Advocate: Attorney is passionate about criminal defense career

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Marisa Vinsky set her sight on a legal career as early as first grade, a goal that never changed through her entire schooling.

“My mom loves to say I wanted to be a lawyer because I’m so good at arguing—but I like to think it’s because I have a strong passion to advocate for those who need help,” she says.    

Fast forward to today. Vinsky is now a criminal defense attorney with Chartier & Nyamfukudza PLC in Okemos where she previously clerked during law school. Her work has been instrumental to many of the firm’s wins, including a recent victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit challenging the constitutionality of a federal statute.   

“There’s so much injustice in the criminal justice system, so being a criminal defense attorney allows me to fight this at least a little bit,” Vinsky says. “And on a lighter note, it’s extremely fun! No two cases are the same, and it provides room for a lot of creativity.”   

Vinsky started her career trajectory with an undergraduate degree, magna cum laude, in political science and philosophy from Central Michigan University.     

“I knew going into college that I wanted to go to law school, so I thought these two subjects would help prepare me the most,” she says. “Also, I loved the logic aspect of philosophy—call me crazy, but logic games are fun!”   

A major highlight was studying abroad in China, Australia, Italy, France, and South Africa, trips that provided tremendous personal growth.

“I think it’s so valuable to learn about other countries and their cultures in order to gain different perspectives,” she says.    

A member of the Phi Alpha Delta International Law Fraternity from her sophomore to senior year, she served as president of the only pre-law organization on campus, as well as the Legal Clinic Director for the Student Government.    

“This was a great asset to students,” she says. “A lot of times, college students get in trouble and don’t know where to go or what to do. I saw being the director of the legal clinic as a way to help people in their time of need, which is what I knew I wanted to do for my career.”   

Vinsky went on to earn her law degree, summa cum laude, from Michigan State University College of Law, graduating last May. She received Jurisprudence Awards for the highest grades in Research, Writing and Analysis (specialized criminal law section); Advocacy; Evidence; and Trial Practice Institute Pretrial I; and was the Donald Nystrom Best Brief Semi-Finalist    

“MSU Law provided me with awesome opportunities to gain hands-on experience throughout law school instead of just reading from a book,” she says.   

“The Trial Practice Institute and the Civil Rights Clinic taught me so much about how to be a litigator. The Trial Practice Institute was a selective two-year program that took me through every part of the trial process, from the initial meeting with a client to obtaining a verdict from a jury. I was actually able to conduct two full trials in front of real judges in a real courthouse.”   

In her 1L year, Vinsky interned at the State Appellate Defender Office in Detroit, specifically in the Juvenile Lifer Unit, that worked to get juveniles re-sentenced after a ‘life without parole’ sentence was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.    

“My favorite part was working with the clients, where I got to hear their life stories and see what great people they have become,” she says.

Working as a student clinician in the Civil Rights Clinic for her entire 2L year let her practice every stage of the litigation process and see an entire case through, from beginning to end. Students represented prisoners who file Section 1983 Civil Rights cases when their rights are not being recognized in prison. Vinsky took depositions, produced discovery requests, written motions, and visited clients in prison. Advocating for prisoners gave her a lot client interaction and helped her feel comfortable in the role of a counselor.

During the summer of her 2L year, Vinsky learned about a different area of law at the insurance defense firm of Hewson & Van Hellemont PC where she wrote motions, analyzed records and transcripts, attended depositions, and went to circuit and district courts around the state in order to witness motion call.   

She also served as a teaching assistant in Trial Practice Institute Pretrial I class, and in Civil Procedure.

“It was nice being able to help other students and work with professors in a different capacity,” she says.    

Vinsky was a member of the Women’s Law Caucus, and Black Law Students Association, where she enjoyed making friends with students who had similar interests, and volunteering with these groups. Now she is a member of multiple organizations, including the State Bar of Michigan Criminal Law, Animal Law, Marijuana Law, and Prisons/Corrections sections.    

The Farmington Hills native now calls East Lansing home, and appreciates the proximity to the Capitol and to the Michigan Supreme Court.   

In her leisure time, Vinsky enjoys spending time with friends, and with her brother, her twin sister, and her parents, who have been extremely supportive of her studies.   

She also is a huge sports fan, cheering on all Detroit sport teams throughout the year.

“Even though they continuously let me down,” she says. “And I just have to brag as a proud big sister, my brother was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals last year, so that was exciting! I also love to read, travel, and play with any animal that comes in contact with me.”

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