New officers elected-- WCBA holds annual awards dinner


By Jo Mathis

Legal News

The Washtenaw County Bar Association elected a new slate of officers during its annual awards dinner last week.

It also presented three annual awards acknowledging contributions to the legal profession.

Chelsea attorney Patrick Conlin took over the gavel from outgoing bar president Peter Falkenstein, who joked that he had fulfilled his goal to "First, do no harm." Above and beyond that, Falkenstein noted pride in several WCBA achievements during the past year, including Bias Awareness Week events, the Washtenaw County Inn of Court, and member participation in several civic and public service programs.

The bar continues to move forward with an amazing group of attorneys, he said, noting his confidence that Conlin "can and will accomplish great things."

Other newly elected officers include president elect, Delphia Simpson; vice president, Matthew Jane; treasurer, Greg Dodd; secretary, Elizabeth Kitchen-Troop; and directors-at-large, Rosemary Frenza, Jennifer Lawrence, Doug McClure, and K. Orlando Simon.

Taylor Morgan accepted the Patriot Award on behalf of his mother, retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Virgina M. Morgan. Morgan was recalled to service in Arizona following the death of a chief judge there, and is now handling criminal matters there primarily related to immigration and drugs.

"She is a true patriot," said attorney Joseph Spiegel, explaining how Morgan has dedicated her life to public service, and is a woman of humor, dignity, and passion for the law.

Ann Arbor attorney Joe Simon introduced Thomas O'Brien, winner of the Professionalism and Civility in the Practice of Law Award. Simon praised O'Brien's dedication to his job, his mentoring skills, and professionalism, and described him as a lawyer who "just stands out."

O'Brien, a trial lawyer with Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C., spoke passionately about his profession. He said he wishes the American Bar Association would publicize the stories of the thousands of lawyers who are unsung heroes.

"Confidence in what we do is vital," he said, referring to the public's perception of lawyers.

James Florey, who switched from a career in law to teach social studies in the Ann Arbor Public Schools for 17 years before he recently retired, was awarded the Liberty Bell Award. The award is given to a non-attorney for encouraging a greater respect for and understanding of law and the courts, among other things.

Noting that he'd left the law for education because he felt unappreciated by his clients, Florey noted the irony in now being appreciated by lawyers.

He challenged the crowd to become involved in mock trials, and to speak to government and civics classrooms.

"First person accounts are the most effective means of education," Florey said.

Published: Thu, Apr 26, 2012