A P U B L I C AT I O N O F T H E G R A N D R A P I D S BA R A S S O C I AT I O N
The Grand Rapids Lawyer
Serve. Educate. Promote Justice. MARCH/APRIL 2014
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The Grand Rapids Lawyer
THE GRAND RAPIDS LAWYER is published by the Grand Rapids Bar Association Waters Building 161 Ottawa Ave., NW, Suite 203-B Grand Rapids, MI 49503 www.grbar.org 616.454.5550 / 616.454.7707 fax Editorial Mieke Stoub Anne Marks-Gaertner
IN THIS ISSUE:
Advertising Coordinator Debbie Kurtz
4 Meet the Titans Recap By: Edward P. Perdue
9 Michigan Legal Help By: Angela Tripp
5 President’s Perspective By: Kristin M. Vanden Berg
10 Just Lips Pictures
STAFF Executive Director Kimberly Coleman/ext. 105 firstname.lastname@example.org Executive Assistant/Membership/ Inns Administrator Debbie Kurtz/ext. 101 email@example.com Communications Specialist/ grab LAW Administrator Mieke Stoub/ext. 109 firstname.lastname@example.org
March/April 2014 15 Family Law Section Update By: Lynn M. Perry 16 Member Notes
12 Upcoming Events
6 Indigent Defense By: Peter Cunningham
17 Letter from Judge Gardner
13 Legal Assistance Center Update
7 Criminal Notes By: Timothy K. McMorrow
19 Attorney Spotlight By: Nancy King
14 2014 Officer & Trustee Election
8 YLS Update By: Peter M. Kulas
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Vice-President Patrick F. Geary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 616.458.5358
11 Corporate Counsel Section Meeting Knape & Vogt Manufacturing Company 12:00pm
Secretary Randall Velzen. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 616.233.9160
12 3Rs Program Session Ottawa Hills High School
Treasurer Elizabeth K. Bransdorfer. . . . . . . . 616.632.8000
19 Probate Section Meeting University Club 12:00pm
Administrative Assistant/ Foundation Administrator Elaine Mohre/ext. 100 email@example.com Lawyer Referral Administrator Nancy King/ext. 107 firstname.lastname@example.org OFFICERS & TRUSTEES President Kristin M. Vanden Berg. . . . . . . . . . 616.456.2468 President-Elect Thomas R. Behm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 616.235.5500
Immediate Past President T.J. Ackert . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 616.831.1730 Trustees David E. Bevins. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 616.235.3500 Elizabeth Joy Fossel . . . . . . . . . . 616.336.6000 Benjamin H. Hammond. . . . . . . 616.458.3600 Sarah Riley Howard. . . . . . . . . . . 616.752.2541 Hon. William G. Kelly. . . . . . . . . . 616.554.0717 Edward P. Perdue. . . . . . . . . . . . . 616.458.1300 Courtney L. Quist. . . . . . . . . . . . . 616.454.9008 Brian K. Lawson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 616.235.3500 Marcus Jones. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 616.787.5799 ON THE COVER: Highlights of the 2014 Just Lips Celebrity Lip Sync event. Photo Credit: Mieke Stoub
19 Ask-a-Lawyer Program Grand Rapids Public Library 6:00pm 24 Solo/Small Firm Section Meeting University Club 12:00pm 27 New Attorney Orientation Session I Kent County Courthouse 1:00-5:00pm
27 28 29 30
New Attorney Orientation Session II McFadden’s Restaurant 1:00-5:00pm
14 3Rs Program Session Ottawa Hills High School 14 Ask-a-Lawyer Grand Rapids Public Library 6:00pm
Labor and Employment Section Meeting University Club 12:00pm 9
15 Annual Meeting CityFlatsHotel Ballroom 6:00pm
3Rs Program Session Ottawa Hills High School
17 Criminal & Civil Law Bench Bar Conference Kent county Courthouse 1:00pm 17 Justice Foundation Fellows & Life Members Reception Amway Grand Plaza 5:00pm
For highlights of this years' performances, check out page 10!
28 Marketing Your Practice Through Social Media University Club 11:30am-1:00pm
The Grand Rapids Lawyer
Meet the Titans EDWARD P. PERDUE 路 CO-CHAIR OF THE SOCIAL INTERACTION COMMITTEE
n February 13th, our Bar membership got together at Sundance Grill to kick off our Meet the Titans afternoon networking socials. We had a wonderful turnout as the pictures below demonstrate. The Social Interaction Committee intends for these events to serve as a means for our members to meet, share ideas, network and build camaraderie. The next Grand Rapids Bar Mixer is scheduled for March 27, 2014 at Rockwell/Republic on Division just south of Fulton. Our featured guests will be Judge Johnston and Judge Scoville. Parking is available. We hope to see you there!
The Grand Rapids Lawyer
Shaking the Winter Chills BY: KRISTIN M. VANDEN BERG
his year’s ceaseless wintry weather has made me want to curl up with a book in front of my fire. Of course, staying home is not an option. Instead, the weather has just made it a bit more difficult to do everything that still needs doing. Fortunately, events on the February calendar have helped us to shake off the winter chills. On February 13, 2014, the GRBA held the “Meet the Titans” mixer at Sundance Grill. I think both Dennis Kolenda and Bruce Neckers blushed a bit when they heard the name of the program, but there is no doubt that the event was a great success, drawing a terrific group of Bar members across the age spectrum. I feel privileged to know such Titans, and I thank the organizers for giving us all a chance to have a drink with them. I hope that it will be only the first of many such gatherings. As I write this, I am anticipating (with some dread) my upcoming performance in Just Lips! on Thursday, February 20, 2014. Every time this event rolls around, I find
myself wondering how it is that the GRBA and the Justice Foundation manage to convince so many lawyers, judges and other dignified people to put on funny costumes, pretend to perform music, and otherwise look silly in front of a large crowd of colleagues and friends.
privileges require that they give back to their communities. And they step up to meet those responsibilities daily. The event shows yet another rarely acknowledged fact about lawyers in this community: they know how to have fun. We may take our work seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We find ways to get together, to get to know one another, and to laugh. The Just Lips! event gives us an opportunity to poke goodnatured fun at one another. And, as I regularly remind myself, a little humiliation in support of a worthy cause is good for the soul.
Of course, it can partially be explained by our secret ambitions to be performing artists, which largely have been repressed in our efforts to be taken seriously. But that explanation is insufficient. Instead, the event’s success arises from the deep commitments of the performers and the audience to the work of the Justice Foundation. Lawyers in the Grand Rapids community consistently and generously give of their time and treasure to further the goals of the Justice Foundation – to improve the administration of justice, to educate the public about the law and core democratic values, and to support programs that provide legal services to those who cannot afford them. Across the board, our attorneys recognize that their professional
By the time you read this article, the 2014 Just Lips! event will be over. I can safely predict that it will have been even more successful that in past years. And all of the performers will have gone back to their day jobs, with both gratitude and a bit more humility. Thanks to everyone who made it possible, and thanks to those of you who took the time to come in out of the cold to enjoy it.
The Grand Rapids Lawyer
Indigent Defense BY: PETER CUNNINGHAM · DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS, STATE BAR OF MICHIGAN
n July 1, 2013, Governor Snyder signed into law the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission Act. This historic legislation represents the most sweeping reform to indigent criminal defense in Michigan in decades.
• The same defense counsel continuously represents and personally appears at every court appearance throughout a case except for ministerial tasks and hearings.
The bill creates the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC), charged with proposing minimum standards for the local delivery of indigent defense services to adults. Once the Michigan Supreme Court approves those standards, the MIDC will work with local systems to ensure compliance with those standards, and to identify and encourage best practices in indigent defense services.
• Defense counsel is required to attend relevant continuing legal education.
The MIDC will consist of 15 members appointed by the governor with nominations coming from the following: Speaker of the House of Representative (2); Senate Majority Leader (2); Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1); Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (3); Michigan Judges Association (1); Michigan District Judges Association (1); State Bar of Michigan (1); minority bar associations (1); and Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (1). In addition, the Governor will appoint one member to represent the general public and one member to represent local units of government. None of the individuals appointed may be compensated for either defending or prosecuting indigent criminal defendants while they serve on the commission. Development of Minimum Standards and Local Implementation
The act requires the MIDC to establish minimum standards that effectuate the following principles: • The delivery of indigent defense services should be independent of the judiciary, but the system should allow for judicial input. • Defense counsel is provided sufficient time and a space where attorney-client confidentiality is safeguarded for meetings with defense counsel’s client.
• Defense counsel is systematically reviewed at the local level for efficiency and for effective representation. The MIDC is required to hold public hearings before proposing any standards, and the standards must be approved by the Michigan Supreme Court before going into effect. Once a standard has been approved, local systems will have to submit plans, including a budget, to the MIDC for approval. The act outlines procedures for dispute resolution between the MIDC and a local system if a plan is not approved after three submissions. Funding and Enforcement One of the biggest changes under the new act is that the costs of indigent defense services will be a shared responsibility between the state and local units of government. The “local share” of the cost is calculated as the average amount a local system has spent on providing indigent defense services over the three years prior to the creation of the MIDC. Any costs above this local share that are required to meet the new minimum standards will be funded by the state through grants provided by the MIDC. If the state does not provide the additional funds that were approved by the MIDC in the annual plan, then the local system is not required to meet those standards.
The act also provides for enforcement if a local system does not meet the MIDC standards, culminating in the court ordering the MIDC to provide indigent defense services instead of the local system along with a financial penalty for the local system. Current Status
• Defense counsel’s workload is controlled to permit effective representation.
While the Governor has not yet appointed the members of the MIDC, Governor Snyder’s FY 2015 budget proposal does include a $1 million appropriation for the Commission, so appointments are expected soon.
• Defense counsel’s ability, training, and experience match the nature and complexity of the case to which the person is appointed.
The actual legislation and legislative analysis of the Public Act can be viewed here: http://legislature.mi.gov/doc. aspx?2013-HB-4529.
The Grand Rapids Lawyer
The Tension Between Public Sanctions for Conduct
he criminal law is designed to protect the public, but also to express our belief that certain conduct is unacceptable and subject to criminal sanction. Examples of the latter, sometimes referred to as “victimless crimes,” are common. For example, the various laws against illicit drug possession and use. The problem arises when the criminal law attempts to criminalize speech, or conduct that is intended to convey a message, even where the “speech” in question strikes many as odious. In United States v Alvarez, ___ US ___; 132 S Ct 2537 (2012), the Supreme Court held that the “Stolen Valor Act,” which makes it a crime to falsely claim receipt of military decorations or medals, was unconstitutional as written as a content-based restriction on free speech. In Snyder v Phelps, ___ US ___; 131 S Ct 1207 (2011), the Court held that the First Amendment shields a group from tort liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress when the group picketed military funerals to communicate their belief that God was punishing the United States for tolerance of homosexuality. On January 15, 2014, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCullen v Coakley. The case involves a Massachusetts law that creates a “buffer zone” around abortion clinics, in which no one can approach
The First Amendment BY: TIMOTHY K. McMORROW • KENT COUNTY PROSECUTORS OFFICE
a woman entering the clinic in order to offer her information or encouragement not to proceed with an abortion. That “buffer zone” extends to the public sidewalk in front of the clinic.
Courts have generally upheld narrowly tailored laws that govern the time, place and manner of free speech. The classic example, of course, is that a state can criminalize someone shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. A state can preclude someone from holding up a protest sign in the middle of a crowded intersection. And a state could certainly prohibit someone who claimed that their “speech” included the right to blockade an abortion clinic acting within the law, or to in any way physically restrain a person from doing what the person had a legal right to do. But was the Massachusetts law involved in McCullen v Coackley narrowly tailored enough to withstand constitutional scrutiny?
No one questions that it would be unconstitutional to create a total ban on protesting the existence of abortion clinics, or protesting that abortion is lawful. On the other hand, the right to have an abortion, while somewhat restricted in recent years, is still a recognized right, and a state law that completely outlawed abortion in most cases would be unconstitutional. Does a woman who has decided to have an abortion have a right to proceed into a clinic free from harassment?
Reviewing the transcript of the oral argument shows extreme skepticism on the part of the majority of the United States Supreme Court. I suspect that the Court will rule that the Massachusetts law is overly broad, while leaving open the possibility that a more narrow law, designed to protect the rights of the protestors and those seeking abortions, would be permissible. These issues will inevitably arise in new contexts. The tension between the right of the state to protect its citizens and the right of the citizens to free speech will never end; and in a vibrant, and often messy, democracy, it never should end.
Well, no. At least not entirely. What the petitioners were asking was the right to offer literature to those entering the clinic, and to encourage them from not obtaining an abortion. They were not attempting to physically stop them from entering the clinic. Their conduct was entirely peaceful. On the other hand, if you were a woman who had decided, for whatever reason, to terminate a pregnancy, and were acting legally in going to a clinic in order to have an abortion, would you feel harassed by protestors, however well meaning, who tried to discourage you from obtaining your legal right to have an abortion? Well, yes. grbar.org
The Grand Rapids Lawyer
Tricks of the Young Lawyer Trade BY: PETER KULAS · KULAS LAW OFFICE
Howdy readers! It’s Peter Kulas of Kulas Law Office, PLLC writing to you all once again. As the
current Chair for the Young Lawyer’s Section this article is my last as a Board member for YLS. Over the past two years I’ve written two articles with the underlying theme of encouragement to get people involved with both the legal and Grand Rapids community and now I turn my focus on the logistics of how I started my solo practice and some tips I’ve learned along the way. • Tip number 1: Office space? Don’t feel that you need to have an office right after you get sworn in. Office space is expensive – especially if you are located downtown. You want to start making money, not spending money. Personally, I waited until I had saved enough to cover the rent for six months before signing a lease. This was a nice cushion in the event I had a bad month or two. So what do you do in the interim? Well depending on the client you are meeting you have many options. I met estate planning clients at their home – usually a safe scenario and helps make talking about death less frightening. I met other clients at the GRBA office. They have two conference rooms that can be utilized at a reasonable rate. Finally, if I was meeting a client I needed to have checked through security before I met them, I would meet them at the court house in one of their conference rooms – my momma didn’t raise no fool. Besides if you spin the meeting the right way you can advise your client that the courthouse is the ideal location because if your client forgets some paperwork you can easily examine the court file. • Tip Number 1.5: Address without an office. When you start out and you do not have an office, I highly encourage you to get a PO Box and not use your home address on your pleadings and mailings. This helps keep your “interesting” clients from knowing where you live. The cost is very minimal depending on which post office you go through. The downtown location averages $10 to $15 per month. • Tip number 2: Reputation is everything. Do I really need to belabor this? • Tip number 3: Keep overhead low! I hinted at this in tip number 1, but I cannot stress it enough. There are tons of ways to keep costs low. The State Bar of Michigan has various relationships worked out with companies to offer discounts including Staples. Buy in bulk when you can to save money and always look online for coupons. There is no shame. Also, I’m a member of OfficeMax’s reward program and I receive about $50 - $100 in store credit over the course of the year depending on how much I spend. • Tip number 4: Get a laser printer. They cost more at first, but the overall value is greater than an inkjet printer and your pleadings will look sharper. I know you are going to exclaim that the cartridges are more expensive, but if you use www.supermediastore.com to purchase the off-brand ones, you can get them at one-fourth the cost. I learned about this website at the 2010 ICLE Solo & Small Firm Institute and I have not yet been disappointed. • Tip number 5: Utilize the resources you have. You do not need to own your own law library because interestingly enough there’s one located downtown – the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Aside from being able to conduct research, it also operates as a great way to preview some of the ICLE, WestLaw, and Lexis books before you commit to purchasing them. Even better Cooley has two computers reserved for GRBA members to use for WestLaw research – just show your Bar membership card! I hope these tips help and I welcome any new attorney to contact me with questions about starting out solo. I’ll try to assist as best as I can.
The Grand Rapids Lawyer
New Tools for Self-Represented Persons in Michigan BY: ANGELA TRIPP · MICHIGAN LEGAL HELP
hen MichiganLegalHelp. org launched on August 17, 2012, initial estimates expected around 3,000 visits per week to the legal information website. This estimate proved too conservative – by January 2013 there were over 5,000 visits per week, and by January of 2014, nearly 9,000. The response to Michigan Legal Help (MLH) in its first 18 months demonstrates the need for assistance for those who must represent themselves because they cannot afford to hire a lawyer or because nonprofit legal aid agencies do not have enough resources to help everyone who qualifies for their services. In 2011, the US Census Bureau reported income statistics across the nation, and revealed that 1.68 million people in Michigan live at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level ($745 a month for a family of four). This represents 17% of Michigan’s population, and an astounding 65% increase from 2010. Resources for legal aid were not increased during this time, and the result is that more and more people each year find themselves without legal representation. This need was one of the factors that led to the creation of the Michigan Legal Help
website, which provides free legal information to people who cannot afford an attorney and need to represent themselves in simple legal matters. It makes legal information easier to understand and shows self-represented people how to navigate the court system properly and efficiently.
In addition to the website, Michigan Legal Help works with communities to open local legal Self-Help Centers, with staff (called ‘navigators’) who help visitors find what they need on the website, answer basic questions about court practices and processes, and provide information about forms that are available on the website. Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Centers are now open in Wayne, Oakland, Allegan, Oscoda, Muskegon, Monroe and Marquette counties. Neither the website nor navigators are a substitute for hiring a lawyer, as visitors cannot get legal advice only legal information.
The website contains information on many areas of law in the form of articles, toolkits, forms and instructional checklists to help prepare people who represent themselves in court. Many court forms can be completed using a simple question and answer interview format. The website can help users look for a lawyer in their area by connecting them with local legal aid offices, local lawyer referral services, and the State Bar of Michigan’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service. The website content is accurate, up to date, and accessible. The content goes through a long development process that includes review by substantive law experts and a committee of substantive law leaders, and two rounds of plain language review. All content is reviewed at least once a year, and modified between reviews when errors or changes in the law are identified.
While Michigan Legal Help cannot make everyone capable of representing themselves in court, it is a very useful tool for people who are faced with going to court without an attorney. When they are better prepared and educated about their rights and responsibilities, self-represented litigants are more likely to move through the justice system more effectively and more efficiently. When you meet with potential clients, and learn they cannot afford your services, MLH is a referral you can give them with confidence.
The Grand Rapids Lawyer
2014 c n y S Lip
The Grand Rapids Lawyer
New Attorney Orientation These two sessions offer a great opportunity for new attorneys to get better acquainted with Grand Rapids’ closely-knit legal community. Session I March 27, 2014 from 1:00-5:00 pm Kent County Courthouse Session II April 3, 2014 from 1:00-5:00 pm McFadden’s Restaurant - Pearl Room
Criminal & Civil Law Bench Bar Conference April 17, 2014 • 1:00pm - 5:00pm Kent County Courthouse Representatives from the Bench and Bar will host an interactive, honest, and constructive dialogue that will benefit any and all practices. Topics will include civility and ethics.
Justice Foundation Fellows & Life Members Reception April 17, 2014 Amway Grand Plaza Hotel • Sky Rooms I & II
Annual Meeting May 15, 2014 CityFlatsHotel Ballroom • 6:00pm
12 The Grand Rapids Lawyer
That’s a Good Question:
A Conversation with the Legal Assistance Center
The LAC is a legal self help center. What is legal self help? Legal self help is the service of providing very basic substantive and procedural legal information, forms and informational resources to people facing civil legal problems without a lawyer. Why don’t people just hire a lawyer? Many people simply can’t afford to. Can’t those people get a lawyer at Legal Aid? Legal Aid of Western Michigan takes as many cases as they can, but more people need legal help than the lawyers at Legal Aid can represent. What about getting a pro bono lawyer? Despite the generous pro bono service of many lawyers in our community, it is still impossible for everyone who needs a lawyer to get a lawyer. How many people come to the LAC? In 2013, there were 17,818 visits to the LAC, an average of 88 people each day that the LAC was open. Who comes to the LAC? Most of the people who come have limited education, high school or less. 58% have annual income under $20,000; 70% have annual income under $30,000. Slightly more are women than men. They are white, black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American. What kinds of issues are they dealing with? Over 70% are dealing with family issues – divorce, custody, paternity,
child support and parenting time. There are also many questions about housing issues such as security deposits and evictions. The rest include things like collections, small claims, guardianships, and simple probate. Who is helping all these people? The LAC has 3 program staff, 1 full time (an experienced paralegal, Charlie Campbell), 1 part time (a lawyer, Anne Jbara) and 1 one day per week (a law student, Zach Marco). The director, Deborah Hughes, is also a lawyer. Everyone else is a volunteer.
action to take, what to include in a court form to best advocate for themselves, or help preparing a document or order. Does the LAC help them find a lawyer? Yes, the LAC recommends that many, many people get help from a lawyer. We often recommend people use the GRBA Lawyers Referral and Information Service. That way they can get a 30 minute conference with an attorney for only $25. Could lawyers get paid for work by people who come to the LAC? Yes. Although people cannot pay for ongoing representation, they may be able to pay for an advice visit or document preparation if the hourly rate or project cost is affordable for them.
Who volunteers? The volunteers are largely students from Cooley Law School, Davenport University and Grand Valley State University aspiring to careers in law. Others are lawyers or other community members. All volunteers are trained and supervised by staff.
To be continued … If you have questions about the LAC, contact Executive Director, Deborah Hughes, at 632-6007 or deborah@ legalassistancecenter.org.
Do the staff or volunteer lawyers give legal advice? No one at the LAC gives legal advice. No matter what your education, experience or professional license, when you are at the LAC, you are only giving information and guidance, never legal advice. Don’t people need legal advice? Yes, very often they do. Even someone trying to handle a simple matter on their own often needs some advice about what course of
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The Grand Rapids Lawyer
2 01 4 E L E C T I O N S
Nomination Committee Announces 2014 Candidates Electronic Voting will take place between April 8 & April 18, 2014 Pursuant to Article III of the Bylaws, you are notified that the Nominating Committee, appointed by Kristin Vanden Berg, President, and approved by the Board of Trustees, has made these nominations for the 2014 Elections. The Nominating Committee members were, Thomas R. Behm, Nikole L. Canute, Patrick F. Geary, Richard E. Hillary II, Aileen Leipprandt, and Ross D. Plont.
Timothy K. McMorrow Vice President
Hon. Christopher P. Yates Vice President
Angel C. Dotson Trustee
Bradley K. Glazier Trustee
Joseph J. Gavin Trustee
Richard A. Gaffin Trustee
Perrin Rynders Trustee
Stephanie Newton Trustee
FOR A PERIOD OF TEN (10) BUSINESS DAYS AFTER THE PUBLICATION OF THIS NOTICE, UNTIL MARCH 22, 2014, THE BOARD SECRETARY, RANDALL L. VELZEN, WILL RECEIVE ADDITIONAL NOMINATIONS FOR OFFICERS AND TRUSTEES. NOMINATIONS MUST BE MADE IN WRITING, MUST BE ENDORSED BY AT LEAST FIFTY (50) ACTIVE MEMBERS, AND RECEIVED AT THE BAR ASSOCIATION OFFICE NO LATER THAN 12:00P.M. ON MARCH 22, 2014.
14 The Grand Rapids Lawyer
“ You r”Grand Rapids Bar Association Family Law Section BY: LYNN MARIE PERRY · CHAIRPERSON
Upcoming programs at the University Club are: MARCH 26, 2014
“Collaborative Law & ADR” Moderated by Randall Velzen APRIL 23, 2014
“Business Valuations” Presented by Paul McCarthy and Eric Larson MAY 28, 2014
“Property Case Law Update” Presented by Elizabeth Bransdorfer SEPTEMBER 24, 2014
“Emails, Texts, and Tweets – Discovery Requests Oh My” Presented by Kyle Quinn, Joseph Doehle and Judge Paul Denenfeld OCTOBER 22, 2014
“Affordable Care Act – Is it affordable and who cares?” Moderated by Barbara Homier NOVEMBER/DECEMBER
To Be Announced. Contact Debbie Kurtz at the GRBA to make a reservation.
purpose of the GRBA Family Law Section is twofold, first to Thereview and share changes in the laws, court rules and procedures
pertaining to the practice of family law and secondly, involve local practitioners in efforts for the efficient, predictable and civil practice of family law in Kent County. The Family Law Section (FLS) currently has 181 members, which is 13% of the GRBA total membership. The FLS is committed to being proactive and provides its members regular legal education at least eight times each year by traditionally sponsoring lunch programs at the University Club. The topics are often suggested by the members to the Executive Committee which is charged with the task of guiding the Section each year. The FLS maintains regular contact with the Family Division Judges, Referees and Friend of the Court to provide feedback to the Court of procedural issues, assist with Court projects, i.e. settlement week and pilots, and promote collegiality between the Bench and the Bar. The Executive Committee consists of seven voting members including the Chairperson, the Chairperson-Elect, the Secretary and four at-large members. For 2014, the FLS Executive Committee consists of: Lynn Marie Perry - Chairperson, Kyle Quinn – Chairperson-Elect, Mary Pigorsh – Secretary, and the at large members: Barbara Homier, Daniel Borst, Jennifer Faber, and Meghan Lipford. Ex-officio members are: Rob Lalley – immediate Past Chairperson, Leslie Curry – Pro Bono/Legal Aid Liaison, Referee John Kmetz – Court Liaison, and Dan Fojtik – Friend of the Court Liaison. Our monthly Executive Committee meetings are held on the first Wednesday of the month at 8:10 a.m. in the GRBA offices. Section members are welcome to attend. The FLS also endeavors to provide networking and socializing opportunities for its members beyond our lunch programs. Currently, the FLS sponsors a golf outing and holiday mixer, but we are always looking for new ideas. The FLS has been involved in fundraising for Legal Aid and has partnered with other Sections to provide programs. The FLS is also working with Thomas M. Cooley Law School to provide educational and networking opportunities for its students and recent graduates with local family law practitioners For a list of events and registration information, visit the Grand Rapids Bar Association website or contact them at (616) 454-5550.
The Grand Rapids Lawyer
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MEMBER NOTES • Clark Hill Attorney Jeffrey Van Winkle named chair of the National Small Business Association for 2014 • Jennifer A. Puplava, a member of the law firm of Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones PLC, was recently elected Vice Chair of the Cascade Township Downtown Development Authority Board. Jennifer practices in the areas of trademark and copyright law, technology and Internet law and related commercial litigation. • Attorney Randall L. Velzen of Velzen, Johnsen & Wikander, P.C. was elected President of the Collaborative Practice Institute of Michigan (“CPIM”).
• Scott A. Hughes, an associate of the law firm of Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones PLC, was elected as Vice President of the Board of Directors for Camp Blodgett. In the legal field, Scott concentrates his practice on civil litigation, as well as environmental and energy and natural resources law. • John J. Bursch of Warner Norcross & Judd LLP has been recognized by Michigan Lawyers Weekly as one of its 2014 “Leaders in the Law.” • Stacie Behler, Mary Bonnema, Joy Fossel, and the Hon. Sara Smolenski were all honored as Grand Rapids Business Journal’s The 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan.
Visit our website for more news from your fellow Bar members • www.grbar.org 16 The Grand Rapids Lawyer
Santa Rocks! The week before Christmas there appeared on my deck a letter from Santa addressed to the Family Division Judges. In the card were 25 gift cards of $20.00 each. The gift cards were directed to be used for children on our docket who might go without notice or a gift over the holidays. My investigation about this secret Santa leads to one conclusion only, “Santa” is one or a group of generous attorneys who work in the Family Division. Although anonymous it offers the opportunity to recognize the many generous gifts of our outstanding bar association who give with pro bono services, serving as a CASA or big brother / big sister, work on many boards who provide services to our litigants and in countless other ways. I am humbled to work in a profession who continues the strong tradition of giving back to its community and most vulnerable citizens. Thanks Santa – your gifts were put to good use and made a difference for many children.
Pa tricia D. Ga rdn er Presiding Judge Family Division
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18 The Grand Rapids Lawyer
Attorney Spotlight: JAMES
BY: NANCY KING · LAWYER REFERRAL AND INFORMATION SERVICE
ne of the newest additions to our Lawyer Referral and O Information Service is Attorney James Sterken, who passed the Bar in February, 2013 after finishing his legal education at the Grand Rapids Campus of the Thomas Cooley Law School. Born and raised in Grand Rapids, he is a graduate of Grand Rapids Union High School and Alma College. Shortly after getting the results of his bar exam, he joined the firm Rodenhouse Kuipers P. C., practicing civil Litigation, family law, and criminal law. First in his family to attend college, he had always wanted to become a lawyer, but student loan debt and a great job opportunity prevented him from doing so right away. He first spent eight years with a large Wall Street firm, and he later joined a multinational pharmaceutical company. He held various positions with them, ending as a regional manager of a specialty division. A merger-related restructuring of
the company created a splendid opportunity to attend law school, and he was finally able to pursue a dream postponed. His favorite part of his job echoes the responses of so many of our fine attorneys. “It sounds trite,” he says, “but seeing a client show a relaxed smile after getting something resolved” he finds satisfying on a human level. “I like dealing with people,” he says. “It is a privilege to be a trusted source of help in a time of high stress for an individual. Attorney Sterken also volunteers with the LRIS office, an experience he finds helpful in establishing his law practice. “While many of the issues that arise may seem quite minor, the people who are experiencing them are usually under real stress.” Dealing with our callers, he believes, helps him become a better and more focused listener. He asked to add, as a final statement in our interview, that he wants to thank his beautiful wife Joan and daughter Claire for all the love and support they have given him as he went through a major career shift. He considers himself a very lucky man. Thank you, Attorney Sterken, for all you do for LRIS.
THANK YOU to our Just Lips 2014 sponsors! The Justice Foundation of West Michigan and the Grand Rapids Bar Association extend heartfelt thanks to the sponsors of the 2014 Lip Sync Contest, Just Lips! PLATINUM
ATTORNEYS AND COUNSELORS
Ameriprise Financial Amway Barnes & Thornburg Drew Cooper & Anding Dykema Federal Bar Bankruptcy Section Foster Swift Collins & Swift, PC Keller & Almassian, PLC Kent County Office of the Defender
Kluczynski, Girtz & Vogelzang Meijer Plunkett Cooney Rhoades McKee Sinas, Dramis, Brake, Boughton & McIntyre, P.C. Velzen, Johnsen & Wikander, P.C. Wheeler Upham Young Lawyers Section
BRONZE Adamy Valuation Advisors Gardner Linn Burkhart & Flory, LLP Grand Rapids Law Group, PLLC Kulas Law Office
Merantile Bank Newton Law Offices PLC Quist Hansen 19
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