GR Bar Association and WMU-Cooley commemorate Law Day



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

May 1st is designated as Law Day nationally, but the Grand Rapids Bar Association and Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School chose April 28, to hold their annual luncheon and awards ceremony.

A convivial group of award-winners and well-wishers gathered over a buffet lunch to honor those who uphold the law and to ponder the national topic, “The 14th Amendment: Transforming American Democracy.”

The Fair Housing Center of West Michigan (FHCWM) won the Liberty Bell Award, given each year to a non-lawyer or non-profit organization in the community. FHCWM “works to prevent housing discrimination and remove barriers that allow it to persist.”

The Executive Director of FHCWM, Nancy Haynes, actually is a lawyer, which has helped in making the case for such federal prosection as the 2014 Alger Meadows sexual harassment case, which resulted in U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker presiding over a $500,000 settlement.

Haynes and long-serving FHCWM  Board President Doretha Ardoin accepted the award from current GRBA?President Judge Christopher Yates and attorney Bradley Glazier.

The GRBA then honored David N. Keyser, who is still Of Counsel at Mika Meyers, with a 50-year pin. The other attorney with 50 years in practice, Phillip Nantz, could not attend.

Judge Yates said that it took all of about ten seconds for him and GRBA Executive Director Kim Coleman to decide on Ben Hammond of Hilger Hammond PC as this year’s President’s Award winner.

The judge paid Hammond an impressive compliment when he said that when Hammond first appeared before him in court, “In the post-morten I told my staff, ‘I don’t know who this guy is, but he’s brilliant.’” He added that Hammond’s assistance at this year’s Destination CLE in Punta Cana had been invaluable.

Ann Cooper, Of Counsel at Drew Anding Cooper, merited the Marian P. Hilligan Public Service Award from WMU-Cooley. Professor Christopher Hastings, who is also a new GRBA board member, humorously called her “kind of a nudger-in-chief,” but added that she always serves as “the conscience and moral center for every project she works on.”

In accepting the award, Cooper thanked her husband, attorney Robert Cooper, for his support and noted with a smile, “My husband has long lived with the nudger-in-chief.” Cooper’s many accomplishments have been the subject of previous Grand Rapids Legal News article.

The prestigious Donald R. Worsfold Distinguished Service Award went to Jon March. The Miller Johnson attorney, whose stellar reputation as a litigator has followed him into a mediation career, has also dabbled in acting, prompting Yates to observe that it must be wonderful to be able to play Atticus Finch as well as serve as an Atticus-Finch caliber attorney in real life.

WMU-Cooley Associate Dean Tracey Brame then introduced Dr. Tim Ready, a sociology professor at Western Michigan University’s Lewis Walker Institute with expertise in racial disparities.

Ready, who comes from a family of lawyers, noted that pondering the 14th amendment’s protections offers a chance to ask some difficult questions. “It’s always good to stop and think how are we doing. Are we moving toward a more perfect union or not?”

Acknowledging that demographics and dynamics are different than they were at the time of the 1965 passage of the U.S. immigration law,  his research and that of others has uncovered increasing rather than decreasing disparities.
He concluded, “The 14th amendment has been an important tool, but there’s much more that we need to be doing.”