Get to Know Daniel P. Dalton


A co-founder of Detroit-based Dalton & Tomich, PLC, Dan Dalton has developed a national reputation as a tenacious and strategic litigator representing clients in the areas of land use and zoning litigation. He has a special focus on religious denominational splits and property disputes, representing religious institutions throughout the country in cases related to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), as well as local churches seeking to separate from their mainline denominations while retaining their property using denominational trust clauses.

An accomplished speaker and legal writer, Dalton is the author of” Litigating Religious Land Use Cases.” Originally published by the American Bar Association in 2014 and updated for a second edition in 2016, the book is a guide for religious entities and the attorneys that represent them.

He is an active member of the Michigan Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association and is a lifetime member of the American Bar Foundation.

Among his many legal honors, Dalton is a multiple Leading Lawyer, Michigan Super Lawyer and DBusiness magazine Top Lawyer honoree, recognized in the areas of zoning and land use. In 2010, he was named to the prestigious Leaders in the Law by the trade journal Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He is regularly sought out by the media for stories on his high profile cases or topical religious land use issues and has been quoted in The Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, USA Today, Christianity Today, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Tennessean, among others.

Dalton holds a juris doctorate from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, where he is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board of Directors, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Michigan University.
After graduation from law school, he was a clerk for Chief Justice Dorothy Comstock-Riley of the Michigan Supreme Court.

Dalton is actively engaged in Trinity Church, an Evangelical Presbyterian Church near Plymouth, where he has held a variety of leadership roles. He was a citizen leader for the City of Plymouth, where he held roles on the city planning commission and zoning board and also served three terms as an elected official on the city commission. In his free time, he is an avid swimmer.

What would surprise people about your job? That there actually is a practice area devoted to religious property – that is, land use and zoning for religious entities and attorneys who assist local churches leave their denominations and keep their property.

Why did you become a lawyer? I enjoy problem solving and learning about new matters. I also enjoy learning about world religions and how interrelated they are to the law.

What’s your favorite law-related TV show, movie, and/or book? “West Wing” is my favorite law-related TV show; movie: “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and book: anything by John Grisham.

Who are your law role models – real and/or fictional? My real-life law role model is Randall Pentiuk, an attorney with Pentiuk, Couvreur & Kobiljak, P.C. in Wyandotte. He is the city attorney of Riverview and has been a mentor to me most of my career. He always acts with integrity, provides sound advice and is truly a great person. He models excellence in the law and as human being every day.

If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would that be? (Author/journalist/public speaker) Malcolm Gladwell. He seems to be able to ask the best questions and get the best answers.

What advice do you have for someone considering law school? First, find a group of friends to study with your first year. Law school is such a unique experience that you really do need to have a community to work with while going through the grind. Second, do the best you can possibly do your first year. The first year grades dictate the direction of your professional career by setting you up for law review, moot court and on campus interviews your first semester, second year.

What’s your proudest moment as a lawyer? Starting a firm with my partner, Zana Tomich. She is a remarkable lawyer, business mind and a wonderful person. The second is winning a religious land use case at trial against the City of San Diego on behalf of a private religious high school.

What do you do to relax? Reading, and spending time with my family.

What other career path might you have chosen? Pastor or religious leader.

What would you say to your 16-year-old self? You are going to make it – keep working hard.

Favorite local hangouts: The Detroit Athletic Club.

Favorite websites: ESPN, The Dispatch, Religion Clause.

Favorite app: Twitter.

Favorite music: Smooth Jazz.

What is your happiest childhood memory? Playing endless games of baseball.

What is your most treasured material possession? Cufflinks my father gave me.

What do you wish someone would invent? Teleporter. Some way of getting from one place to another quickly – like in Harry Potter

What has been your favorite year so far and why? Every year has been great, everyone has had challenges – including 2020 – and every day brings a new opportunity.

What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been?
Dingle, the Cliffs of Mohr and the Ring of Kerry – all on the southwestern side of Ireland. It is so beautiful.

If you could have one super power, what would it be? Wisdom – not sure if that is one, but I would like more of it.

What’s one thing you would like to learn to do? Fly a plane.

What is something most people don't know about you? I am an honorary Kentucky Colonel.

If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be? My wife, Malcolm Gladwell and Hank Aaron. The stories would be incredible.

What’s the best advice you ever received? Learn from your mistakes.

Favorite place to spend money? Great restaurants around the country.

What is your motto? Do the right thing.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? Raising a family who loves and respects each other.



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