try new ideas to achieve better access to justice for all litigants.

Hood is married to the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III, senior minister of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Detroit. They have two great sons.

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