Washtenaw Association for Justice holds awards banquet


Photo by Frank Weir

By Frank Weir
Legal News

The Washtenaw Association for Justice held its annual awards banquet May 20 at Barton Hills Country Club.

New officers are Lana Panagoulia, president; Chad Engelhardt, vice president; Benjamin Muth, treasurer; John Bredell, past president; and Elizabeth Graziano, secretary.

Rick Boothman, recipient of the award of Respected Defense Counsel, was honored for his work on behalf of patients and physicians at the University of Michigan Health System. In presenting the award, Engelhardt called Boothman's development of the Michigan Claims Model "transformative and dispute resolution at its finest."

Heidi Salter-Ferris presented the Ronald W. Egnor Jr. Outstanding Attorney Award to long-time WAJ member and officer, Barry Gates, the second time Gates has received the award.

"Ron was a very generous lawyer and an excellent trial attorney," she said. "Barry has the same qualities. Barry is the only attorney from Washtenaw County to have served as president of the Michigan Association of Justice, which is a huge undertaking. He served the MAJ very well and was a wonderful statewide representative as well as locally."

Calling Gates "a modern-day Atticus Finch," Salter-Ferris praised his previous work at the public defender's office. "No battered woman (that Gates represented) who was charged ever served a day in jail," she said.

Retired Justice Michael Cavanagh, recipient of the Blair Moody Award, was selected for "significant contributions to judicial excellence, the rights of individuals, and protecting our cherished right to a jury trial" in the state. Judge Timothy Connors, who noted Cavanagh's work on behalf of child welfare, accepted the award from Ben Muth on his behalf.

Cavanagh served on the Michigan Supreme Court from 1983 to 2014 and, when combined with his appellate court service, is the longest serving appellate judge. "He is a champion of the right of individuals to have a jury trial," Muth said. "In the 2,005 cases he heard, he offered a majority opinion in 120 of them and, as a sign of the strength of his convictions, a dissenting opinion in 217."

Judge Darlene O'Brien was honored with the Justice Marilyn Kelly Award "for her jurisprudence advocating for the rights of individuals in the Circuit Court." In presenting the award, Judge Pat Conlin noted that Kelly had served as a mentor to O'Brien.

Peter Davis presented the WAJ Professionalism and Community Outreach Award to Judge Carol Kuhnke, and noted that Kuhnke "is a terrific lawyer, and now a wonderful judge."

Keynote speaker Kenneth Mogill discussed his representation of same-sex couple April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse. "I can't think of another case that when I got home I compared my life to my client's life to such an extent. They love one another and are committed to their children yet they are denied the rights of marriage," he said. "It leaves me sad and angry but motivates me in the struggle."

Mogill noted that marriage has evolved over the generations changing from "a patriarchal model oppressive to women to one that is equal and devoid of gender."

"It is now an institution that is a bilateral civil contract where rights and responsibilities don't depend on gender," he said. "When you recognize that marriage always was a matter of civil law with no requirement to procreate or adopt to get a marriage license, any opposition to same-sex marriage vanishes."

Published: Mon, Jun 08, 2015