Laches | June/July 2024

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| June/July 2024 | Number 669 LAWYER REGULATION IN MICHIGAN: Who Does What? GOOD PEOPLE, BAD CHOICES: Character and Fitness Evaluation SUE AND BE SUED: The Risks of Lawyer Fee Suits Against Former Clients



1760 S. Telegraph Road, Suite 100

Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 48302-0181 (248) 334-3400 • FAX (248) 334-7757



Melinda N. Deel


Dean M. Googasian


Sarah E. Kuchon


Aaron V. Burrell


Kari L. Melkonian


Jennifer Quick


Victoria B. King

Syeda F. Davidson

Coryelle E. Christie

Lanita Carter


Victoria B. King

Syeda F. Davidson

Julie L. Kosovec

Emily E. Long

Jennifer L. Lord

Moheeb H. Murray

Kimberley Ann Ward

Kenneth F. Neuman

Layne A. Sakwa

Jonathan B. Frank


James W. Low

Thamara E. Sordo-Vieira

Carmen E. Moyer

Fahd Haque


Articles and letters that appear in LACHES do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Oakland County Bar Association, and their publication does not constitute an endorsement of views that may be expressed. Readers are invited to address their own comments and opinions to:

LACHES | Oakland County Bar Association 1760 S. Telegraph Rd., Ste. 100 Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302-0181


LACHES (ISSN 010765) is the monthly (except July and December) publication of the Oakland County Bar Association, a Michigan nonprofit corporation, 1760 S. Telegraph, Ste. 100, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302-0181. Copyright © 2024 Oakland County Bar Association. The price of an annual subscription ($20) is included in member dues. Periodical postage paid at Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304 and additional entry offices. Postmaster: Send address changes in writing to Oakland County Bar Association, 1760 S. Telegraph, Ste. 100, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302-0181.

Sue and Be Sued: The Risks of Lawyer Fee Suits Against Former Clients Commencing litigation for unpaid fees is a high-risk, potentially low-reward endeavor for an attorney.

Lawyer Regulation in Michigan: Who Does What?

People, Bad Choices

ByTheresaAsoklis 10
Here’s an outline of the responsibilities assigned
gan’s various entities that regulate the practice of law. ByMarkA.Armitage 14
evaluation involves adopting a more holistic and equitable process. BySarahKuchon 18 DEPARTMENTS President’s Page 2 E.D.itorial 4 OCBA Calendar of Events 6 Professional Development and CLE 8 On the Circuit 22 Probate 24 Jury Trials and Utilization 26 In Pro Per 27 Committees 28 Foundation 30 New OCBA Members 31 OCBA Staff Directory 31 Adjourned 32 PUBLISHING PARTNER 5750 New King Drive, Ste. 100 Troy, MI 48098 Phone: 248.691.1800 / Fax: 248.691.4531 LACHES is published exclusively for the Oakland County Bar Association by Hour Custom Publishing, a division of Hour Media, L.L.C. Copyright © 2024. All rights reserved. No portion may be copied or published without the express written consent of the publisher. The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of OCBA or Hour Media.
to Michi-
character and fitness 1

It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to serve as the 91st president of the Oakland County Bar Association. is past year has been filled with so many incredible experiences, and it has been a joy getting to lead an organization that means so much to me. From watching my son Brennan play his guitar at my swearingin at the Annual Meeting last June to the new lawyers swearing-in ceremonies, new judge investitures, Youth Law Conference, Holiday Gala, New Lawyers vs. e Board Challenge, District Court Bench/Bar Conference, New Lawyer Boot Camp, OCBF Signature Event, and many more events and meetings I’ve attended, it’s been an exciting and fun year! I have countless memories from this past year that I will always cherish.

I wanted my presidency to have a strong emphasis on membership benefits, which I’ve highlighted through the year in my LACHES articles. I was committed to initiating programs that would add even more benefit to your membership with the OCBA. To that end, it has been my absolute pleasure to introduce the OCBA Mediation Service Program. I’m hopeful that this program will be beneficial for the bench and the bar for years to come and will provide an opportunity

Thanks for the Memories, Oakland County Bar Association

to meaningfully resolve matters outside of the courtroom using experienced OCBA mediators.

I have been very concerned that, due to the pandemic, our new lawyers have not had the opportunity to learn the ropes of the legal profession by getting to sit in a courtroom, watch experienced attorneys, and learn the ins and outs of courtroom decorum. erefore, it was very important to me that the OCBA develop a training to properly welcome new lawyers to the practice of law and assist them with getting acclimated to the profession. e amount of enthusiasm displayed by the judges and attorneys who volunteered their time to help bring the OCBA New Lawyer Boot Camp to life was overwhelming! We have developed a very impressive and comprehensive program that I know will benefit new lawyers for years to come. I cannot thank enough each and every judge and lawyer who assisted us in creating this wonderful new program for our new lawyers.

It was really fun to participate in the training for the attorney volunteers for our Elementary Mock Trial program. It was so heartwarming to see the many smiling faces of the attorneys who are eager to give their time and share their

enthusiasm for the law with elementary school students throughout Oakland County. e Mock Trial program is one of the best, and most fun, opportunities to give back and enhance the life of a child that the OCBA offers.

e OCBA was also pleased to play a meaningful role in assisting Judge Jeffery Matis and the Oakland County Circuit Court in their efforts to clear out the significant backlog of civil and criminal cases caused by the pandemic through a mass mediation event.

I am beyond grateful for the endless love and support of my wonderful family, and I cannot thank them enough for everything they do for me. My husband, Ryan, has been by my side through all of life’s adventures and quite literally by my side during all of the OCBA events I attended during the past year. In addition to being an amazing husband, he is a loving and devoted father to our sons, a dedicated staff attorney to Judge Linda Hallmark, and a tireless public servant in his role as president of the Rochester Hills City Council. With everything on his plate, I’m not sure how he excels in each of his roles, but he does! We have so much fun together, and I am so grateful that I met him in a class we had


together in the James Madison College at Michigan State University in 1996! Our life together has been a wonderful adventure, and I’m very grateful for him.

My sons, Jack and Brennan, are the loves of my life and my dream come true. ey bring me more joy and happiness than I ever dreamed possible. My boys were in kindergarten when I was first elected to the OCBA board of directors in 2014, and they just finished their freshman year in high school. ey have grown up hearing me talk about the OCBA, and it was so fun getting to have them at the Annual Meeting where I was sworn in as president. Ryan and I have always appreciated the importance of giving back to our community, and we try to lead by example for our boys. Jack and Brennan have spent this last year giving back to our community by serving on the Rochester Hills Government Youth Council and the Rochester Hills Public Library Teen Advisory Board and volunteering with their high school Rotary Club. Watching them devote their time to such worthwhile causes has been heartwarming. My boys are a constant source of love, pride, inspiration, fun, and laughter. Getting to watch them experience all that life has to offer and seeing them turn into such fine young men has been a blessing. ey have such big hearts, and I could not be prouder to be their mom!

I would like to extend a special thank you to the OCBA’s board of directors. It has been one of the greatest pleasures of my legal career to serve on a board with such dedicated, impressive, thoughtful, and fun people. Serving on the board is a labor of love, as it can be a significant time commitment in addition to the rigor of practicing law, and they have all demonstrated their commitment to the OCBA through their countless hours of service to our organization. I

would especially like to thank my wonderful executive board, Dean Googasian, Sarah Kuchon, Aaron Burrell, and Kari Melkonian. ey all lead with heart, and we had many great conversations that were thoughtful and always focused on what is in the best interest of the OCBA. I know the OCBA will be in wonderful hands with Dean Googasian at the helm, and I wish him a successful presidential year.

ank you to the incredible staff of the OCBA. eir hard work and dedication are evident in all of the OCBA’s successful programs, trainings, and events. I have had the pleasure of getting to know them a little better this past year, and they are truly a wonderful group of people. I can sincerely say the OCBA is the successful organization it is due to our amazing staff!

I am so proud of what I was able to accomplish as the president of the OCBA. My boys were taught when they were in Cub Scouts to “try to leave this world a little better than you found it.” I’m hopeful that the OCBA is a little better because of my contributions.

One of the first things my husband, Ryan, and I did when we were sworn in as new lawyers was to join the OCBA, and it has provided us with countless opportunities for both professional and personal growth as attorneys. It was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions that we’ve made. I have been so grateful for the opportunity to give back to this organization that has given me so much, the invaluable experiences I’ve had along the way, and, most importantly, the wonderful people I’ve met and friendships I’ve made. ank you, Oakland County Bar Association, for the memories!

Melinda N. Deel is the president of the Oakland County Bar Association.

2023–2024 Elite Supporters Learn. Lead. Succeed. PLATINUM $10,000+ GOLD $7,500–9,999.99 BRONZE $2,500–4,999.99 ATTORNEYS AT LAW “Elite Supporters” consist of distinguished firms whose sponsorship of 2023-2024 OCBA events total $2,500 or more. There are four supporter levels. If you’d like more information on this program, contact Jennifer Quick at Elite Supporter levels: PLATINUM ($10,000+), GOLD ($7,500+), SILVER ($5,000+), and BRONZE ($2,500+)

Thank You to Our 2023-24 Committee and Program Leaders

As the 2023-24 bar year winds down, I would like to thank a special group of dedicated individuals for their stewardship over this past year — our OCBA committee chairs and vice chairs; our chancellor, vice chancellor, and team leaders of our award-winning Inns of Court program; and the co-chairs of the 2024 District Court Bench/Bar Conference.


e 30 OCBA committees are headed by volunteers (listed to the right) who generously give their time to keep members informed of significant developments in their areas of practice, shape association policy on issues of professional concern, help develop programming beneficial to OCBA members, and plan programs and services that benefit the public. OCBA committees are one of the most valued benefits of OCBA membership, and our committee chairs and vice chairs are integral to their success.

ere is no cost to join one or multiple committees. Participating on a committee enhances one’s knowledge, advances a person’s career, and builds professional connections. We invite you to visit to learn more about this robust membership benefit run by OCBA members, for OCBA members, with support from OCBA staff liaisons.

We invite you to visit to learn more about this robust membership

benefit run by OCBA members, for OCBA members, with support from OCBA staff liaisons.


Alternative Dispute Resolution Thomas Vitu

Business Court and Counsel

Circuit Court

Circuit Court Case Evaluation

Criminal Law


District Court Case Evaluation

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Employee Benefits

Employment Law

Energy, Sustainability and Environmental Law

Family Court

Golf Outing

Juvenile Law

Law Related Education

Lawyer Well-Being


LOCA (Lawyers of a Certain Age)



Municipal Law

New Lawyers

PALS (Providing Access to Legal Services)


Probate, Estate and Trust

Professional Development

Race Judicata

Real Estate

Tax Law

Veterans Law

Michael O’Malley

Harvey Weingarden Derek Howard

Stephen McKenney Meagan O’Donnell

Karen Geibel

Tom Charboneau

Judith Gracey Marcia Ross

Thomas DeCarlo Tami Salzbrenner

Tina Battle

Steven Brock

Kristina Bilowus and Hon. Adrienne Young and Aaron Burrell Shane Kolo

Gary Remer

Lindsey Johnson

Christopher Richards

Katelyn Schaffer

Russ Carniak

Chip Farrar and Lanita Carter

Alec D’Annunzio

Sarah Kuchon

Sheldon Larky and Klint Kesto

Judith Cunningham

Stefanie Deller

Nicholas Nahat

Richard Lynch

Jacob Simon

Robert Mattler

Mark Berke and Elizabeth Hohauser

Mary Aretha

Mary Ann Seibold

Moheeb Murray and Syeda Davidson

Jacob Kahn

Melissa Schwartz

Alexandra Giuliani

Mary Novrocki

Janel Savaya

Elisabeth Dery

Brian Boehne

Michael Steinberger

Debani Gordon Lehman

Jonathan Ajlouny

Michelle Johnson

Jessica Schefman

Julie McCowan

Linda Kennedy

Nargiz Nesimova T. Scott Galloway

Justin Esshaki

William Lynch and David Harrell

Stephen Weisberg



e OCBA’s chapter of the American Inns of Court is a unique association of lawyers, judges, and law students that encourages meaningful mentoring relationships. rough monthly meetings, members are able to build and strengthen professional relationships; discuss fundamental concerns about professionalism and pressing legal issues of the day; share experiences and advice; exhort the utmost passion and dedication for the law; provide mentoring opportunities; and advance the highest levels of integrity, ethics, and civility. More information can be found on the program at

ank you to our Inn leaders for guiding our Inn members through another successful year.


Hon. Kameshia Gant

Vice Chancellor: Joseph Lavigne

Team One Leader: Hon. Kameshia Gant

Team Two Leader: Hon. Maureen Kinsella

Team Three Leader: Hon. Andrew Kowalkowski

Team Four Leader: Hon. Sima Patel

Team Five Leader: Hon. Cynthia Arvant

Team Six Leader: Hon. Cynthia Stephens (ret.)

Team Seven Leader: Hon. Brian Hartwell


e biennial District Court Bench/Bar Conference took place on Friday, March 15, at e Community House in Birmingham. Our four co-chairs put together a stellar half-day program tackling civility issues as well as timely updates and best-practice tips in both civil and criminal proceedings. ank you to:

Hon. Derek Meinecke

Hon. Andrew Kowalkowski

James Low

Timothy Flynn



Wachler & Associates represents healthcare providers, suppliers, and other entities and individuals in Michigan and nationwide in all areas of health law including, but not limited to:

•Healthcare Corporate and Transactional Matters, including Contracts, Corporate For mation, Mergers, Sales/Acquisitions, and Joint Ventures

•Healthcare Corporate and Transactional Matters, including Contracts, Corporate For mation, Mergers, Sales/Acquisitions, and Joint Ventures

•Medicare, Medicaid, and Other Third-Party Payor Audits and Claim Denials

•Medicare, Medicaid, and Other Third-Party Payor Audits and Claim Denials

•Licensure, Staff Privilege, and Credentialing Matters

•Provider Contracts

•Licensure, Staff Privilege, and Credentialing Matters


•Billing and Reimbursement Issues

•Provider Contracts

•Billing and Reimbursement Issues

•Stark Law, Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), and Fraud & Abuse Law Compliance

•Physician and Physician Group Issues

•Stark Law, Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), and Fraud & Abuse Law Compliance

• Regulatory Compliance

•Physician and Physician Group Issues

•Corporate Practice of Medicine Issues

• Regulatory Compliance

•Provider Participation/Ter mination Matters

•Corporate Practice of Medicine Issues

•Provider Participation/Ter mination Matters

• Healthcare Litigation

• Healthcare Investigations

• Healthcare Litigation

•Civil and Criminal Healthcare Fraud

• Healthcare Investigations

•Civil and Criminal Healthcare Fraud

•Medicare and Medicaid Suspensions, Revocations, and Exclusions

•Medicare and Medicaid Suspensions, Revocations, and Exclusions

•HIPAA, HITECH, 42 CFR Part 2, and Other Privacy Law Compliance

•HIPAA, HITECH, 42 CFR Part 2, and Other Privacy Law Compliance

S ER VING H EALTHCA RE PR OV ID ERS FOR OVE R 30 Y EARS WachlerAssoc_OCBA_HalfPgV_ND20.indd 1 11/11/20 3:11 PM
Jennifer Quick is the executive director of the Oakland County Bar Association.


Please Note: Dates listed below were sent to the publisher on April 3, 2024. It is possible that some of the events listed below have since been altered. Please check for the most up-to-date schedule of events.



Join the OCBA as we salute outstanding leaders in the law and celebrate another amazing year. Spend time with judges, OCBA leadership, and other OCBA members at this annual celebration. During the event, we will recognize the 2024 OCBA award recipients, members celebrating 40 years of legal practice in Michigan, and those who have been members of the OCBA for 50 years. Plus, outgoing OCBA President Melinda N. Deel will pass the gavel to incoming President Dean M. Googasian, who will then be sworn in as the bar’s 92nd president. The ceremony will be followed by a strolling reception on the beautiful terrace of The Community House in Birmingham. Tickets are now on sale at








Our bench/bar brown-bag luncheon series continues virtually via Zoom and will feature Judge Daniel A. O’Brien from the Oakland County Probate Court. He will share tips and preferred protocols for practicing in the probate court. Bring your questions and join us for an informal discussion of legal topics and practice issues. Space is limited, so register today at


Join your colleagues and treat your clients to a fun day at the beautiful, historic Knollwood Country Club in West Bloomfield. Top off your day on the championship course with lunch, cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres followed by a decadent dinner and prizes. Early-bird pricing runs through June 28! Don’t golf? You can still register for dinner and prizes only. Register at




Join us from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. for another great opportunity to mix and mingle with fellow bar members while enjoying appetizers and a cash bar. This event is free for OCBA members and space is limited, so register today at


Want to get more out of your OCBA membership? Hoping to expand your professional network? Then join us at 8:30 a.m. at the OCBA, and our staff will show you how to get the most value for your money and how your membership can help you grow professionally. Plus, we leave plenty of time to meet and network with your fellow members. RSVP at

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6 Brown Bag: Preliminary Hearings/Inquiries (11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.)

A seminar for juvenile appointed counsel

Presenter: Referee Lisa R. Harris, Oakland County Government

This Zoom seminar will cover preliminary hearing expectations, how to make inquiries, delinquency, and child protection. A Q&A will follow the presentation.

Worth 1.5 hours of juvenile training credit for appointed counsel

11 2024 Employment Law Year in Review (9 – 11:30 a.m.)

A seminar by the Employment Law Committee

Presenters: Daniel A. Klemptner, Esq., Chief of Labor and Employee Relations, Oakland County Government; John Marsh, Esq., Bailey Cavalieri LLC; more speakers TBA

Moderator: Lindsey R. Johnson, Esq., Schenk & Bruetsch PLC

This Zoom seminar will touch on major developments in the field over the past bar year. This year, the seminar will consider major National Labor Relations Board and legal updates, employee handbooks, and changes to the law regarding noncompete agreements.

18 Update on the State of Criminal Law 2024 (11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.)

A seminar for criminal defense appointed counsel

Presenter: Alona Sharon, Esq., Alona Sharon, P.C.

This Zoom seminar will provide an overview of the most recent published Michigan Court of Appeals cases with a focus on sentencing decisions. Join us for an in-depth discussion of hot topics, emerging issues, and practice pointers in criminal law.

Worth 1.5 hours of criminal and juvenile training credit for appointed counsel


20 The Nuts and Bolts of Mental Health Treatment Court (Noon – 1 p.m.)

A seminar for criminal defense appointed counsel

Presenters: Hon. Jaimie Powell Horowitz, Esq., 45th District Court; Heather Ruffles, Chief Probation Officer and Specialty Court Coordinator, 45th District Court; John S. Angott, Esq., The Legal Pugilists; and Jillian Cantrell, LLMFT

Moderator: Michael E. Sawicky, Esq., Michael E. Sawicky, P.L.L.C.

This Zoom seminar will define and express the importance of mental health treatment court. Statistics will be showcased, and a Q&A will follow.

Worth 1 hour of criminal and juvenile training credit for appointed counsel


17 Experts and Investigators (5:30 – 7:30 p.m.)

A seminar for criminal defense appointed counsel

Presenter: Michael J. McCarthy, Esq., Michael J. McCarthy, P.C.

This Zoom seminar will highlight the strategies for hiring experts and investigators. Worth 2 hours of criminal and juvenile training credit for appointed counsel

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The Risks of Lawyer Fee Suits Against Former Clients

Alawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade,” Abraham Lincoln is famously credited with saying. Unless a lawyer agrees to handle a matter pro bono, they should expect payment for their services. But, like most lawyers, you’ve probably had clients who haven’t made good on their promise to pay. Should you sue a former client for unpaid fees? After all, you’ve likely slogged away and burned the midnight oil for the benefit of your former client. Perhaps you obtained a favorable result, too. No matter the outcome, you provided a service and deserve to be paid. But before you sue a former client for unpaid fees, a thorough risk-reward analysis should be undertaken. In most instances, you’ll likely conclude that commencing litigation for unpaid fees is a high-risk, potentially low-reward endeavor. Let’s consider some of the risks in pursuing fee suits against former clients.


Will you spend more pursuing the unpaid fees than the amount you stand to gain even if you’re successful?

Deciding whether to sue a former client for unpaid fees should always begin with a thorough cost-benefit analysis. How much does the client owe? How much did the client already pay? Is the amount owed enough that it will make a substantial difference in your practice? The analysis is, of course, highly dependent on the makeup of the lawyer’s practice. A solo practitioner, for example, may find writing off a five-figure fee obligation to be much more difficult than would a 50-attorney law firm. But the amount at stake and the cost of the litigation aren’t the only factors that may impact your decision to push forward with a lawsuit for unpaid fees.

A fee suit will divert your attention away from your practice and likely result in lost billable time on other valuable matters. Is it worth losing 50 hours of unbilled time prosecuting a fee case to recover $10,000? Probably not. It’s best, of course, to seek to attempt to resolve the fee issue with your client before filing suit. Depending on the circumstances - such as the amount at stake, the reason for the dispute, and the defense to the fee claim - you might be able to reach a speedy resolution through a negotiated payment plan or perhaps a half-day mediation. But if settlement isn’t in the cards, face the fact that a fee suit could require substantial resources, particularly if the lawyer or law firm is trying to recover a significant amount of damages.

A good illustration of the time and resources that can be involved in prosecuting a fee case is Dykema Gossett PLLC v. Ajluni, 273 Mich App 1 (2006). There, the law firm represented a physician-client for four years in litigation against Blue Cross Blue Shield. Following the conclusion of that case, the firm sued its former client for a substantial amount of fees. The trial court proceedings in the fee case, which included a four-week trial, lasted almost three years. And the appellate proceedings, which included appeals and cross-appeals in both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, took another three years. The firm did receive a substantial verdict against its former client. But at what cost? Litigating the fee suit, moreover, is only half the battle. If the lawyer succeeds and receives a judgment, how much time and effort will be spent collecting on the judgment? In the Ajluni case, two more years of post-appeal judgment collection proceedings ensued in the Wayne County Circuit Court. That segues to another reason you may want to think twice before pursuing a fee case. Will a judgment even be

collectible? A nonpaying client may very well be judgment-proof. Perhaps needless to say, a fee suit against a former client with no assets involves a significant amount of risk for only a theoretical reward.

The bottom line on the cost-benefit analysis is that unless the amount at stake is close to the make-it-or-break-it value, pursuing a fee case against a former client is probably unwise. Your time and effort are better spent trying to resolve the fee dispute outside of litigation and, if unsuccessful, writing off the debt and moving on to better-paying clientele.

Will a fee suit be met with a counterclaim for malpractice?

Many legal-malpractice claims filed against lawyers have their genesis as counterclaims in suits for unpaid fees. The best defense is a good offense, right? Your fee suit can quickly become less about your hours or rates and more about your advice and actions in the underlying case, which your former client and their attorney will place under a microscope and scrutinize. That might not be the full extent, either. A grievance, a negative online review, or an unflattering social media post also aren’t outside the realm of possible retaliatory moves by the former client.

Courts can usually see through purely retaliatory malpractice claims. But summary disposition is far from a foregone conclusion. And even if you obtain summary disposition on the legal-malpractice claim, you may be looking at years of costly appellate proceedings. The case of Elizabeth A. Silverman, PC v. Korn, 339 Mich App 384 (2021), which involved a complaint for unpaid fees and a counterclaim for malpractice, illustrates this point.

The case arose out of a litigated divorce case. In 2018, the lawyer sued her former client for $48,000 in unpaid fees from the divorce case. The trial court granted a judgment in favor of the law firm on the claim for unpaid fees from the divorce and the additional fees incurred by the law firm under its fee agreement for prosecuting the fee case. The trial court also granted summary disposition in favor of the law firm on the counterclaim for malpractice. But the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for further trial court proceedings, finding that the trial court had not adequately addressed the malpractice claims.

The Court of Appeals also reversed on the issue of whether the law firm was entitled to recover its fees under its fee agreement. After a successful application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, on remand, found that the firm’s fee agreement did allow it to recover fees for prosecuting the fee case. Having prevailed on the fee claim, the firm was still left to litigate the malpractice counterclaim back in the trial court. In late 2023 (five years after the case was first filed), the trial court again granted summary disposition to the firm on the malpractice counterclaim. The case is now again pending in the Court of Appeals. The law firm is looking at a seven-year contested proceeding because it sued the client for $48,000 in fees.

If you plan to forge ahead with a fee case knowing that a counterclaim for malpractice may be the tactic your former client takes, you’d be wise to at least wait until the statute of limitations on the malpractice claim has expired. For malpractice, the statute of limitations expires two years from the date on which you ceased representing your former client in the matter out of which the alleged malpractice arose or, 11 Fee Suits | FEATURE

alternatively, six months from the date on which your client discovered or should have discovered a possible malpractice claim. But even if you’re confident that the statute of limitations on a potential malpractice claim has expired, you’re not necessarily out of the woods. Under MCL 600.5823, colloquially referred to as the counterclaim savings statute, a former client may be able to raise a malpractice claim as a counterclaim, even if that claim would otherwise be time-barred:

“To the extent of the amount established as plaintiff ’s claim the periods of limitations prescribed in this chapter do not bar a claim made by way of counterclaim unless the counterclaim was barred at the time the plaintiff ’s claim accrued.”

e statute essentially allows your former client to bring an otherwise time-barred counterclaim for malpractice to set off the amount of your claim for unpaid fees  unless, of course, the statute of limitations on their counterclaim ran out before your fee claim accrued. In other words, you wouldn’t be able to rely on the statute of limitations as a defense, and your former client wouldn’t be able to recover damages in excess of the amount of your claim for unpaid fees.

In short, you should wait to bring a claim for unpaid fees until the statute of limitations for any potential malpractice counterclaim expires.

Even then, though, you should be mindful that you may still be forced to incur costs and fees associated with defending a counterclaim for malpractice, albeit one that is limited to setting off the amount sought in your fee claim.

Will a suit for unpaid fees negatively a ect your insurance?

While the expenditure of substantial time and effort in defending a counterclaim for malpractice may be enough to deter you from initiating a fee claim, consider another drawback. You’ll have to report a malpractice claim to your lawyers’ professional liability (LPL) insurer. LPL insurance carriers do not like when their insured lawyers bring fee suits against former clients. If you are a solo practitioner or the managing partner of a law firm, you’ve likely had to complete an application for LPL insurance. ose applications routinely ask the lawyers/firm whether they’ve brought any fee suits against former clients. ere’s an obvious reason your carrier wants this information: ey deem lawyers who sue former clients for fees as riskier to insure. And this increased risk usually equates to higher insurance premiums or sometimes an insurer’s refusal to insure you or the firm altogether.

Before you consider suing a former client for unpaid fees, you should thoroughly review your malpractice insurance policy. Some carriers include provisions in LPL policies that seek to exclude or limit coverage if a claim for unpaid fees results in a counterclaim for malpractice. So

a claim for unpaid fees not only puts you at risk of a counterclaim for malpractice, but also puts you at risk of having to defend the counterclaim without the benefit of the insurance coverage that you paid for.

Even if your insurance carrier agrees to defend the malpractice counterclaim, the defense costs the carrier incurs will likely have an impact on your future premium costs. Ask any lawyer who has had to defend a malpractice claim (even one that has no merit), and most will tell you that their insurance premium at the next renewal time substantially increased.

How to avoid a fee dispute.

e best way to avoid the substantial risks inherent in fee disputes is to plan ahead. Always put your fee agreement in writing. Consider placing a provision in your fee agreement that requires any fee dispute to be submitted to binding arbitration. Also, consider a contractual provision (like the one in Silverman v. Korn) that provides for the award of legal fees if you prevail in a fee case. Clearly communicate your expectations of timely payment to your client. Request that your client deposit funds in your trust account to cover anticipated costs and fees. And request that your client replenish your trust account when the balance gets low. (As a practical matter, an inability to afford a retainer at the outset of the representation may foreshadow an inability to pay down the line.) Bill your services at regular intervals to avoid sticker shock.

Of course, there are going to be times when even the best practices aren’t successful. If, despite all of your proactive measures, your client still refuses to pay, seek to withdraw from the representation before the amount owed becomes unmanageable.

Filing a fee suit against a former client comes with substantial risks. Before you file that case, ask yourself whether the risks are worth the potential financial reward. If you are being honest and looking at the decision objectively, most times the answer will be no.

eresa Asoklis is a shareholder with Collins Einhorn Farrell PC in South eld, Michigan. She served as the rm’s CEO and co-managing partner from 2019 to 2023. For 35 years, Asoklis has focused her practice on the defense of lawyers and other professionals in malpractice and professional liability claims. She also represents lawyers and judges in ethics matters.

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Who Does What?


The license to practice law in Michigan is, among other things, a continuing proclamation by the Supreme Court that the holder is fit to be entrusted with professional and judicial matters and to aid in the administration of justice as an attorney and counselor and as an officer of the court. It is the duty of every attorney to conduct himself or herself at all times in conformity with standards imposed on members of the bar as a condition of the privilege to practice law. These standards include, but are not limited to, the rules of professional [conduct] and the [code] of judicial conduct that are adopted by the Supreme Court.”

—MCR 9.103(A)

FEATURE | Lawyer Regulation 14 LACHES MAGAZINE

Regulation of the practice of law involves admission to the profession, investigation and possible prosecution of alleged violations of rules of conduct by one entity, and adjudication of any formal charges or reinstatement petitions by another agency. It also involves protecting the public from nonlawyers who can cause harm by unauthorized practice, which task is assigned to yet another entity. Then, there is regulation of lawyers who serve as judges, magistrates, or referees. Also, there are committees and organizations that play an important role in assisting lawyers and judges seeking to comply with their professional obligations. This article is intended to outline the basic scope of the responsibilities assigned to the various entities that regulate lawyers in Michigan.


The Michigan Supreme Court has inherent authority to regulate the qualifications of persons who may be permitted to practice law in this state and to discipline the members of its bar,1 which authority has been recognized and codified by Michigan’s legislature.2 The court has created several entities to assist it in the discharge of its mandate.


The Board of Law Examiners was created by the Legislature to oversee the investigation and examination of applicants to the State Bar of Michigan (SBM). The BLE administers the Michigan bar examination each February and July and processes applications for recertification from attorneys who have been on inactive status (as a result of discipline or otherwise) for more than three years and seek reinstatement or to otherwise resume active practice in Michigan.3


Lawyers practicing in Michigan are regulated by two separate and independent agencies created by the Supreme Court to assist in discharging the court’s “exclusive constitutional responsibility to supervise and discipline Michigan attorneys and those temporarily admitted to practice under MCR 8.126 or otherwise subject to the disciplinary authority of the Supreme Court.”4

The Attorney Grievance Commission (AGC) is “the prosecution arm of the Supreme Court.”5 It has nine members (three of whom are nonlawyers) appointed by the court. The AGC supervises investigations of attorneys and can dismiss a request for investigation, admonish or place an attorney on contractual probation, or authorize the filing of a formal complaint with the Attorney Discipline Board (ADB) seeking either discipline or transfer of an attorney to inac-

tive status because the attorney is incapacitated to continue the practice of law.6

The ADB “is the adjudicative arm of the Supreme Court” for disciplinary and related matters assigned to it by the court pursuant to subchapter 9.100 of the Michigan Court Rules. The ADB also has nine appointees, including three nonlawyers. Complaints filed by the AGC and petitions for reinstatement filed by suspended or disbarred attorneys are assigned by the ADB to hearing panels composed of three attorneys who adjudicate the matters under the rules of procedure applicable to a civil bench trial and the Michigan Rules of Evidence. The board itself serves as an appellate tribunal, hearing petitions for review of decisions by the panels throughout Michigan.7 The ADB issues opinions and orders that are published in a searchable database on its website and serve as guidance and precedent for hearing panels and attorneys.8

Occasionally, you might hear someone refer to a nonexistent organization called the “State Bar Grievance Board,” thereby conflating three entities, the SBM, the ADB, and the AGC. This likely reflects their lack of experience with the disciplinary agencies rather than recollection of a body that existed from 1970 through 1978. In 1978, the Supreme Court bifurcated the disciplinary system’s prosecutorial and adjudicative functions, creating the AGC and the ADB, agencies with supervisory bodies that are independent from the SBM and from each other.9


Although the SBM does not investigate or adjudicate alleged attorney misconduct, or oversee the disciplinary agencies that do, many of its activities form an integral part of Michigan’s attorney regulation system. For example, the Character and Fitness Committee investigates and makes recommendations to the BLE.10

The SBM is also authorized by the Supreme Court to investigate the unauthorized practice of law (UPL) and to file and prosecute actions regarding UPL.11 Members of the bar have access to various resources to assist them in complying with their professional obligations. The Practice Management Resource Center offers online resources, webinars, and a lending library dealing with things such as client relations, insurance, financial management, risk management, law office management, and trust accounts. There is also a resource center helpline one can phone for individual consultations. The Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program offers a range of programs to help lawyers maintain their wellness and fitness to practice. And the Professional Ethics Committee offers advice in the form of advisory

(i.e., nonbinding) opinions, helpline answers, seminars, published answers to FAQs, and other materials regarding the application of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC) to concrete, prospective scenarios. Not only are these activities valuable member services, but they also protect the public, foster an ethical profession, and otherwise directly or indirectly further the goals and mission of the AGC, the ADB, and the court with respect to regulation of the bar. Finally, activities like collecting dues (license fees) and maintaining records of lawyer status, which can change as a result of discipline, disability, failure to pay dues, or elective choices by an attorney, also constitute an essential regulatory function.


The Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC) is a constitutionally created body.12 In cases involving misconduct or disability of a judge, it may recommend disciplinary or other action to the Supreme Court.13 The JTC is further governed by rules adopted by the court.14


Lawyers According to MCR 9.101(5), “‘attorney’ or ‘lawyer’ means a person regularly licensed, specially admitted, permitted to practice law in Michigan on a temporary or other limited basis, or who is otherwise subject to the disciplinary authority of Michigan pursuant to order or rule of the Supreme Court.”


to the Bar

As has been noted above, the SBM’s Character and Fitness standing and local committees and BLE examine the fitness of an applicant and make appropriate recommendations and decisions. If an applicant is admitted and certain false statements were made or failures to disclose information to admissions authorities are discovered, this may amount to attorney misconduct and subject the person to discipline after admission — even though the applicant was not yet a lawyer at the time of the misconduct.15 A lawyer suspended for 180 days or more, or disbarred, is not considered an “applicant”; for such lawyers, the path to regaining an active license is through a petition for reinstatement under MCR 9.123(B) and MCR 9.124. The hearing panels, the board, and the court assess the current fitness and other qualifications of such petitioners under MCR 9.123(B)(1)-(7). If the attorney, as a result of a disciplinary sanction, “does not practice law for 3 years or more, whether as the result of the period of discipline or voluntarily,” the lawyer must be recertified by the BLE before reinstatement.16 15 Lawyer Regulation | FEATURE


One could break down this category as follows: total poseurs, those with inactive licenses, and those who cross a line. A person who impersonates a lawyer or who engages in conduct constituting the unauthorized practice of law without ever being licensed to practice law may be the subject of an action by the SBM seeking injunctive relief.17 e discipline system (i.e., the AGC and the ADB) does not regulate imposters (persons who have never been licensed anywhere). A lawyer with an inactive license who practices law is subject to discipline as well as a contempt prosecution by the AGC.18 Such a (former) lawyer may also be within the purview of the SBM.19 Also, UPL may be addressed by the court before which it is occurring.20

With regard to lines, at least two kinds may be crossed. First, some persons and companies may not even hold themselves out as attorneys but may prey upon consumers with legal concerns, selling products or services that can inflict real harm. Such unqualified or incompetent profiteers need to be shut down. However, the contours of UPL are being examined nationwide. Given the skyrocketing number of selfrepresented litigants in our courts, wage stagnation over several decades for most, and the increasing complexity of society and laws, nonprofit programs providing assistance in the form of information for average citizens facing legal issues are becoming more common. Second, a jurisdictional line may be crossed. Specifically, a lawyer admitted in another state but not in Michigan may practice or attempt to practice in Michigan. In such a case, Michigan has jurisdiction over the out-of-state lawyer for such conduct and may impose discipline.21

A lawyer’s support staff is not directly regulated by the attorney discipline agencies. However, attorneys with managerial authority in a firm must take reasonable steps to ensure such staff ’s conduct is compatible with the professional obligations of the lawyer.22 Attorneys with supervisory authority over the assistant also have this responsibility as well as responsibility, in certain circumstances, for the assistant’s actions that would amount to a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if engaged in by a lawyer.23 is is true whether the nonlawyer assistant is called a paralegal, legal assistant, secretary, administrative assistant, or anything else.

Judges, Magistrates, Referees, and Visiting Judges e JTC regulates conduct on or off the bench in various scenarios. First, if the lawyer happens to be a judge at the time the complaint regarding the particular conduct is made, it is very clear that the lawyer is a “judge” as that term is defined in MCR 9.201(B)(1) and is thus within the JTC’s jurisdiction, which is exclusive so long as they remain a judge. So, even if a lawyer

violated the MRPC while in private practice, and then took the bench, the JTC has jurisdiction and the ADB and AGC do not.24 If a lawyer/ judge’s conduct while on the bench gives rise to a complaint but the lawyer is no longer a judge, the JTC and the court nonetheless have jurisdiction even though the sanctions of suspension from the bench may seem to be off the table.25 e ADB and AGC have jurisdiction over former judges in various circumstances. First, if the lawyer’s conduct before taking the bench gives rise to a grievance filed after the lawyer has left the bench, then the attorney discipline agencies clearly may act. And conduct while the judge was on the bench may even be within the jurisdiction of the attorney discipline agencies if the former judge has not been the subject of a disposition of judicial discipline proceedings by the JTC or the court.26 Also, if a judge has been removed by the court, the ADB and AGC may act with regard to that former judge’s license to practice law based upon the conduct giving rise to removal from the bench.27 However, if the court has imposed a sanction less than removal, or if the JTC has taken any action under MCR 9.223(A)(1)-(5) (dismissal, admonition, or recommendation of private censure), the AGC and ADB may not proceed.28


As this general outline of the agencies regulating the practice of law in Michigan has shown, various entities work to ensure the fitness of the bar and protect the public, the courts, and the legal profession, and the roles of these agencies may intersect or even overlap.

Mark Armitage is the executive director and general counsel of the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board. He is a past president of the National Organization of Bar Counsel. He has consulted, taught, and been active in American Bar Association and State Bar of Michigan committees relating to legal ethics and the future of the legal profession. Armitage currently serves on the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility.


1. Ayres v Hadaway, 303 Mich 589, 597; 6 NW2d 905 (1942); Schlossberg v State Bar Grievance Bd, 388 Mich 389; 200 NW2d 219 (1972) (citing Const 1963, art 6, § 5).

2. MCL 600.904.

3. MCL 600.922; Michigan Supreme Court Rules for the Board of Law Examiners; and administration/committees-boards/board-of-lawexaminers/new-ble-page. The BLE’s website contains the rules, statutes, and policy statements of the BLE and other useful information.

4. MCR 9.110(A).

5. MCR 9.108(A).

6. MCR 9.114; MCR 9.109(B)(6); MCR 9.121(B).

7. Petitions for review of final panel orders may be filed with and heard by the board as of right. MCR 9.118. A party aggrieved by a final order of the ADB may apply for leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court. MCR 9.122.

8. See and go to the “Attorney Information” page for recent notices, opinions, and orders as well as a search-by-name directory. Go to the “Research” page to search the full text of ADB opinions, orders, and notices.

9. See the ADB website:

10. See State Bar Rule 15.

11. See State Bar Rule 16.

12. See Const 1963, art 6, § 30.

13. Id.

14. See subchapter 9.200 of the Michigan Court Rules.

15. MRPC 8.1(a).

16. MCR 9.123(C).

17. See State Bar Rule 16 and injunctions

18. See, e.g., MRPC 3.4(c); MRPC 5.5(a); MCR 9.104(9); MCR 9.119(E). With regard to contempt, see MCL 600.916 and MCR 9.127(B).

19. See n 17 (compilation of injunctions obtained by the SBM, including one disbarred lawyer).

20. See Gardner, Addressing the Unauthorized Practice of Law in the Courtroom (Michigan Bar Journal, September 2023), discussing Mitan v Farmington Square Condo Ass’n, unpublished opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued February 25, 2021 (Docket No. 350053), 2021 WL 745472, a case involving UPL by an attorney suspended from the practice of law in Michigan in 2009.

21. MRPC 8.5(a) (“A lawyer not admitted in this jurisdiction is also subject to the disciplinary authority of this jurisdiction if the lawyer provides or offers to provide any legal services in this jurisdiction.”); Grievance Administrator v Garrett C. Kerr, 23-19-GA (HP Order & Report, January 8, 2024) (panel imposed one-year suspension and conditions should respondent seek admission in Michigan).

22. MRPC 5.3(a).

23. MRPC 5.3(b) and (c).

24. MCR 9.116(B). The AGC and ADB have jurisdiction concurrent with the JTC over magistrates, referees, and visiting judges for conduct “unrelated to judicial functions” or “arising from the practice of law.” MCR 9.116(A)(1) and (2); MCR 9.211(E).

25. MCR 9.201(B)(3) includes within the definition of “judge” “a person who formerly held such office if a request for investigation was filed during the person’s term of office. If the person is no longer a judge and the alleged misconduct relates to the person’s actions as a judge, it is not necessary that the request for investigation be filed during the former judge’s term of office.” The court may order that a former judge’s suspension will be served if the lawyer again becomes a judge.

26. MCR 9.116(B).

27. Id.

28. There is currently pending before the court a proposal to amend MCR 9.116 to vest the attorney discipline agencies with jurisdiction over the attorney/ former judge when “the former judge does not hold judicial office at the time the Court issues its decision under MCR 9.252(A), and the Court finds that the conduct would have resulted in removal as a judge had the former judge still held judicial office at that time.” ADM File No. 2021-11.

FEATURE | Lawyer Regulation 16 LACHES MAGAZINE
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Good People, Bad Choices

Sources suggest that we make roughly 35,000 choices each day. It is unclear from these sources how that number was derived, but it is safe to say that we make thousands of choices in a day, which provides plenty of opportunity for mistakes. One choice, or a series of choices, can change our life forever. For some, the change is positive. For others, the choice can have negative consequences that haunt them for their lifetime. Even the most moral of persons can make a bad choice.

FEATURE | Character and Fitness 18 LACHES MAGAZINE

Many of you reading this article made the choice to go to law school, which led to your becoming a lawyer. Imagine, however, if a choice you made in the past changed your chosen career path. This happens every year to some graduates, who after studying for the LSAT, graduating from law school, and passing the bar examination and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE) are denied admission to practice law based upon a finding that they lack “good moral character.”

There is a long-standing debate about whether the character and fitness evaluation is an accurate predictor of “good moral character.” Critics of the process claim that the evaluation is subjective, discriminatory, and elitist. Proponents of the process argue that it protects the public and promotes an image of integrity and professionalism. This article will not resolve the debate, nor does it take a position. However, I hope that this article will continue the debate and conversation of whether there is a better, more inclusive and empathic way of evaluating applicants for admission to the bar while still preserving the integrity of the profession.

As lawyers, we are held to high professional standards. It is expected and required that we have “good moral character” and fitness. A lawyer is an officer of the court who has sworn to uphold the federal and state constitutions. We have sworn to proceed only by means that are truthful and honorable. We have also sworn to avoid offensive personality, among other obligations. We are a self-governing profession with a duty to report professional misconduct that raises a substantial question as to the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer.

To become licensed to practice law in the state of Michigan, one must graduate from law school, pass the MPRE, and pass the bar examination. In addition, one must prove to the satisfaction of the state’s Board of Law Examiners that they possess “good moral character” and the requisite fitness to practice law.

The process of character and fitness evaluation begins with an investigation by the State Bar of Michigan Standing Committee on Character and Fitness, which forwards a recommendation to the state’s Board of Law Examiners. The process starts with the applicant completing and submitting an affidavit of personal history. This affidavit is a comprehensive questionnaire submitted under oath. The questionnaire asks questions regarding identification and background as well as business involvement, residential history, civil litigation, school discipline, employment history, financial history, criminal history, and other “general fitness” questions, which include questions regarding substance use and gam-

bling. Although the affidavit does not specifically require disclosure of other mental health conditions, mental health can be considered. The affidavit “request[s] and authorize[s]” the release of confidential information from any person or institution with records or knowledge of the applicant’s character and fitness. Applicants are encouraged to use candor and consistency when answering the questions. However, there is a sense that anything you say can and will be used against you. An applicant is recommended for admission when the investigation of past conduct discloses no “significant adverse factual information.”

Throughout the process, the applicant bears the burden of proof, by clear and convincing evidence, that they possess the requisite character and fitness to practice law. In determining “good moral character,” the bar relies upon the definition set forth in MCL 338.41, which defines “good moral character” as “the propensity on the part of an individual to serve the public in the licensed area in a fair, honest, and open manner.” Critics of the process argue that this definition is ambiguous and leaves room for subjective interpretations that reflect the attitudes, experiences, and bias of the interpreter.

Character and fitness evaluation serves as a gatekeeper purporting to ensure that those admitted to the bar possess the requisite “good moral character” and fitness to practice law by essentially scrutinizing a person’s past choices. However, there are many reasons why past choices are not a reliable predictor of current or future good moral character. One reason is brain development. According to the medical literature, our brains do not fully develop until our mid- to late 20s. Our prefrontal cortex is one of the last areas of the brain to mature. This is important because this area of the brain is responsible for our executive functions, which include higher-level skills such as prioritizing, planning, self-control, impulse control, resisting temptation, cognitive flexibility, and rational thought, among other cognitive processes. Given that the average age of law school graduates is 25, does it make sense to evaluate their “good moral character” based upon past choices that were made when their brains were not fully developed and matured?

Further, choices do not occur in a vacuum. Context matters. In writing this article, I hesitated to use the word “choice” because choice, though often portrayed as a conscious decisionmaking process, is not always within one’s control. Choice is multifaceted and complex. External factors such as societal norms, systemic barriers, socioeconomic circumstances, and environmental constraints can significantly

limit the options available to individuals. For many, socioeconomic circumstances, cultural expectations, or institutional biases dictate the parameters within which they must navigate life’s choices. Moreover, psychological factors such as mental health, cognitive biases, subconscious influences, and emotional conditioning can further influence choice. Recognizing the constraints and influences on choice is essential to a fair and equal process. A bad choice does not make one a bad person.

Additionally, character and fitness evaluations often boil down complex human experiences into binary categories of “good moral character” or “bad moral character.” Although binary thinking can help one make quick decisions, binary categorization fails to capture the nuances and intricacies of individual character and circumstances. By providing only two options, good or bad, it becomes easy to judge ourselves and others. Binary thinking, also known as either/ or, all-or-nothing, or black-and-white thinking, is a form of “distorted” thinking. This type of thinking is considered distorted because it keeps one from seeing life the way it really is — complex, uncertain, and constantly changing — and attempts to categorize people and situations into one extreme or the other. Binary thinking creates the illusion that there are absolutes and overlooks the potential for growth, redemption, and rehabilitation, reducing applicants to a mere “good” or “bad” status. Human behavior is multifaceted, shaped by myriad factors, including upbringing, culture, environment, and societal pressures. Character and fitness evaluations tend to oversimplify these complexities, rendering individuals vulnerable to judgment based on rigid standards and subjective interpretations. They perpetuate a culture of perfectionism and stigma, discouraging transparency and openness about past struggles or challenges. To truly uphold the principles of justice and fairness, the profession must move beyond binary thinking, embracing a more holistic, empathic, and compassionate approach that acknowledges the human experience and potential for growth within each applicant.

Another critique of character and fitness evaluation is the potential for discrimination and the perception of elitism. While fairness, honesty, and openness may be universally regarded as indicative of good moral character, the interpretation of these standards can vary widely among evaluators. What one examiner considers a minor indiscretion, another may view as significant adverse factual information, leading to inconsistencies and disparities in outcomes. These inconsistencies and discrepancies in outcomes diminish the integrity of the process and erode trust. Although the process provides 19 Character and Fitness | FEATURE
As the legal profession evolves, so too must our approach to character and fitness. By recognizing the complexities of choice and the integral role of mental well-being in attorney morality and competence, we can create a more inclusive and resilient legal community.

opportunity for an applicant to express remorse, take accountability, and demonstrate growth for past indiscretions, this expression is not a guarantee of admittance and depends greatly on the evaluators. e evaluation may be influenced by biases, stereotypes, or systemic barriers. Bias may be implicit, which means the evaluator is not even aware of their prejudices. Individuals from marginalized or underrepresented backgrounds may face heightened scrutiny or unfair treatment. Despite demonstrating what many would consider “good moral character,” some applicants still find themselves facing disqualification or hurdles during the evaluation process. ese hurdles can be costly, and resources such as representation may not be available to all. It is essential for the evaluation process to be fair, transparent, and inclusive, recognizing the complexity of human experiences and the potential for subjective, biased evaluation.

It is possible to have “good moral character” and to have made bad choices. e two are not mutually exclusive. We all make mistakes. A bad choice does not make us a bad person. Ask yourself whether there are choices that you regret, especially choices you made in your teens or early 20s. Now, ask yourself, Could someone question whether you have “good moral character” based upon this regrettable choice if they knew about it? I imagine that most of us can answer yes to these questions, but our “good moral character” is intact because we never got caught or there is no record of the choice or maybe we had the resources or the privilege to make sure the choice did not affect our permanent record.

Lawyers are struggling. e legal profession is notorious for its demanding nature, characterized by high stress, long hours, and intense competition. ese factors significantly impact a lawyer’s mental health, yet we continue this demoralizing culture starting in law school. Studies have consistently shown elevated rates of depression, anxiety, unhealthy substance use, and other mental health issues among legal professionals. Despite these concerning statistics, mental health remains a taboo subject in many legal circles, with stigma often deterring individ-

uals from seeking help. When we send a message to incoming lawyers that anything they say can and will be used against them, we foster an environment of stigma and silence. One of the most significant barriers to addressing mental health in the legal profession is pervasive stigma. Many attorneys fear that acknowledging mental health struggles will be perceived as a sign of weakness or incompetence. Shifting the culture to one that prioritizes mental well-being is essential for fostering a healthier and more resilient legal community.

As the legal profession evolves, so too must our approach to character and fitness. By recognizing the complexities of choice and the integral role of mental well-being in attorney morality and competence, we can create a more inclusive and resilient legal community. It is time that we move away from binary categories of good and bad and move toward recognizing, cultivating, and fostering moral resilience. Moral resilience refers to the capacity of individuals to maintain their integrity, ethical principles, and sense of self in the face of moral adversity, challenges, and dilemmas. It involves the ability to navigate difficult situations, uphold ethical standards, and make principled decisions, even in the midst of uncertainty, ambiguity, or external pressures. Moral resilience encompasses qualities such as courage, integrity, adaptability, and perseverance, allowing individuals to remain true to their values and beliefs while effectively addressing ethical conflicts and moral distress. Fostering and cultivating moral resilience offers a proactive and constructive approach to promoting ethical conduct within the legal profession, surpassing the limitations of evaluating character and fitness. Unlike character and fitness evaluations with rigid standards and binary judgments, moral resilience focuses on cultivating individuals’ capacity to navigate ethical dilemmas, challenges, and uncertainties with integrity and adaptability. Moreover, fostering moral resilience encourages a culture of continuous learning, reflection, and growth within the legal profession. Rather than focusing solely on past behaviors or character traits, moral resilience emphasizes the impor-

tance of ongoing self-awareness, self-regulation, and ethical development throughout one’s career. By prioritizing moral resilience, the legal profession can promote a more inclusive and supportive environment that values diversity, empathy, and collaboration. Rather than imposing uniform standards of “good character,” moral resilience recognizes and respects the diverse perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds of legal practitioners, fostering a sense of belonging and trust within the legal profession.

Improving the process involves adopting a more holistic and equitable approach that considers the complexities of the human experience and the potential for growth and redemption. is can be achieved by implementing standardized criteria and transparent guidelines for evaluating applicants, which should reduce subjectivity and bias in decision-making. By recognizing the importance of mental well-being in attorney competence and ethical conduct, we can create a more supportive and morally resilient legal community. Creating a supportive environment for attorneys requires a multifaceted approach. Fostering a culture of open communication and peer support can encourage attorneys and law students to seek help when needed without fear of judgment. Additionally, providing support resources, such as mentorship programs and mental health services, can help applicants navigate the evaluation process and address any underlying challenges they may face. Emphasizing education and training on ethical conduct and professional responsibility throughout legal education and continuing education can also promote a culture of ethical integrity within the legal profession. By developing a more inclusive, transparent, and supportive evaluation process, we can ensure that the character and fitness assessment upholds the principles of fairness, justice, and accountability while promoting the well-being and integrity of all individuals involved.

Sarah Kuchon is a shareholder with Hohauser Kuchon. Kuchon focuses her practice in the area of personal injury law. She currently sits as vice president on the Oakland County Bar Association’s executive board and serves on the Commission for Well-Being in the Law. In addition to being a lawyer, Kuchon holds a master’s degree in counseling and is a board-certi ed counselor. Contact information: Hohauser Kuchon, 363 West Big Beaver, Suite 250, Troy, Michigan 48084; (248) 619-0700;

FEATURE | Character and Fitness 20 LACHES MAGAZINE

Resolving issues outside of a courtroom while applying the experience, skill and knowledge of 30+ years on the bench.

Personal Injury • Civil • Business

Family • Employment • Other

Hon. Mark Switalski (RET) | MEDIATION
Switalski Law & Consulting P.C.-Laches_HPh-062024.indd 1 4/24/24 1:49 PM

How often do you ponder your responsibilities regarding personal identifying information (PII) or its challenging cousin, protected personal identifying information (PPII), when you prepare to file documents in Michigan courts? As part of your proofing process, do you search your documents and any attachments for PPII or to confirm that the reference numbers to PPII are accurate as required by MCR 1.109(D)(9)(b)(i) and (iii)? Do you recall the 2022 amendments to MCR 1.109 that distinguished between PII and PPII and the obligations accompanying this distinction? Do you worry about how to balance your PII obligations while preserving the record? If so, you are not alone.

Recent conversations with Sixth Circuit Court judges, court staff, and Clerk’s Office staff suggest that some attorneys and selfrepresented litigants have either forgotten about their PPII obligations or simply disregard them when preparing documents for filing with the court. A recent, very informal, survey identified 14 orders issued to address PPII violations between January 31, 2024, and March 20, 2024. Offending documents included amended complaints, motions, briefs, responses, and attached exhibits. While 14 orders spread over approximately two months may not seem overwhelming when one considers how busy the Sixth Circuit Court is, this survey sample does not consider the number of unidentified documents containing PPII that slipped through the system or the protected information residing in the domain of public court records.


I raised the term “practical obscurity”1 in the April 2024 article in this space. In short, this is the concept that court records, while officially “public,” rest behind the cloak of practical obscurity, or the limitations and bureaucratic processes associated with accessing paper

The Ongoing Obligation of Protected Personal Identifying Information

records available only at a specific courthouse during business hours. e move toward digital records and the ongoing expectation that one has immediate, unfettered access to information via the internet has challenged this doctrine.

Lori Bienema, chief deputy clerk of circuit court for Rock County, Wisconsin, touched upon some of the challenges arising out of the presence of PPII and PII in paper and digital documents in her paper Identity eft: Securing Your Court Data.2 Referencing two news stories, one arising out of Philadelphia in 2015, where paper court records fell from the truck transporting them for shredding and littered a city street, and a second from Dallas in 2015-16, where a reporter obtained party PII, including dates of birth, Social Security numbers for parents and children, driver’s license numbers, and home addresses online through a public record search, Ms. Bienema highlighted the risks associated with and the need to protect PII regardless of the record format.3

Protected personal identifying information examples include dates of birth, Social Security numbers or national ID numbers, driver’s license or state ID numbers, passport numbers, and financial account numbers used to identify a party or establish proofs relevant to a case.

To some extent, practical obscurity unintentionally helped protect court users from the tremendous amount of personal information required of parties or that they voluntarily submit, often regarding the opposing party, to the legal system in support of their cases by making the information more difficult to access. PPII examples include dates of birth, Social Security numbers or national identification numbers, driver’s license or state identification numbers, passport numbers, and financial account numbers used to identify a party or establish proofs relevant to a case. As highlighted in the Dallas County, Texas, record report, when steps do not exist to protect this information, court filings often include the names, addresses, phone numbers, and other personal information of parties. While this information may be needed to process a case, access to justice should not expose one to risks like identity theft or a general loss of privacy. Michigan’s PPII and PII rules help to address this issue.

e Michigan Supreme Court has worked to address this issue for many years. Administrative Order 2006-2 established limitations on when and how one could file a document containing another’s Social Security number. In 2021, the Supreme Court adopted ADM File No. 2017-28, which amended MCR 1.109, and made certain PII nonpublic, while clarifying the process to redact information. Subsequent efforts resulted in the 2022 adoption of ADM File Nos. 2002-37 and 2017-28, which amended MCR 1.109 and MCR 8.119 to create the new classification of PPII. Critically, the Supreme Court’s efforts target the information of the opposing party. While not recommending the practice, the rules provide that when counsel or a self-represented litigant files the PPII of their party or self, they waive the PPII protection. MCR 1.109(D)(9)(d)(i).

e State Court Administrative Office created form MC 97, Protected Personal Identifying Information, 4 which is used for a defen-


dant, respondent, or decedent, and form MC 97a, Addendum to Protected Personal Identifying Information,5 which is used for individuals not covered by form MC 97, to assist filers in complying with the requirements of MCR 1.109(D)(9)(b)(i). As filers may submit forms MC 97 and/or MC 97a with new filings, counsel or a self-represented litigant uses the corresponding reference numbers for PPII by document rather than attempting to compile a comprehensive litigation library for all PPII referenced in an action.

e recent amendments to MCR 1.109 also simplified efforts to redact PPII from filings. When a party files another’s PPII, the aggrieved party may file a request for redaction of PPII, form MC 97r, with the clerk. MCR 1.109(D)(10)(c)(i). e request requires a party to identify the documents containing specified PPII, including the paragraph number and line number of the PPII one seeks to have redacted.6 Once completed and submitted, the clerk will redact qualifying information. If one wishes to remove PII, one may file an ex

parte motion to protect personal identifying information, form MC 97m.7 Because the court rules treat PII differently from PPII, one must file a motion to request the protection of PII, rather than the request used for PPII. See MCR 1.109(D)(10)(c)(ii).

e distinction between PPII and PII may seem like the splitting of hairs. e processes to protect the two categories of information may seem like administrative mumbo jumbo to individuals who do not regularly address these issues. However, these distinctions represent progress in the protection of identifying information. By using the distinctions highlighted above, the Supreme Court has identified the highest-priority targets, while limiting the interference with the legal process to needed information. Put another way, the rules for PPII and PII identify the different protections provided to various types of information and the consideration that filers should give before filing either PPII or PII.

Hopefully, this brief reminder of our

obligation to protect PPII will reduce the number of orders or requests to redact improperly filed PPII. ank you for your help in this matter.

Richard Lynch is the court administrator for the Oakland County Circuit Court.


1. David S. Ardia, Privacy and Court Records: Online Access and the Loss of Practical Obscurity, 2017 U Ill L Rev 1385, 1387-1388.

2. Lori R. Bienema, Identity Theft: Securing Your Court Data, May 2016, file/0017/18152/identity-theft_securing-your-courtdata.pdf (last accessed March 29, 2024).

3. Identity Theft: Securing Your Court Data, pp 11-21.

4. (last accessed March 29, 2024).

5. (last accessed March 29, 2024).

6. (last accessed March 29, 2024).

7. (last accessed March 29, 2024).

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Co-Advisory/Referral Fees honored.

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DECADES OF EXPERIENCE FROM BOTH SIDES OF EMPLOYMENT LITIGATION Continuing the mission of assisting individual employees and small businesses with employment-rights disputes. Consultation regarding employment-related contracts and severance agreements. Effective litigation of employment rights disputes. Toll Free Phone: 888.421.9704 Local: 248.865.0001 LAWYERS FOR THE WORKPLACE Accepting Referrals of Plaintiff-Side Employment Disputes from Throughout the State of Michigan FARMINGTON HILLS I STERLING HEIGHTS I DOWNRIVER MORGAN &JONES Of Counsel: Dave Kotzian, Ray Carey, and Don Gasiorek 23

Prior to my last article, I reached out to Capt. Melissa McClellan of the Oakland County Sheriff ’s Office and asked some questions regarding courthouse security. Her response was so thoughtful and full of useful information that I did not want to cut any of it out for the sake of fitting it into one article. Instead, I split the information into two different articles. We will get to the rest of that information momentarily. First, I would like to give some information about Capt. McClellan’s career. Yes, I should have led with this in part one. I’m making up for it now. I think you will agree, Capt. McClellan’s accomplishments deserve to be recognized.

Capt. McClellan’s first position with the Sheriff ’s Office was as a civilian clerk over 34 years ago. at span of time with the same organization is amazing in and of itself, but it gets so much better. Her hard work and leadership skills were apparent; she was promoted quite a few times, eventually leading to her promotion to executive lieutenant and jail administrator in October 2016. at is a career anyone could rightfully be proud of and hang their hat on. It wasn’t enough for Capt. McClellan. In 2020, she became the first female captain at the Oakland County Sheriff ’s Office! She is currently commander of the Corrective Services Satellite Division, responsible for overseeing court services. I’m leaving out a lot of the milestones she accomplished along the way for the sake of not getting too far off on a tangent, but this much of a tangent is necessary and deserved.

With that said, I will get back to the topic of this article, courthouse security, and the continuation of questions and answers you saw in part one:

6. Do you have any humorous stories you can tell that pertain to building security?

ere are numerous stories that deputies at security screening stations or throughout the building find humorous, but we’ll share the most common. Many visitors forget which entrance, north or south, they used to enter the

Courthouse Security (Part Two)

courthouse. e ground floor of the courthouse is entered from the south parking lot, and the first floor is entered from the north parking lot. roughout the day, numerous members of the public forget which floor or parking lot they used. It’s easy to tell who the visitors are, as they are often wandering with puzzled expressions. Deputies often intercede and assist. ere have been a few who wanted to report their vehicles stolen after exiting the wrong doors and not finding their vehicles in the parking lot. Deputies solve those cases rather quickly by directing them to the correct floor and parking lot. e best ending is when visitors themselves find it just as humorous. We won’t reveal whether attorneys account for [some of those] forgetting where they parked or which entrance they used. We’ll consider those humorous stories top-secret.

7. Will metal implants of any kind set o the metal detectors? If so, what is the best way for someone with a metal implant to address it with the deputies?

Metal implants will set off metal detectors, including manual hand wands. Deputies follow HIPAA laws and guidelines and will not

take measures to violate confidential medical information. For the safety and security of the courthouse, and to assist with facilitating a security screening, it is best that anyone entering the courthouse inform the deputies in the lobby prior to the security screening stations or prior to approaching the metal detector system of any surgically implanted metal devices and the location. Providing further medical information is not necessary. Deputies take measures to best accommodate a security screening and may use handheld metal detection wandlike devices to facilitate an adjusted screening.

8. Are there things not allowed in the building that people are surprised are not allowed? To recap, any sharp instruments or weapons are not allowed in the courthouse. ere are times when judges will give additional orders prohibiting items within courtrooms. e public is often surprised that fingernail files and clippers, sewing needles, silverware (forks, knives, etc.), small pocketknives, mace, and many other items are not allowed in the building. CPL [concealed pistol license] holders are also surprised to learn that firearms and other weapons are not allowed in the courthouse. e more people are aware of what is prohibited and what they carry on their person or in their belongings, the less frequently security screening stations will intercept weapons and sharp objects. Not bringing prohibited items into the courthouse reduces the time it takes to complete a screening and allows the public to proceed more expeditiously to handle court business.

Deputies at times allow weapons and sharp items to be taken back to their vehicles. However, it’s important for the public and visitors to the courthouse to know that items can and will be confiscated.

9. What challenges did the amendment of MCR 8.115 allowing visitors to bring in their phones create for you and your deputies? Did the amendment make your job easier in any way? If so, how?

Capt. Melissa McClellan

e amendment of MCR 8.115 allowing visitors to bring their cellphones into the courthouses [improved] the security screening process and increased efficiency. Deputies no longer spend time directing visitors to take cellphones to their vehicles and return for rescreening. is previously occurred frequently throughout the day where the public took issue with deputies who enforced the rule. Although, when MCR 8.115 was first amended, we thought it would cause more issues with the public recording and taking pictures within the courthouse — we have a few violators, but not many.

10. Is there anything that attorneys with boxes, stands, carts, etc., can do when entering to make it easier for you and for them?

e best way an attorney can help deputies clear security screening stations more efficiently is to cooperate with the screening process by placing all boxes, stands, carts, etc., through the scanners. e deputies will use the handheld wand device when necessary. As we have stressed, maintaining the safety and security of the courthouse and all individuals who enter is

our top priority. Adhering to the safety screening process by placing the items in the bins and on the conveyor for examination through X-ray screening as efficiently as possible will expedite the process. Deputies will check boxes for metal or sharp objects and weapons, including handguns, that may have unintentionally been brought into the courthouse — believe me, it does happen. Deputies do not want to prolong the process any more than necessary. It is the goal of the deputies to conduct a thorough screening where the attorneys can proceed to handle court-related matters as soon as possible.

11. What would you like those visiting the court to keep in mind when entering the building?

Many visitors entering the courthouse could be experiencing stressful or tough situations; some may be nervous or preoccupied with matters that brought them to the building. Deputies also understand that some visitors are entering for the first time and are unaware of what to do for the screening process. e security screening process is a very important measure. We’d like visitors to


TO INJUSTICE TimothyMasterswasonlyfifteenwhenhestumbledacrossthemutilatedcorpse ofPeggyHettrickinafieldonhiswaytoschool.Almostassoonasthepoliceset eyesonhim,theyweresurehewasthekiller—evenwithnothingbutacollection ofgorydrawingshe’dcreatedasateenagehorrorfanasevidence. Fortenyearstheyhoundedhim,until—withthehelpofanastoundingamount ofmisconduct—theyfinallysucceededinputtinghimbehindbars. In DrawntoInjustice,Timrecountshisjourneytoexoneratehimselfforacrime hedidn’tcommitand,intheprocess,laysbarethecorruptionthatenabledthe criminaljusticesystemtorailroadaninnocentman.

know that the deputies, aside from conducting thorough security screenings, are also there to assist the public. To expedite the process and help them proceed through the screening without further delay, it’s very important to remove all items requested and place them in the bins. e deputies’ role is not to make things complicated or add to what could be an even more stressful day. Security screenings are necessary to keep all who enter safe and to keep weapons out of the courthouse.

What I learned from this is, well, a couple of things, one being that we are in great hands and the Sheriff ’s Office is doing all that can be done to ensure our safety. e other is that our safety, your safety, is also collectively our responsibility. We need to be vigilant of things that seem out of place. If you see something that arouses your suspicions, notify a deputy. It’s better to report something that turns out to be nothing than fail to report something that turns out to be a legitimate threat.

Edward A. Hutton III is the Oakland County Probate Court administrator.

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ReprisedEdition TheWrongfulConvictionof TimothyMasters DTI_Cover_082021-Spine0.747.indd 1 11/8/21 9:26AM Dickinson Wright congratulates Elizabeth Luckenbach on receiving the OCBA’s Professionalism Award Elizabeth L. Luckenbach Member | Troy 248.205.5640 2600 W. Big Beaver Rd., Suite 300, Troy, MI 48084 Dickinson Wright PLLC-Laches_QPv-062024.indd 1 4/22/24 9:50 AM

MARCH 2024



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VisitingRonayne Krause

VisitingRonayne Krause


VisitingRonayne Krause


People v. Craft


People v. Wilson


Nicole Conley v. Ascension Providence Hospital


People v. HarmonFletcher

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John Secrest

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Tim Sulloli, Joshua Mayowski

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Collins Einhorn Farrell PC is pleased to announce that attorneys Michael D. Calvert and Rachel L. Combs have joined the firm.

Michael Calvert is an associate attorney focusing on defense litigation for the firm’s General and Automotive Liability practice group. His practice includes the defense of personal injury, general and automotive liability, and premises liability claims. Before joining Collins Einhorn, Calvert was an associate attorney at another defense firm, where he handled motor vehicle litigation including both first- and third-party auto liability cases.

Calvert earned his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. Prior to that, he received his Bachelor of Arts in political theory and constitutional democracy from the James Madison College at Michigan State University.

As a member of the firm’s Professional Liability practice group, Rachel Combs focuses her practice on the defense of professionals in the legal, medical/ dental, insurance, accounting, architectural, engineering, and real estate fields. She also has experience in first- and third-party insurance defense and veterans law. During law school, Combs served as the form and accuracy editor for the Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce. She also serves as an officer in the Michigan Army National Guard.

Combs earned her Juris Doctor from the Syracuse University College of Law. Prior to that, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Central Michigan University.

2 Cts. Aslt. w/I GBH, Interfer. w/ Electr. Comm., MDOP $200-$1,000

Plunkett Cooney attorney Michael D. Hanchett was recently selected by the Lawyers for Civil Justice (LCJ) as a member of the organization’s Fellows class of 2024.

The LCJ executive committee unanimously voted to include Hanchett in the three-year program based on his extensive experience and expertise in governmental law and employment liability.

Since 1987, LCJ has promoted excellence and fairness in the civil justice system by working to meet the needs of its corporate and defense counsel members and confronting the challenges of business litigation. The LCJ Fellows Program works to identify potential future leaders and rising defense bar talent with an emphasis on those who offer a unique and fresh perspective to civil justice and civil litigation rules advocacy. During the fellowship, Hanchett will engage in policy and rule reform alongside some of the leading defense and corporate counsel in the country.

Hanchett is a member of the firm’s Governmental Law and Labor & Employment Law practice groups. He defends public-sector clients in a variety of litigation with particular expertise in police liability, including searches and seizures, use of force, and corrections law. His practice also includes the defense of employment law disputes involving such issues as alleged discrimination, retaliation, and civil rights claims brought under state and federal statutes. Hanchett also serves as a special assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan.

MARCH 2024
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OCBA committees and programs help our members stay informed on significant developments in their areas of practice, suggest and help shape improvements to the legal profession, and serve the public. Below are just a few examples of our OCBA committees at work. Consider joining any OCBA committee for the networking and educational opportunities. Best of all, joining a committee is a free benefit of OCBA membership.


Bench Co-Chairs: Hon. Andrew Kowalkowski and Hon. Derek Meinecke

Bar Co-Chairs: Timothy Flynn and James Low

To learn more about or to join any one of the OCBA’s 30 committees, visit committees.

The OCBA presented its half-day, biennial District Court Bench/Bar Conference on Friday, March 15, during which local attorneys and judges were able to interact outside the courtroom in an informal, solution-oriented environment. Held at The Community House in Birmingham, the conference allowed attendees to gain valuable insights to enhance their legal practice. The keynote address, which focused on recovering the lost art of civility, was given by Dale L. Hebert and Amy Blackwell, associate general counsels at the University of Michigan. There were two civil and two criminal breakout sessions for participants to attend following the keynote.



Chair: Sarah Kuchon

Vice Chair: Mary Aretha

On March 14, the committee welcomed Harry Cendrowski and James P. Martin of Cendrowski Corporate Advisors, LLC. ey discussed attorney financial well-being from law school to retirement. e aim of this OCBA committee is to advance the betterment of the legal profession by focusing on the well-being of those in the field. It accomplishes this through advocacy, research, education, and support to prioritize the health and well-being of lawyers and judges as a core centerpiece of professional success.


Chair: Christopher Richards e committee was joined by speaker Cedric Ballarin of Bosal on March 20, and he discussed the future of electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell technology. He provided many statistics and charts on energy market trends, oil production, and new forms of energy across the world. e presentation produced a robust Q&A period.

COMMITTEES AT WORK 29 Business Litigators | Business Lawyers | 248.594.5252 Our Partners | Kenneth Neuman, Jennifer Grieco, Stephen McKenney, Matthew Smith, and David Mollicone EXPERIENCED Altior Law - Laches_HPh-062024.indd 1 4/23/24 9:27 AM

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. smartly observed, “History is a great teacher.” I am mindful of his advice as I jot down these comments. My term as Oakland County Bar Foundation president will end shortly after these comments appear in LACHES, and while I will remain active with the foundation, the exceedingly capable Jeff Raphelson will take over as OCBF president. With the benefit of hindsight, I’d like to share a few thoughts on how we can help Jeff and his new board continue the OCBF’s post-COVID resurgence.

First, no purpose is served by patting ourselves on the back. Much like the immediate suspicion evoked by reading some lawyer’s self-congratulatory email about their latest courtroom success, reciting our accomplishments this year would ignore the importance of learning from my mistakes. So I begin with my own failures.

I regret that I could not even out our Signature Event sponsorship this year. e Signature Event is our largest fundraising opportunity and thus generates the most money to help others in need. I am very grateful for our nearly 70 sponsor organizations. We received tremendous support from you this year, and a number of injury- or plaintiff-oriented firms joined our sponsorship or increased their level of support. But the truth is that our individual contributors have been and are mostly business- and defense-oriented firms. Our current and future grant recipients will benefit greatly from an infusion of financial support and creativity from our injury- or plaintiff-oriented colleagues. ose lawyers’ innate desire to fight for victims, the injured, and others protecting their rights is the exact passion we need more of in our foundation. Where I failed to entice more injury- or plaintiff-oriented firm sponsorship, I hope you convince your contacts across the proverbial aisle to join us next year. Second, I regret that I could not attract financial support from additional corporate donors. I knocked on doors of big-box retailers, manufacturers, and other large organizations

Learn from Our Past

that call Oakland County home, but I failed to earn their meaningful participation. Where I failed, I hope you succeed in convincing your contacts and clients to support our mission. As I noted in my initial column, the opportunity to help the less fortunate is not a burden for lawyers alone to bear.

ird, I regret that I did not generate more support for our foundation overall. I am grateful for our nearly 700 Fellows, many of whom are longtime donors, trustees, volunteers, and program sponsors. Your generous support has an immediate, direct, positive impact on hundreds of lives throughout Oakland County. Unfortunately, the need in our community continues to grow. Please encourage other firms and individuals to join you in supporting our important mission. I fell short in our fundraising goal, and to be candid, we need more support.

I cannot share blame for my failures with you or my fellow board members. If you are reading these comments, then you did your part. You support our cause, attend our events, and share in our fellowship. e items discussed above, however, were initiatives I set this year, and I fell short. Former University of California, Los Angeles, legend John Wooden once said, “Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.” Consistent with coach Wooden’s observation, I admit my personal failure to steer the OCBF back to pre-COVID donations with the hope that you dare to step up next year to get us on track. Where I failed to generate support, I hope you have the courage to do better. Step up, get involved, get others involved, and show

that your support for this foundation runs deeper than great networking events.

We have a lot to look forward to next year. Executive board Treasurer Andrew Harris worked hard this year to develop a new fundraising program that plays on our natural competitiveness. He will launch the Coffee Cup Challenge next fall, a unique program that diverts funds from your morning (overpriced) coffee to helping those in need.

Jeff and his administration will also roll out in earnest the Edward Sosnick Memorial Fund. You generously supported the fund this year, and Jeff ’s board will work hand in glove with the court to use those funds to help those working to change their lives.

I appreciate your support this year. I greatly appreciate the OCBF board, executive board, and professional staff. I also want to thank those of you who attended an event, read one of these columns, donated your time, or contributed your money. We helped a lot of people this year, and you are directly responsible for changing lives for good.

If work got the best of you this year, then next year provides a new opportunity to get involved. We need you and welcome your support.

Mike Turco, the president of the Oakland County Bar Foundation, is a business litigator with Brooks Wilkins Sharkey & Turco PLLC, a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, and the proud dad of three daughters with his wife, Monique.

I appreciate your support this year. I greatly appreciate the OCBF board, executive board, and professional staff. I also want to thank those of you who attended an event, read one of these columns, donated your time, or contributed your money. We helped a lot of people this year, and you are directly responsible for changing lives for good.



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1. Prosecution arm of the Michigan Supreme Court (abbr.)

4. Law school’s faculty head

8. Injure

12. By means of

13. Harrison Ford character, briefly

14. Above

15. Zero-emission cars (abbr.)

16. Cries

17. Birdhouse

18. Attorneys in this treatment plan would request an LJAP monitoring agreement

20. Sheep

22. Low-__ diet

25. Domestic __ protection trusts

29. See Rule 1.6 regarding “Authorized Disclosure” and “Disclosure __ to Client”

32. __ Bar of Michigan

33. __ Grande

34. __ Lasso

36. Scottish “no”

37. An appeals court may set __ a conviction

40. Character and __ Committee

43. Number of nonlawyers on 1 Across

44. Captain Hook’s associate

45. Retainer

47. Good __ character

51. Behind schedule

54. Lottery payout option: __ sum

57. Allergy screening blood test

58. Strategy

59. Aid and __

60. Carpool vehicle (abbr.)

61. Property

62. Information

63. Important


1. Declare

2. Provide

3. Money

4. Remove license to practice law

5. Musician Brian

6. Its hearing panels may decide to 4 Down (abbr.)

7. Investors wait for its opening bell (abbr.)

8. “Serve the public in the licensed area in a fair, __, and open manner”

9. Blvd.

10. __ judicata

11. “I pity the fool” proclaimer (2 wds.)

19. Playing card

21. Existed

23. Alphabet sequence

24. Gripes

26. Compos mentis

27. Flight statuses, briefly

28. Golf pegs

29. Templeton in Charlotte’s Web (2 wds.)

30. Plate

31. __ dire

35. Vague

38. Represent the accused

39. Shoe width

41. Entices

42. The Matrix character

46. Flair

48. __-reward analysis

49. Fever

50. Tax

51. Insurance type also known as E&O coverage

52. Pie __ __ mode (2 wds.)

53. Beige

55. Test taken in February or July (abbr.)

56. Kitten’s call

Answers can be found at

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malpractice of others.
248-540-3333 The Googasian Firm, P.C. 6905 Telegraph Road, Suite 140 Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 48301 (248) 540-7213 (fax) Number 669 | June/July 2024 Oakland County Bar Association 1760 S. Telegraph, Suite 100 Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 48302-0181
you are receiving duplicates of this magazine, please call the OCBA at (248) 334-3400.
who pursue
for those whose
by the
Nearly all our clients come to us at the recommendation and referral of another
or one of our own clients. We work hard each day to earn and keep our reputation as lawyers who honor referrals and take superb care of other lawyers’ clients, family members, and friends in times of
and need.

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