Approximately 100 members of the Western District of Michigan Chapter of the Federal Bar Association met for the chapter’s Annual Meeting at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel’s Imperial Ballroom on September 22, 2016. The meeting capped off another busy year for our FBA chapter, which included the investiture of the Honorable Ray Kent as our newest United States Magistrate Judge; the 35th anniversary celebration for the Hillman Advocacy Program; the welcoming of Tom Dorwin as the new Clerk of Court; the retirement of the Honorable Allen Edgar; and a number of successful programs over the past year.
I am deeply honored to have been elected to serve as the Chapter President for the upcoming year. Our Chapter has three primary initiatives for the next year:
- Bench Bar Conference: Our Bench Bar Conference will take place from September 14-16, 2017 at Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island. The BBC, which takes place once every three years, draws our federal judges and practitioners together for a series of educational programs and an extended opportunity to get to know each other better and enjoy each other’s company. Spouses and significant others are encouraged to attend.
- Advanced Trial Skills Advocacy Series: The chapter is launching an Advanced Trial Skills Advocacy Series as a pilot program this year. The program will involve three 90-minute sessions with outside speakers and federal judges from our district covering best practices and lessons learned on trial skills issues. The first session on November 16 focuses on voir dire. Chief Judge Robert J. Jonker will be the judicial moderator of the voir dire program.
- Improving Communication/Ease of Access: The Chapter will work to improve communications and ease of access for members with the Chapter. The Chapter is committed to finding ways to better communicate with members and to make it easier for members to register for events and communicate feedback to Chapter leadership.
The annual meeting was capped off with an interesting and informative presentation from Sam Finklestein, the founder and CEO of Legal Prep Charter Academies, a charter high school in Chicago dedicated to improving diversity in the legal profession by improving access to educational opportunities for at-risk students. Mr. Finklestein spoke of the importance of attorney volunteer involvement, which has been an essential component of the success that the charter school has had to date. More information on Legal Prep Charter Academies can be found at legalprep.org.