Next chapter: Former Circuit Court judge Wendy Potts joins JAMS, authors book

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By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

Retirement didn’t last long for Judge Wendy Potts. Some five months after capping a 21-year career in the judiciary, Potts joined the Detroit office of JAMS, reportedly the largest private provider of alternative dispute resolution services in the world. JAMS—short for Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services—has 28 locations around the globe.

Potts, who served as chief judge of the Oakland Circuit Court for six years, is part of a distinguished group of panelists for JAMS in Detroit, a list that includes former U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen, former U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Mary Beth Kelly, and former Miller Canfield Managing Director Clarence “Rocky” Pozza.

A University of Michigan alum, Potts serves as a mediator in a wide variety of disputes, including business/commercial, employment, estates/ probate/ trusts, family law, insurance, personal injury, and professional liability.

In her role with JAMS, Potts  has mediated and scheduled a variety of cases, including a high stakes divorce.

“I’ve been an active member of the Michigan legal community for many years and am incredibly passionate about helping parties achieve resolution and closure,” said Potts. “I view myself as a problem-solver, which is why this path to JAMS feels like the logical next step in my career.”

The Detroit native served as president of the Oakland County Bar Association from 1994-95, earning an appointment to the Oakland County Probate Court bench in 1997. Less than a year later, she accepted an appointment to the Circuit Court, subsequently winning election three times.

While serving as chief judge, she was instrumental in helping spearhead changes to the state’s jail overcrowding statutes.

She also has been widely praised for her efforts to support the drug court program in Oakland County, helping lead the way for the creation of The RESTORE Foundation in 2008 as a means of providing private funding help. For those efforts, Potts was honored by the State Bar of Michigan in 2010 with its coveted Champion of Justice Award, just one of many honors she has received from various bar associations and civic groups over the years.

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When Wendy Potts set out to write a book about her “experiences” as a trial court judge, she certainly harbored hopes that it would warrant rave reviews.

That wish seems assured thanks to famed attorney Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard professor and constitutional law scholar who has lavished early praise on the book written by Potts.

The book, aptly titled “1200,” the Telegraph Road address of the Oakland County Courthouse in Pontiac, has yet to be released, but Dershowitz already has written its introduction, labeling “1200” as the “true story of what happens behind the robe and inside the chambers of a hectic trial court.”

Said Dershowitz: “This isn’t a made-for-TV series about trial court with scripted surprise witnesses and predictable happy outcomes. Judge Wendy Potts, the author of ‘1200,’ was a trial judge in the most affluent county in Michigan. She presided over thousands of cases in her 20-plus years serving on the bench. This book is the gritty, authentic, reality version of her experiences and those who appeared in her courtroom. This realistic account may be a bit unorthodox to readers of conventional courtroom dramas, with its multitude of short chapters, character studies and vignettes. Some of the chapters don’t end as the reader might expect. A few don’t end as one would hope. Legal cases take on lives of their own, and it may take years before a complex case is concluded. In real courtrooms, anticlimax is common.”

The book “was not written as a primer for practicing attorneys, although some may find the stories, anecdotes, and information contained within useful,” according to Dershowitz.

“The great judge Learned Hand once quipped that short of surgery being dragged into court is the worst human experience,” Dershowitz wrote in the introduction. “Anyone who has suffered through such an experience, either personally or through a loved one, will be interested in reading what happens behind the scenes in cases similar to yours. That is what ‘1200’ hopes to accomplish for the reader.”

And it does – and more, according to Dershowitz.

“The interesting, and perhaps scary part of ‘1200’ is that what you are about to read actually happened and it continues to this day and everyday, in thousands of courts across this country,” Dershowitz wrote. “Understanding how our judicial system actually operates is an important component of the civic education of all citizens in a democracy.”

— By Tom Kirvan


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