Each year, the Women Lawyer’s Association of Michigan recognizes outstanding leadership in advocacy for the advancement of women, judiciary role models, and regional development.
WLAM Proudly Announces the 2018 Awardees
Jean L. King Award 2018 Awardee: Julie I. Fershtman
Julie I. Fershtman is a Shareholder in the Southfield, Michigan, office of Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith, PC, where her practice focuses on insurance defense, commercial litigation, insurance coverage, and equine law.
Julie was the 2011-2012 President of State Bar of Michigan (only the 5th woman). More recently, in 2015-2016, she co-chaired the State Bar’s “21st Century Practice Task Force,” which examined issues facing the legal profession and offered recommendations to protect the public and support lawyers in the face of a rapidly changing profession. She currently serves on the board of trustees of the Michigan State Bar Foundation and the Board of Directors of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society.
She has tried cases before juries in 4 states and has been admitted pro hac vice counsel in state and federal courts in 17 jurisdictions. She is listed in The Best Lawyers in America for Commercial Litigation and Insurance Law.
A frequent speaker, her speaking engagements span 29 states, primarily on topics of liability, insurance, and risk management. She writes frequently and is the author of 2 books and a contributor to 5 books published by the ABA. She has written more than 400 published articles and is an active blogger.
She graduated from Emory College in 1983 and Emory Law School in 1986. Julie and her husband, Robert Bick, live in Franklin. Their daughter, Katie, is a Junior in college.
The Jean King Leadership Award is given each year to commend a lawyer or judge for his/her outstanding leadership in the advancement of women. This individual brings honor, esteem, and respect to the legal profession. It is awarded to a visionary and risk taker who holds true to beliefs in face of vocal opposition; demonstrates the highest standards of integrity, fairness and leadership; actively supports and motivates others to operate at their highest potential for the benefit of the entire community; encourages and mentors others to be leaders; has made a positive change and influence in the course of the law; faces everything and avoids nothing; and shows visionary leadership in the face of opposition and outstanding efforts toward the advancement of women and the legal profession.
Mary S. Coleman Award 2018 Awardee: Honorable Denise Lanford Morris
Judge Langford Morris has been on the Oakland County Circuit Court bench since 1992, becoming the first African American judge on the court. She is currently the “dean of the bench,” which means she is the longest-serving member of her bench, and she is the first female and African American “dean.” Before taking the bench, she was the first African American trial lawyer to work for Oakland County Prosecutor L. Brooks Patterson, and also served as an assistant US attorney and spent some time in private practice. Judge Langford Morris earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wayne State and her JD from Detroit Mercy Law, all while raising her daughter. Before and during law school, she was a social worker with the Michigan Department of Social Services, working on behalf of abused and neglected children and the elderly. She helped form the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association, an organization formed to promote legal practice opportunities for minorities and women. She is the past chair of the National Bar Association Judicial Council and a past president of the Association of Black Judges of Michigan, and has served on numerous boards, including HAVEN, the Oakland Livingston Human Services Agency, and the Child and Abuse Neglect Council. She currently serves on the board of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, the Salvation Army’s William Booth Legal Aid Clinic, and the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan. She is also on the University of Detroit Mercy Board of Trustees and chairs its Academic Affairs Committee. She has received numerous honors and awards, including the Oakland County Bar Association’s Professionalism Award, the State Bar of Michigan Champion of Justice Award, and the Black Women Lawyers Torchbearers of Justice Award. In 2006, the Detroit Mercy Black Law Students Association began awarding the Annual 1L Denise Langford Morris Scholarship. She is the 2017 UDM Law School Alumna of the year.
The Mary S. Coleman Award is awarded to a current or former member of the Michigan federal, state, or tribal judiciary whose leadership, talent, and significant contributions to women provide a role model for women in the profession and women in general.
Geraldine Bledsoe Ford Award: Honorable Theresa Doss
Theresa Doss, retired Judge of the 36th District Court for the City of Detroit, is an honor graduate of Ohio University. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Law in 1964. Her class at The Ohio State University College of Law consisted of only three women, with her being the only black graduate. She was admitted to practice in the courts of Ohio in 1964 and since 1966, has been admitted to practice in Michigan. In 1975, Judge Doss was admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. She received a Masters of Arts in history from Wayne State University in 2000.
On January 19, 1976, Governor William G. Milliken appointed her to the Common Pleas Court for the City of Detroit making her the first African- American woman appointed to a judgeship and the second African- American woman to sit on a trial bench in Michigan. She became a 36th District Court Judge upon its creation on September 1, 1981.
She served as Chief Judge of her court and served on the State Judicial Council. In 1990, the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court selected Judge Doss to serve on the Commission on the Courts in the Twenty First Century. She was elected three times by her peers in statewide elections to the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission. During her last year, she served as its vice-chairperson.
Judge Doss is active in community affairs. She is a life member of the NAACP and the National Council of Negro Women and former member of the boards of directors of the Michigan Metro Girl Scouts Council and the Neighborhood Service Organization. She is active in her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and is an active member of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church. In addition, Judge Doss and her family established the Doss Wahls Foundation, a private foundation that awards scholarships to diverse college seniors.
This new annual WLAM award is intended to recognize individuals and organizations, including those outside of the legal profession, who support the advancement of women and minorities and have shown a commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion for all people, whether it be through recruiting and retaining women and minorities in key positions, having a significant percentage of women and minorities in executive positions or equity partnership levels, providing mentoring/sponsorship to women and minorities, promoting work-life management for women and minorities, providing increased leadership opportunities for women and minorities both internally and externally, handling legal matters which protect women’s rights, or furthering the mission of the WLAM to promote equality and social justice for all people.
2018 Regional Leadership Awardees: Alexandria L. Casperson and Alena M. Clark
Alexandria L. Casperson is currently the Department Executive of the Wayne County Mortgage and Deed Fraud Task Force, the first of it’s kind in the nation, working to protect properties in Detroit and across the county. Prior to serving in this role, she was a Wayne County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney where she handled cases in various specialized units including Public Integrity, Arson, Deed Fraud, and Child Abuse.
Alexandria has been involved with Women Lawyers Association of Michigan since 2014, serving on the first Domestic Violence Committee, and is currently serving her second term as the Programming Director for WLAM-Wayne region. She is an active member of the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Michigan and has participated in the Detroit Bar Association’s Inn of Court.
Alexandria earned her bachelors degree in Crime and Social Justice from the University of Michigan in 2011 and her juris doctorate from Michigan State University College of Law in 2014. She spent a semester of law school interning for the United Nations at a Criminal Trinunal in the Netherlands. She is originally from the Upper Peninsula.
Alena M. Clark currently serves as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for the County of Saginaw. She practices criminal law in the 70th District Court, 10th Circuit Court as well as the 10th Circuit Juvenile Division. She handles cases ranging from misdemeanors such as Domestic Violence and OWI to felonies including Armed Robbery and Felonious Assault. Prior to joining the Prosecutor’s Office under Prosecutor John McColgan, Alena served as Judicial Staff Attorney for the Honorable Daniel A. O’Brien of the Oakland County Circuit Court Probate Division, and as a Judicial Staff Attorney for the Honorable Charlene M. Elder of the Wayne County Circuit Court Family Division. She also served a year with the City Attorney’s Office for the City of Dearborn as a Law Clerk.
Alena is a member of several nonprofit organizations and serves on their executive boards. Currently she serves as the Vice President of the Great Lakes Bay Region of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, as well as Vice President for the State Executive Board of the Women Lawyers Association. In 2013 she was recipient of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan Regional Leadership Award.
Alena received her Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in 2009. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Arts from Western Michigan University in 2006, which included a semester of study at the Universidad Autónoma de Quetéreo in Quetétaro Mexico. Her primary areas of focus at WMU were Spanish and History.
The Regional Leadership Award recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of an individual WLAM member who has demonstrated professionalism, excellence and dedication to furthering the objectives of WLAM.
Jean L. King Leadership Award
Pioneer of Self-Determination for Women and Girls
Presented in commendation for visionary leadership in the face of opposition and outstanding efforts toward the advancement of women and the legal profession.
|Alice B. Jennings is a partner in the law firm of Edwards & Jennings, P.C. Ms. Jennings attended Michigan State University (MSU). She graduated in 1971 with a B.A. in Social Work.
Ms. Jennings also performed work on her Masters in Social Work at MSU. Ms. Jennings attended Wayne State University Law School, after working for the Detroit Board of Education as a teacher and social worker for several years.
Ms. Jennings was a founding member of the Black Women’s Lawyers Association. She is a member of the National Bar Association, the Wolverine Bar Association, the Michigan Trial Lawyers Association, the American Trial Lawyers Association and Trial Lawyers for Public Justice.
In 1978, Ms. Jennings received her J.D. and passed the Michigan state bar examination. After graduating from law school, Ms. Jennings served her legal apprenticeship with the Michigan law firm of Philo, Atkinson, Darling, Steinberg, Harper and Edwards. After a few years, Ms Jennings became a partner with the Philo firm. In 1982, Alice B. Jennings, with her partner, Carl R. Edwards, established the law firm of Edwards & Jennings, P.C. From 1996 to 1998, Ms. Jennings was the Chairperson of the Civil Liberties Section of the Michigan State Bar Association.
Since 2012, Ms. Jennings has been a Board member of the James and Grace Lee Boggs School. The school focuses on “place based” community education.
Ms. Jennings has focused her most recent practice on employment/labor law, civil rights, and whistleblower cases. In addition, she is involved in personal injury cases and cases involving environmental justice. As part of her philosophy to expand social justice, Ms. Jennings has mentored hundreds of law clerks, lawyers and community activists.
|Deborah L. Gordon is a trial lawyer specializing in the areas of discrimination and civil rights since 1977. She served as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan in the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Division and a Senior Trial Lawyer for the EEOC. She has been a Cooperating Attorney for the ACLU since 1982, and, in that role, won, among other cases, a precedent setting case blocking “drunk driving roadblocks” in the State of Michigan. Ms. Gordon has won over 50 jury trials on behalf of plaintiffs in discrimination and civil rights cases. She is former chairperson of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the State of Bar of Michigan, and is a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ), the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, and the Federal Bar Association (FBA). She has been listed in “The Best Lawyers in America” (employment and labor law) since 1987 and is a frequent lecturer and author.|
|Carole Chiamp has practiced law since 1974 and is the principal in the firm Chiamp & Associates, P.C., a general practice law firm with an emphasis on divorce litigation. Ms. Chiamp has also served as a mediator and arbitrator since 1975. She is a graduate of the Detroit College of Law, and has been honored with awards ranging from Best Lawyers in America, DBusiness Top Lawyer, Distinguished Alumni Award from Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University and a Champion of Justice Award Recipient from the State Bar of Michigan, to name just a few. Ms. Chaimp has helped shape the family law and works tirelessly to ensure that voices of women and children are represented both inside and outside the courtroom. Ms. Chaimp is a columnist for the Michigan Family Law Journal, a faculty member of the Annual Family Law Institute, and has written several important articles including Trial Preparation for Family Law and Tort Remedies for Domestic Abuse: An Underused Avenue of Relief. Ms. Chaimp has given a voice to survivors of domestic violence before many had the courage to speak.
Carole’s dedication is not limited to women in the legal profession. She volunteers her services at the Detroit Public Schools, she is a lifetime member of NAACP, and she serves on the Board of the Citizens for Better Care, an independent non-profit consumer advocacy and information agency for residents of long-term care and their support people. Services include regional ombudsman services in nursing homes, adult foster care, homes for the aged, family council development, family support services, elder abuse education, state and federal legislative and policy advocate, and participation in consumer coalitions. Carole also finds to the time to serve on numerous professional associations and boards, including the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission, Michigan Civil Rights Commission, 21st Century Commission on the Courts, Task Force on Child Support and Alimony Awards, and is a Past President of the Detroit Bar Association.
|Dawn Van Hoek is Director of the State Appellate Defender Office, Michigan’s only state-funded public defense agency. Twice recognized by Michigan Lawyers Weekly as one of the state’s most influential lawyers, Ms. Van Hoek has chaired the State Bar’s Representative Assembly, Attorney Discipline Board hearing panels, and co-chaired the Bar’s Task Force on Racial, Ethnic and Gender Issues in the Courts and Legal Profession. She has served as President of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan Foundation since 1997, leading a scholarship program that has awarded nearly $500,000 to 210 outstanding women law students. Ms. Van Hoek is a past president of the statewide Women Lawyers Association of Michigan and also has served as the President of the Wayne Region Women Lawyers Association of Michigan.
A recipient of the 2013 Metro Detroit ACLU’s Bill of Rights Award, Ms. Van Hoek was honored in 2014 with the WLAM Foundation’s Legacy Award. She currently serves on the boards of the Michigan Campaign for Justice, the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, and Wayne County’s Criminal Advocacy Program. Her community service includes serving as a mentor in the Just the Beginning Program, linking college-bound students with practicing lawyers.
|Judge Smolenski began her legal career in 1983 as an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Grand Rapids. She joined the firm of Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, where she practiced until her election to the 63rd District Court bench in 1990. She has ably served as 63rd District Court Judge for the last 22 years; she was appointed Chief Judge of that court in 1996 by the Michigan Supreme Court. Judge Smolenski’s contributions to organizations supporting women and children are impressive. Her resume details service on many Boards of Directors, including the YWCA, the American Cancer Society, the Kent County Literacy Council and St. John’s Home for Children. She was the coach (and star player) for the women’s team in the first WLAM Western Region Women
Lawyers vs. Judges Charity Softball Game, and she now serves as the coach (and, still, star player) for the judges’ team.
|Lorraine Weber is the daughter and granddaughter of lawyers. An honors graduate of the University of Michigan and Boston College of Law, she joined Wayne County Probate Court in 1979, where she served as Probate Division Attorney, Juvenile and Probate Register and Court Administrator. She left the Court to serve as Project Director for the Michigan Supreme Court Task Forces on Gender and Racial/Ethnic Issues in the Courts. Two landmark reports were issued from the Task Forces outlining recommendations for improving fairness and eliminating bias in Michigan’s legal system.
Ms. Weber has served as special advisor to the State Bar of Michigan Task Force on Racial/Ethnic and Gender Issues in the Courts and the Legal Profession and Director of the State Bar of Michigan Open Justice Commission. She helped to develop programs aimed at eliminating all forms of bias in the legal profession and promoting fairness in the courts. She is a founding member and former Board member of the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness Issues in the Courts. She received the Consortium’s Founders Award in 1999.
Ms. Weber currently serves as Executive Director of the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Foundation, working with law firms, courts and community organizations to improve the quality of justice through education, dialogue, and community activities. The Foundation supports a diverse mix of programming, including the Detroit Legal Services Clinic, the For the Seventh Generation program and the Cooley Pro Bono Mentor program, among others.
Ms. Weber is an adjunct Professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. In 2003, she received the Community Service Pride Award from the Triangle Foundation. She is an ordained minister involved in a spiritual support groups for young girls and women. Since 2005, Ms. Weber has been the assigned mentor for the young women attorneys nominated to participate in the nationally recognized Mentium program and sponsored by the WLAM Foundation.
2011 Jennifer Salvatore
2010 Kathy Bogas
2009 Hon. Melinda Morris
2008 Deborah LaBelle
2007 Kim Cahill
Mary S. Coleman Award
First Woman Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court
Presented in recognition of significant contributions as a judiciary role model for women in the legal profession and in society.
|Judge Jennifer M. Faunce was elected to office and began serving her first term January 1, 2003 at the court for Warren and Centerline.
Prior to her terms on the bench, Judge Faunce served as State Representative for Warren and Sterling Heights for four years. During her time at the state house she chaired the Committee on Criminal Justice. One of the most important laws she passed was bill that cleared the way for GM to invest $1 billion into the Tech Center. Before her election to the state house, Judge Faunce served as an assistant Macomb County Prosecutor for seven years.
Judge Faunce has continuously given her time to charity throughout her community. In 2001 she was recognized for her work as the recipient of the March of Dimes Macomb Alexander Citizen of the Year. She served as chairman of the board for the Hemophilia Foundation of Michigan and is active with Families Exploring Down Syndrome (FEDS).
Judge Faunce was born and raised in Warren. She received her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and her law degree from the University of Detroit School of Law. Judge Faunce and her family are members of St. Martin de Porres Church in Warren. She and her husband live in Warren with their two children.
|The Honorable Denise Page Hood was confirmed as a District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in 1994 and became Chief Judge of the Court on January 1, 2016. Judge Hood presides over criminal and civil matters, including the Dow Corning bankruptcy/breast implant case involving the $3.1 billion Settlement Facility-Dow Corning Trust, where in excess of 145,000 claims have been filed. She is an active member of several professional organizations: Immediate Past Co-Chair of the Michigan State Planning Body for legal services; the State Bar Pro Bono Initiatives Committee; and the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Foundation Board. She is past president of the Detroit Bar Association and the Association of Black Judges of Michigan. Honors recently received include: the 2016 Damon J. Keith Soul and Spirit Humanitarian Award; the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association’s 2014 Trailblazer Award; the Olivet College 2009 Leadership in Individual & Social Responsibility Award; the 2008 “Powerful Woman of Purpose” Award presented by the Rhonda Walker Foundation; the Michigan Women’s Foundation’s 2008 Women of Achievement and Courage Award; and the 2008 Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s Award of Excellence; the 2005 Michigan Anti-Defamation League’s Women of Achievement Award; and the Damon J. Keith Community Spirit Award in 2000. Judge Hood is a graduate of Yale University and the Columbia University School of Law.|
|The Honorable Marianne O. Battani was nominated to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan by President William Clinton in June, 1999 and confirmed by the Senate in May, 2000. Prior to her appointment to the federal bench, she served as a state circuit court judge in Wayne County, Michigan, since 1982. Judge Battani has participated in numerous legal, educational, and charitable organizations. She is a former Commissioner of the State Bar of Michigan, Past President of the Women’s Lawyer’s Association of Michigan, past Chair of Michigan’s Judicial Tenure Commission, and Trustee Emeritus of the Michigan State University College of Law. Judge Battani graduated in 1972 cum laude from the Detroit College of Law.|
|Court of Appeals Judge Kirsten Frank Kelly graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1978, and from the University of Detroit School of Law with a Juris Doctor degree in 1981. She joined the Detroit law firm of Durant and Durant, where she practiced civil litigation, and became a partner in the firm in 1987. In 1987, she was elected to the Grosse Pointe Park Municipal Court, and she was twice reelected to that position. After taking time off in 1991 following the birth of her third child, Judge Kelly formed another law firm and practiced both civil and criminal law. In 1994, she was appointed to the Wayne Circuit Court by Governor John Engler.
In 1997, Chief Justice Conrad Mallett appointed her presiding judge of the Family Division of the Wayne Circuit Court. In 1999, she was appointed as the presiding judge of the juvenile division of the Wayne Circuit Court. Judge Kelly was elected to the Court of Appeals in 2000. She is the chairman of the Court of Appeals Quality Review committee and serves on the Rules committee as well. She is a frequent speaker for the ICLE Family Law Seminars.
Judge Kelly has served two terms as President of the Michigan Association of Municipal Judges, served on the board of directors of the Michigan District Judges Association, and has been a hearing panel Vice Chairman for the Attorney Grievance Commission. She has been a volunteer with the Legal Alternatives for Women Program, supervising and instructing attorneys and lay volunteers in the proper application and implementation of domestic violence law. Judge Kelly serves on the Board of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan. Judge Kelly’s civic activities include being an advisory board member for KIDS-Talk, a member of Leadership Detroit XVII, a charter member of the Grosse Pointe Sunrise Rotary, a board member of the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan and a current board member of the Detroit Executive Leadership Committee for the Kidney Foundation.
|Justice Marilyn Kelly recently retired from the Supreme Court after 24 years as a judge. She was Chief Justice from 2009-2011. In 2010, she and James L. Ryan, senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, established the Michigan Judicial Selection Task Force. Their bipartisan reforms to Michigan’s method of selecting judges were praised by the Detroit Free Press as an “indispensable first step toward reform of a broken status quo that is undermining public confidence in the courts.”
Justice Kelly credits her advancement in the legal profession to her experience in the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan. “I was elected to the bench immediately after serving as President of the Women’s Bar Association and WLAM. There’s no question in my mind that what I learned working in those organizations was essential to my later success.”
A Michigan native, Justice Kelly grew up in Detroit. She earned her undergraduate degree from Eastern Michigan University, followed by graduate study at LaSorbonne at the University of Paris and at Middlebury College in Vermont, where she earned her master’s degree. She is an honors graduate of Wayne State University Law School.
Michigan Lawyers Weekly named her “Women Lawyer of the Year” in 2012. She received in that same year lifetime achievement awards from the Michigan Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Appellate Practice Section of the State Bar of Michigan, the Michigan Chapter of the American Constitution Society, the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel, and the Detroit and Michigan Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
A well-known advocate for access to justice, Justice Kelly co-chaired the State Bar’s Open Justice Commission and is on the board of the National Consortium for Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts. Justice Kelly is currently a Distinguished Jurist in Residence at Wayne State University Law School where she has established a scholarship for students interested in public service law.
|Chief Judge of the 46th District Court, the Honorable Susan M. Moiseev first took the bench in 1986 and has been re-elected by the voters of the 46th district four times. A longtime Southfield resident, over the years Judge Moiseev has been involved in a wide range of community activities. Among the organizations and causes she has supported are Relay for Life, the American Heart Association Walk, Battle of the Books, Southfield Community Foundation Women’s Fund, Special Olympics and the Law Enforcement Torch Relay for Special Olympics, DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), and Friends of the Southfield Library and others. Currently, she serves on the boards of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Aging Services Committee of Jewish Senior Life.
In addition to her activities in the community Judge Moiseev has also been actively involved in legal organizations on the local, state and national level. In 2009 she served as President of the Michigan District Judges Association. She represents the State Bar of Michigan in the American Bar Association House of Delegates.
Geraldine Bledsoe Ford AwardRecipients
Regional Leadership Awards
These awards are presented in recognition and celebration of professionalism, excellence and dedication to furthering the objectives of WLAM.
Erin Klug (Oakland Region)
Jennifer Stallings Dewey (Wayne Region)
Elizabeth Welch (Western Region)
Tanya Lundberg (Oakland Region)
Torree J. Breen (Mid-Michigan Region)
Ellen E. Hoeppner (Wayne Region)
Kristin L. Murphy (Oakland Region)
WLAM Oakland Region
Kelly Brushaber (Western Region)
L. Nichole Smithson (Wayne Region)
Kristin A. Stone (Macomb)
Alena Clark (Wayne)
WLAM Mid-Michigan Region
WLAM Western Region