Southfield defense attorney's case wound up on television judge show

by Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney Noel Erinjeri once worked on a case that eventually played out on a nationally syndicated TV show.

“My client had been charged with stealing – it was a really weak case, and my client was innocent, and the jury acquitted,” he explains. “I found out after the trial that the complainant had said that his insurance company wouldn’t pay out on the claim unless ‘someone was convicted.’

“My client and the complainant ended up on Judge Mathis – I’m still waiting on the royalty check,” he adds with a smile.

It was just one of many interesting cases for this criminal defense advocate who joined the Southfield firm of Rockind Law in January 2015 after running his own law practice in Livonia. 

“I love criminal defense because there’s something new every day,” he says. “I’ve worked on almost 2,000 cases and every single one presents a unique set of facts and a unique application of the law. Given the array of cases we handle at Rockind Law, I’m really in the best place for my interests and skill set.

“I love the intellectual challenge of the law. I’m naturally a pretty competitive person, and in criminal law, the entire practice area comes down to a competition – and we’re very competitive at Rockind Law.”

Erinjeri spent five years as an assistant public defender in the Missouri State Public Defender’s Office in Fulton, Mo., where he was the attorney of record in nearly 1,800 cases, taking each from arraignment to sentencing, and managing a workload of up to 300 cases at any given time.

“Public defense is a tough job, but the work was incredibly interesting and fulfilling and I enjoyed the camaraderie with my colleagues,” he says. “There was this ‘us-against-the-world’ mentality that kept us going even when the caseload threatened to become overwhelming.

“In private practice, the caseload is much more manageable, but I’m still able to focus 100 percent of my work on criminal defense,” he adds. “As far as that goes, I hit the jackpot with Rockind Law.”

He recalls a case where a man had 26 prior burglary convictions, and number 27 had the same M.O. There was a signed, properly Mirandized confession, and a pawn ticket for the stolen goods in which Erinjeri’s client had signed his own name.
“He ended up getting an amazing deal with no extra punishment – he was on probation at the time – because the prosecutor went on maternity leave right before trial,” Erinjeri says.

One of the saddest cases he worked involved a mother who had stolen from her employer to pay for therapy and psych meds for her pre-teen daughter, the victim of horrific sexual abuse.

“I begged her to fight it, but she insisted on pleading guilty because she felt she had to set a good example for her daughter about accepting the consequences of your actions,” he says. “She didn’t go to jail but she did get a felony conviction.”

Erinjeri, who contributes to “Fault Lines” on Mimesis Law, a website covering the business, practice and culture of law, earned his undergrad degree in physics from the University of Michigan. He then taught classes in biology, chemistry, physics and verbal and logical reasoning at Kaplan Test Preparation in East Lansing, to prepare students for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), while attending Cooley Law School in Lansing.
“Between a full honors scholarship and the scheduling flexibility Cooley offered, I could work all I wanted for Kaplan and still go to school and graduate in three years,” he says. “I used to joke that I was the only law student in America who made money while in law school. I managed to graduate debt-free, and that becomes more significant with each passing year.”

He served as senior associate editor for the Cooley Law Review and was a member of Cooley’s Moot Court National Trial Team.

“My classmates and professors were definitely the best part of law school,” he says. “It also appealed to the procrastinator in me, since most classes didn’t have homework, only a final exam at the end.” 

With his physics background, Erinjeri originally had patent law in his sights but found classes in criminal law and constitutional law much more to his liking.

An internship at the Washtenaw County Public Defender’s Office in Ann Arbor was his first experience of doing, alegal work in the real world.

“I learned more in that four months than I’d learned in the previous four semesters,” he says. “It’s also what sealed my decision to pursue criminal law as a career.”

The Flint native now lives in Farmington Hills, bringing him much closer to his family than when he lived in the “Show-Me” state.

“And I much prefer city living to living out in the country – there’s much, much more to do regardless of what you’re looking for,” he says. “Also, being close enough to Ann Arbor to see Michigan games, live or on TV, is a huge plus. I follow the University of Michigan and Detroit sports teams pretty closely.

“I’m a somewhat serious poker player, I read voraciously, and I’m trying  – very slowly – to become a better cook.”