By Tom Kirvan
The statement, from Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, has stood the test of time and has particular application for attorney Jordan Bolton, a partner in Clark Hill’s Litigation Practice Group.
A Wayne State Law grad, Bolton is the consummate juggler, regularly handling a dozen or so high stakes cases while also volunteering his time with state and county bar associations, various pro bono causes, a board position with the Prosecutors’ Foundation for Kids, and a local school governing council.
All that in addition to his responsibilities as a husband and father of two daughters, ages 7 and 4, and as a founder of and player in the Lawyers Hockey League of Metropolitan Detroit (see related story).
But there seemingly is always room for more on “his plate,” which explains his desire to seek a seat next month on the board of the Oakland County Bar Association, the largest voluntary bar organization in the state with more than 3,000 members. He is one of seven candidates seeking two open seats on the OCBA board.
“I like to help out and I want to give back to the legal community,” said Bolton of his volunteer involvement. “It’s been part of my DNA since I was in law school, and I discovered rather quickly that the benefits of being involved with good causes far outweighs the detriments of lost sleep – there will be plenty of time for that later, I am sure.”
Bolton, who has, in the past, been nominated to run for election on the state Judicial Tenure Commission, is the son of an attorney, the late Michael Bolton, a bankruptcy lawyer who died in 2007 of heart failure.
“He specialized in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 proceedings, and obviously was a great influence in my career choice,” said Bolton, who graduated cum laude from Wayne Law in 2003 after earning his bachelor’s degree cum laude from the University of Arizona.
Bolton’s brother, Ian, also is a Wayne State Law grad, and is a solo practitioner in Southfield, specializing in business and real estate law.
“The legal roots run through the family, although my mother (Linda) recently retired after a long career as a pediatrician,” Bolton said. “I never seriously considered following in my mom’s footsteps because science wasn’t my forte.”
Litigation is, however, and Bolton has made a name for himself in the fields of “business dissolution, collections, construction, consumer disputes, contracts, intellectual property, partnership and shareholder disputes, real estate, RICO, securities, torts, and warranties.”
Of particular note, Bolton took a lead role for Clark Hill in the 2014 case of General Retirement System of the City of Detroit v. Onyx Capital Advisors, a highly publicized investment fraud case in which the plaintiff pension fund was awarded a $119 million judgment, the largest in the state that year.
The case, litigated before U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood (now chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan), involved an action against Roy Dixon and his Onyx investment firm for misappropriating more than $23 million in pension funds.
“It was our goal to pursue recoupment of as much of the investment funds as possible and to seek additional damages under various state and federal embezzlement and conversion statutes, including RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act),” explained Bolton. “It was a complex case in which it became clear that millions of dollars had been used by Dixon and others for personal use, including the building of his luxury home in Atlanta.”
Bolton helped preserve much of the evidence in the case against Onyx by obtaining injunctive relief to gain access to its Detroit offices before the company was evicted.
“We were able to go over there with a team of summer associates to gather up records and documents to prevent them from being destroyed by the defendants, which allowed our forensic accountants the opportunity to follow the money trail,” Bolton said. “Without the documents we retrieved, the case would have been very hard to build.”
Recently, Bolton teamed with Clark Hill attorneys Ron King, Peter Jackson and Stuart Schwartz to obtain an $8 million “non-dischargeable” judgment against Dixon (who is now serving a related multi-year prison sentence) in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia, where the defendant sought to discharge his liability.
“The case is indicative of the sometimes long and winding road to justice,” said Bolton. “It began in 2009, the judgment was rendered in 2014, and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court came through with its ruling in 2016. Perseverance and patience are paramount in complex business litigation.”
So is the value of “preparation,” a legal factor that Bolton gained appreciation for while working early in his career for U.S. District Judge George Steeh, the Free Legal Aid Clinic, and the 46th District Court in Southfield.
“Judge Steeh was a mentor, and I have always admired his unflappable temperament and his belief in letting the law lead you to a just result,” Bolton said.
Bolton also counts attorney Bill Asimakis Jr. among his mentors, crediting the Detroit litigator with imparting a time-honored message.
“I worked under him for several years and Bill helped me understand that the ‘devil truly is in the details,’” said Bolton of the Clark Hill attorney. “He taught me that there is ‘always a way’ even when things appear to be bleak.”
Such advice undoubtedly will come in handy as Bolton begins work, as a Special Assistant Attorney General, defending a pair of state government officials accused of wrongdoing in the Flint water crisis.
“The civil litigation over the Flint water situation is in its infancy and I expect that it will take years to unfold,” Bolton said. “We are just beginning our work with the 100-plus cases already pending in various courts through the state, and I do not think we have seen the end of filings.”
While his involvement in the case is certain to grow in the months ahead, Bolton still carves time out of his busy legal schedule to enjoy family life. He and his wife, Rebecca, who holds an MBA from the University of Michigan, will celebrate their ninth wedding anniversary in August. The couple has two daughters, Hannah, a first-grader at Roeper School in Birmingham, and Ella, who will enter kindergarten next fall.
“They have me outnumbered three to one,” Bolton said of the females in the family.
But Bolton can take solace in the fact that he is the first model in the family, appearing in a clothing spread in the premiere issue of MOTION magazine in the summer of 2008.
He was joined in the photo shoot by Miller Canfield attorney Tom Cranmer, a past president of the State Bar of Michigan.
“I’m not sure that either one of us will ever live that down,” said Bolton with a smile.
A ‘venue’ of a different sort for league booster
“We were created as an exclusive league for law firms and independent lawyers in Metropolitan Detroit,” said Bolton, a retired net-minder who now plays left wing for the Clark Hill squad. “Over the years, team rosters have been expanded to include non-lawyer types in an effort to keep the league competitive and interesting.”
League games are scheduled each Tuesday evening in Hazel Park, according to Bolton. The puck drops at 9 and 10 p.m. for the 45-minute contests, which feature three 15-minute running time periods. Ties are settled by a sudden death shootout.
“We can get pretty gassed by the end of the game,” Bolton said with a smile, noting that the clock continues to tick for very good reason. “The games are generally quite competitive and the skill level is surprisingly good for a league where there’s a mixture of players. We have some former college and professional players to guys who are novices in terms of competitive hockey.”
The age range of players varies from the late 20s to early 60s, Bolton indicated, and has included some judges along the way.
“They get a clear path to the net,” he joked of those in the hierarchy of local jurisprudence.
The league traces its roots to 2001 when several teams from various law schools in Michigan battled for statewide supremacy, according to Bolton. The first year, the championship was held at Joe Louis Arena, rotating to Yost Ice Arena on the University of Michigan campus and then to Munn Arena at Michigan State. Proceeds from the championship contest supported the Access to Justice program, which provides low-income individuals with needed legal services.
Bolton began his collegiate hockey career at Michigan State, transferring to the University of Arizona, a desert domain not widely known as a hotbed for the sport.
“Arizona actually had one of the top club programs in the country,” said Bolton, who started in goal for the Wildcats. “They typically drew between 5,000 and 7,000 fans at the Tucson Convention Center. Hockey is big out there and we had some nationally ranked teams, competing against the likes of Penn State (now Division I), Illinois, Iowa, Arizona State (now Division 1), and Ohio University.”
In his bachelor days, Bolton played in several hockey leagues each week, honing his goal-tending skills against hockey snipers who could shoot the puck in the 80-90 mph
“Over the years, I’ve undergone two knee surgeries, two back surgeries, and one shoulder operation,” Bolton recounted. “The sport has taken a bit of a toll on my body.”
The love of the game pulls at his hockey heartstrings, however, drawing him back to the ice for another weekly opportunity at sporting glory. Such devotion, unfortunately, often goes unnoticed by the casual fan.
On most game nights at the Hazel Park rink, fans are in decidedly short supply. On one typical evening years ago, the “attendance” figure would have been just one had it not been for a dutiful member of the Fourth Estate in search of an interesting feature story along with his hockey host, who was sidelined with an injury. The real fan, by all appearances, was a girlfriend of one of the hockey combatants, perhaps hoping to score a few brownie points that could be cashed in down the road.
But perhaps of most significance that evening was the continuance of a league tradition, according to Chris Winkler, an attorney who played forward on one of the legal teams in 2007.
“This is pretty amazing, considering who we are dealing with here, but we haven’t had anyone sue each other yet,” Winkler said.
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