Virginia Morgan honored by WCBA at 22nd Annual Bench-Bar Conference

By Frank Weir

Legal News

At last Friday's bench-bar luncheon, the WCBA honored recently retired U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Virginia Morgan.

In lieu of a plaque, the bar association made a donation in Morgan's name to SOS Community Services in Ypsilanti, a favorite cause of Morgan's.

In introducing Morgan, Ann Arbor attorney Joseph Spiegel noted that "it is particularly fitting that we honor her since her legal career began and ended here. To begin, she was the first female Washtenaw County prosecutor. Two years ago, she came to the federal court here from Detroit's to replace Magistrate Judge Steven Pepe when he retired. Now she has retired completing her career."

Morgan told the group that she was "delighted to have begun my career here in Washtenaw. I was fortunate that Bill Delhey gave me a chance."

She added that when she began in the 1970s, "it was an amazing time. John Norman Collins had just been convicted. His case was on appeal. Roy Tanner was Bill's chief of staff. Judge David Swartz also was on the staff at the prosecutor's office. Judge Shelton was in private practice and in court often.

"All of the Washtenaw County bar members would meet for dinner and one member would pay for everyone's meal each time. Then that person would be given all the criminal appointments to make up for that expense."

Morgan added that there were very few trials during the summers given that air conditioning was not as ubiquitous as it is now and "most people went away for a good part of the summer."

"It was a different way of practicing then."

Morgan told the audience she was"fortunate' to work in federal court eventually.

"The cases there were very different. They were important but they didn't have the same kind of direct impact in the community that the local bar and local prosecutor's office did. I worked 50 miles away from home and I drove there every day. And I never saw anyone I dealt with in federal court in the community at large."

But Morgan did run into folks when she was a prosecutor for Delhey. "I was standing in line at a fast food restaurant here once and a woman behind me kept saying I sure looked familiar to her.

"I finally explained to her that I had convicted her husband of drunk driving the week before. And those are the times I miss: what you did on a daily basis made a difference in people's lives. Thanks for all your support over the years."

Published: Thu, May 12, 2011