Governor Snyder appoints Muskegon native Slater joins Workers' Compensation Board of Magistrates


by Diana L. Coleman

Legal News


Governor Rick Snyder’s appointments to the Michigan Workers’ Compensation Board of Magistrates include two reappointments and three new appointments. Attorney Chris D. Slater, a Muskegon Orchard View High School graduate, joins the board of magistrates as one of the new appointments.

Reappointed to the board were Lisa Klaeren of Kalamazoo and Beatrice Logan of Southfield. New appointments include Louis Agnosanti of Saginaw, Carol Guyton of Detroit, and Chris D. Slater of Spring Lake.

Gordon Jay Quist of Grand Rapids is the named chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Board of Magistrates. He has been a magistrate for five years. The appointment as chair is made by the governor from the ten-person committee.

After graduating from Orchard View, Slater received his undergraduate degree from Alma College. He graduated from University of Michigan Law School in 1990.

After passing the bar, Slater’s legal career began at the former Muskegon firm of Culver, Lague & McNally where he spent about five years. He then went into a solo practice for a few years before joining the firm of Libner, VanLeuven, Evans & Portenga. Slater has spent the last two years back in solo practice with his offices in Spring Lake, representing plaintiffs in social security and workers’ compensation matters.

The magistrate positions are posted when coming open and members of the bar may apply. Slater said, “I applied for the position and was notified that I had been selected to appear in Lansing before a 6-member panel to be interviewed. I just received the notification three weeks ago (late January) that I had been selected.”

The first order of business for Slater was to give up his practice. “I immediately sent letters to all of my clients notifying them that I would no longer be able to represent them,” said Slater. “I gave them names of attorneys as suggestions for who they might select to represent them. My office is waiting for a response and will then transition the file.”

Slater actually assumed his new appointment February 14, and was to spend a week training with another judge.”

Slater will be sitting in Flint and Lansing, rotating every other week.

“I am very excited about the appointment,” said Snyder. What asked how he and his family celebrated his appointment, he said, “We went out to dinner.” 

Slater, his wife Dee and their two daughters, Reka and Lydia, live in Grand Rapids. “My wife is also a Muskegon native,” said Slater. “We met at a Business after Hours party.”

Slater’s daughters are busy in school and sports—Reka, 10, is a swimmer and Lydia, 10, is a soccer player. He and Dee share taxi duties and try to attend all the functions. It will be a new juggling act to work in the girl’s schedules. “There are big changes coming up for my family,” said Slater.

His commute will take some time when he is sitting in Flint.

When asked how he would review his files before hearings, Slater explained: “The files will be maintained on site. Due to the volume, the magistrates rely on the attorneys to make presentations and their information to get the matter resolved.

“There is a gradual movement to electronic disks with briefs and other documents for file review, but at this point the files are still physical,” he added.

“The appointment will be a huge transition in my life,” said Slater. “The idea of being on the other side of the bench is daunting and I take it very seriously.

“The benefit of being a judge on the workers’ compensation bar is that everyone treats each other cordially and they do a great job representing the interests of the clients,” Slater continued.

“I would like to mention that I have been blessed with an incredibly loyal and competent administrative assistant during the last ten years,” said Slater. “One of the regrets of taking this new position is leaving behind Karen Cunningham, who is an excellent assistant.”   

Cunningham unfortunately declined to have her picture taken with Slater for this article.

Slater has been appointed to a four-year term expiring January 26, 2015. Muskegon County Legal News offers congratulations to him on this new journey in his legal career.