Defender Former: JAG officer specializes in white-collar criminal defense


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

A 1998 graduate of Duke University Law School, George Donnini wrapped up a clerkship for federal Judge William H. Pauley III in New York City on a Friday before driving to Quantico, Va. to report for active duty and start a six-month infantry officer training course.

While it was quite a transition from the courtroom to the military, it fulfilled Donnini’s long-time ambition of serving as an active duty United States Marine officer.

He spent four years as a Judge Advocate for the Marine Corps, and was honorably discharged in 2003 after serving as counsel of record in numerous criminal trials.

His JAG service not only allowed Donnini to fulfill his dream of service, but also afforded an excellent foundation for his career as a lawyer and courtroom advocate.

"I spent a significant amount of my active duty time as a criminal defense counsel and was thrown into the courtroom at a very early stage in my legal career," he says.

Donnini then joined Butzel Long, where he is now an equity shareholder with 17 years under his belt as a white-collar criminal defense practitioner. He has handled a variety of cases including, but not limited to: fraud (mail and wire), public corruption, antitrust, environmental, tax, SEC enforcement actions, and the list goes on.  In addition, a significant portion of his practice involves the handling of corporate internal investigations for public and private companies.

He has been involved in countless cases over the years and had involvement in some of the most high-profile auto industry cases in the region such as unintended acceleration (Toyota), airbags (Takata), ignition switches (General Motors), auto parts MDL (antitrust cases), and more.

"When someone's liberty, future, and/or professional career are on the line, that person is in desperate need of somebody who will fight hard to protect their rights and legal interests,” he says. “I’m uniquely qualified to be that person.

"I have a knack for quickly digesting information and getting to the bottom of the critical issues faced by my clients and helping them put their strongest position forward to obtain the best result possible under the circumstances."

Named to Chambers (Band 2 for Litigation, White Collar Crime) in 2020 and having been listed under DBusiness Top Lawyers, and Michigan Super Lawyers for several years, Donnini has served as Midwest regional co-chair of the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section's White Collar Crime Committee, has been a member of the ABA Criminal Justice Section's Book Board for several years, and is a frequent presenter at conferences on topics relating to white-collar crime. He also is a founding member of the Detroit chapter of the Veteran's Bar Association. 

"It's an excellent opportunity for lawyers who served in the military to join together for professional development, networking and camaraderie," he says. 

Last year he was named program chair for the Federal Bar Association in the Eastern District of Michigan, a five-year commitment where he will rotate to secretary, treasurer, vice president, and finally serve as FBA president. 

A native of New Rochelle, N.Y., and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of George Washington University, Donnini is happily settled in his adoptive Great Lakes State. 

He is the proud father of three teens: Alison recently finished her freshman year at Southern Methodist University in Dallas; his son George will enter 11th grade this fall, and son Henry will enter his freshman year.

At 46 years old, Donnini still feels “young at heart” but says that when he thinks about having kids in high school and college, it’s quite surreal.

“My, how time flies!” he says. “Make sure you make the time you spend with your children count because before you know it, they’re off making their own lives for themselves. It makes me so happy and gives me a great amount of pride to see my children growing up to be fine upstanding young adults but I must admit I would like to keep them young for just a little bit longer. My kids are my whole world and I would do anything for them and they, of course, know that. Keep shooting for the stars and you will each accomplish great things, but above all else lead a happy life and take care of your friends, family and neighbors. 

“Notably, the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with worldwide protests calling for equality and justice, is a reminder that life is precious and each day is a gift. So, make every day count.”


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