Honoring legacy of former WSU Law dean


By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

Jim Robinson, albeit in a posthumous way, is coming full circle to Wayne State University Law School this fall.

A former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Robinson was a stellar student at Wayne Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 1968 after earning his bachelor’s degree with honors from Michigan State University three years earlier.

His Wayne Law School education set the stage for a brilliant legal career that would include stays with major firms in Detroit and Washington, D.C., career stops that were sandwiched around public service appointments as U.S. Attorney in Detroit and Assistant Attorney General with the Department of Justice.

And yet it was from 1993-98 that Robinson may have felt most at home, serving as dean of Wayne Law School, a place where he again influenced many lives and budding legal careers.

So it will be particularly fitting on the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the Detroit Athletic Club that the first recipient of James K. Robinson Scholarship to Wayne Law School will be announced.

The honoree will receive a full ride scholarship to the law school from an endowed fund that was created in memory of Robinson, who died of gastrointestinal cancer last August at age 66.

The Oct. 18 event, which will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the DAC, will be the first of an annual celebration of Robinson’s life with the proceeds from the evening used to supplement the endowed scholarship fund in his name.

Tickets are $150 per person and reservation information will be announced this summer.

Spearheading planning efforts for the fall gala are eight members of the Scholarship Fund Committee.

They include Robinson’s wife, Marietta (Marti), an attorney and former candidate for the Michigan Supreme Court; Tom Cranmer, of Miller Canfield; William Hochkammer and Bill Winsten, both of Honigman Miller; Thomas Kienbaum, of Kienbaum Opperwall; Richard Rossman, former U.S. Attorney in Detroit; Michael Silverstein, of Wayne State Law Development/Alumni Relations; and Joe Papelian, of Delphi Corp.

A native of Grand Rapids, Robinson rose to legal fame as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, earning the appointment at age 34 from President Jimmy Carter in 1977.

He came to the federal post after a clerkship with Judge George Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals and then as an attorney with Honigman.

President of the State Bar of Michigan from 1990-91, Robinson was a revered figure in Detroit and Washington legal circles, where members of the bar and bench spoke of him as a “legal giant,” a “bright light,” a “scholar,” a “mentor,” and a man of “exceptional integrity.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., in a letter written shortly after Robinson’s death last year, said, “Jim embodied the steady and steely resolve under pressure that we need and expect from our public servants. Every action that he took, and every decision he made, reflected his singular desire to do justice and serve the people of this nation.”

His life’s work and his commitment to the ideals of justice will endure through the annual scholarship award, according to his wife, Marti.

“Jim was a legal scholar and it would make him proud to know that an annual scholarship will be awarded to fund a law school education for a deserving student,” she said. “That would please him a great deal.”