A Century of Leadership
To all our Past Presidents, thank you for your service.
|2018-2019 Donna M. MacKenzie View Bio
Immediate Past President Donna M. MacKenzie is a partner with Olsman MacKenzie Peacock & Wallace and she specializes in representing individuals injured as a result of nursing home neglect and abuse, medical malpractice, and birth trauma.
Ms. MacKenzie has received numerous awards and recognition for her work, including being recognized by Crain’s Detroit Business as one of Michigan’s Most Notable Women Lawyers in 2017, being selected to the Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leaders in the Law Class of 2017, receiving the F. Scott Baldwin Award from the American Association for Justice in 2015, being named to the Michigan Top 100 Super Lawyers list from 2015-2019, and being recognized in 2016 and 2018 by Best Lawyers in America as Medical Malpractice “Lawyer of the Year” in Troy.
Ms. MacKenzie is also the author of a number of legal articles, and a frequent speaker at seminars presented by the Institute for Continuing Legal Education, State Bar of Michigan, American Association for Justice, and Michigan Association for Justice. Her topics include all aspects of nursing home litigation, as well as the resolution of Medicare liens in personal injury cases.
Ms. MacKenzie is also a leader in a number of state and national organizations. She is currently the Vice President of the Michigan Association for Justice, Vice Chair of the American Association for Justice Nursing Home Litigation Group, a member of the council of the State Bar of Michigan Negligence Section, and Immediate Past President of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan (WLAM). In April 2018, Ms. MacKenzie was sworn in as the 100th President of WLAM.
Ms. MacKenzie is a Fellow of the Michigan State Bar Foundation, a Fellow of the Oakland County Bar Foundation, and a Trustee of the Macomb County Bar Foundation. These non-profit organizations serve the public by funding and promoting programs to increase access to the justice system.
Ms. MacKenzie regularly serves as a case evaluator in Macomb County, and has served as a private arbitrator in civil disputes.
She also serves as a team co-captain for the annual “Walk to End Alzheimers” and “The Longest Day” events, both of which benefit the Alzheimer’s Society.
Ms. MacKenzie has also testified before the legislature a number of times to protect patient’s rights, including testifying against bills that would have given hospitals and physicians complete immunity for negligence that occurs in the Emergency Department.
|2017-2018 Julie Gafkay View Bio
Immediate Past President Julie A. Gafkay was admitted to practice in Michigan in November 1995. She is the owner of Gafkay Law, PLC and practices employment discrimination and sexual harassment throughout Michigan. She is the immediate-Past President of Women Lawyers Association of Michigan. She serves on various professional boards and committees, as well as being involved in community boards and organizations.
|2016-2017 Suzanne Sukkar View Bio
Past President Suzanne Sukkar is a U.S. Business Immigration Attorney at the law firm of Dickinson Wright PLLC based in its Ann Arbor, Michigan office. Her practice focuses on global workforce mobility, employment-based sponsorship and visa matters, immigration audit and compliance for corporate and individual clients across a vast array of industries. Suzanne renders expert strategic and tactical counsel to a broad clientele base including visa matters for client’s employees at all levels of the corporate organizational structure, from the highest level executives, to the entry-level business professional, investors, extraordinary ability workers, outstanding researchers and professors, musicians, artists and athletes, and more. She developed a niche expertise in the area of E treaty trade and investor visas, consular processing, and start-up ventures. Through strategic planning and by offering creative solutions, she has assisted with the seamless transfer of numerous workers world-wide. She is also an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
Ms. Sukkar’s honors include being named Best Lawyers of America in Immigration Law since 2015, as well as, Super Lawyers in Immigration Law since 2012, DBusiness Top Lawyers, and Leading Lawyers 2018. In addition, she has been selected as a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and Michigan State Bar Foundation, where membership is limited to only 1% and 5% respectively of lawyers licensed to practice in each jurisdiction. In June 2015, she was appointed to the State of Michigan’s Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. Since 2005, Ms. Sukkar has served on the WLAM state and regional boards. She also serves on the Board of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce.
|2015-2016 Kristen Pursley View Bio
Past President Kristen Pursley is the managing shareholder at The Dobrusin Law Firm, an Intellectual Property boutique firm located in Pontiac, Michigan. Ms. Pursley graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law. She is currently a member of the Executive Committee for the Michigan Intellectual Property Inn of Court and a Business Advisory Board Member at the Macomb-OU INCubator. She is also a past president of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan Oakland Region, a Trustee for the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan Foundation and a Board Member for Encore Performing Arts Center which oversees the Flagstar Strand Theater in Pontiac. Ms. Pursley represents clients who are tier-one suppliers for the automotive industry, medical diagnostic and device manufacturers, and consumer product and packaging producers.
|2014-2015 Michele Rivas, first Latina President of WLAM View Bio
Michele Rivas is Kapnick Insurance Group's in-house general counsel, who also serves as a Senior Compliance Attorney and the Compliance Department Manager. Michele has over 15 years of experience providing legal services and consulting in the areas of employee benefits, employment, and corporate law to a variety of clients, ranging from small employers to Fortune 500 companies.
In regards to benefit compliance, Michele provides advice with respect to a wide range of compliance and regulatory issues within the following areas: the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Health Care Reform”), Internal Revenue Code, ERISA, HIPAA, COBRA, FMLA, FLSA, federal and state tax and labor laws, and state insurance laws. Michele has written many articles regarding timely benefit topics and often speaks on key employee benefit challenges facing employers. Some recent presentations and articles include Affordable Care Act Reporting and IRS 226J Letters, HIPAA Privacy and Security for Covered Entities, and COBRA Considerations in Mergers and Acquisitions.
Prior to joining Kapnick, Michele was a member of the employee benefits/employment and business transaction groups of Dykema, Honigman, Jaffe and Ice Miller. Michele is a Michigan Super Lawyers Rising Star, and an American Bar Foundation fellow. Michele graduated magna cum laude from Michigan State University College of Law with a concentration in corporate law. Michele has performed pro bono work for Elder Law of Michigan regarding benefit matters and the Detroit Bar Association drafting wills for the elderly. Michele also enjoys volunteering and is a frequent volunteer of the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference.
|2013-2014 Marla Linderman|
|2012-2013 Hon. Angela Sherigan View Bio
Judge Angela Sherigan serves as the Associate Judge for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, in Manistee, MI., where she has served for 11 years, and is the managing partner of Wojnecka & Sherigan, P.C. in Shelby Township, MI., practicing criminal defense, Federal Indian Law, and tribal law.
Judge Sherigan currently serves as the Chair of the American Indian Law Committee for the State Bar of Michigan, is on the Council of the American Indian Law Section, a member of the Public Policy Committee of the State Bar of Michigan, the Secretary for the Michigan Indian Judicial Association, a member of the Tribal-State-Federal Judicial Forum, a Trustee of Michigan Indian Legal Services, and the Macomb County Bar Foundation.
In 2013 she was named a Leader in the Law by Michigan Lawyers Weekly, and is the recipient of the 2016 Tecumseh Peacekeeping Award from the American Indian Law Section.
She is a former President of the Macomb Region and the only person to serve two terms as president of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan,
|2012-2012 Julie Wagner View Bio
Julie has a Juris Doctorate from Valparaiso University, a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and Communication from Hope College, a Master's Certificate in International Consumer Product Regulations from Michigan State University and PhD coursework in Organizational Development and Leadership from Western Michigan University. Julie is an accomplished marketer, scientist and civil litigator with over 19 years of experience in both an in-house corporate legal department and law firm setting. She has exceptional international experience in managing civil litigation, commercial transactions, licensing, intellectual property protection, advertising compliance, claims substantiation, consumer privacy, consumer safety regulations, regulatory compliance, and healthcare. She has protected the reputation of almost two dozen of Fortune's Top 300 Companies concerning their consumer products and sales practices in the United States, Canada, Latin America, Asia and the European Union. Julie was instrumental in fostering strong brand loyalty and favorable public opinion through crafting effective marketing messages, effective intellectual property protection and exceptional regulatory legal guidance during the development, manufacture and sale of safe and effective consumer products. Julie is a published author and an award winning writer and speaker on federal and international product laws and regulations. Currently, she serves as Managing Counsel and Director of Global Regulatory Affairs at Glanbia Performance Nutrition, Inc. which is a parent company of many well-respected sports nutrition brands such as Optimum Nutrition, thinkThin, Isopure and BSN. Julie lives in Ada, MI with her husband, John, and two children, Danny and Katie.
|2011-2012 Hon. Angela Sherigan|
|2010-2011 Lysa Postula-Stein View Bio
Social justice has been the focus of Lysa Postula-Stein’s overlapping careers in law and community revitalization. She dedicated her WLAM Presidency (2010-11) to equal pay and family responsibility discrimination. During her ten years on the Board of Directors, she helped to foster the evolution of WLAM, from an organization that advocates for women’s access to the legal profession, to one that supports their retention and promotion into leadership roles. Ms. Postula-Stein’s inaugural Annual Meeting at Greenfield Village (a/k/a The Henry Ford) was the first to prioritize a family-friendly venue and schedule, resulting in the highest attendance and profit margin of any statewide event in WLAM history. Her board meetings are believed to have been the first ones to welcome children, provide regular babysitters, and standardize remote attendance.
In her legal practice, Ms. Postula-Stein currently engages in social impact litigation. The Flint Water Crisis in Flint, MI has been a recent focus of her practice. In 2017, she initiated a pending case against the Flint Housing Commission for failure to satisfy statutory requirements in assisting public housing and housing subsidy beneficiaries in accessing vital household utilities. In the meantime, Ms. Postula-Stein has begun to fight water shut-offs and liens against the homes of people who fall behind in paying their inflated water bills. Additionally, in response to the US Foreclosure Crisis, Ms. Postula-Stein lobbied state legislators on two strategies intended to reduce blight and increase access for low-income families to affordable housing.
Previously, Ms. Postula-Stein was known as "the only female securities attorney in Michigan," primarily advocating for the rights of female and elderly investors in litigation against investment professionals and the nation’s largest brokerage houses. In the course of opening and closing approximately 700 plaintiff’s securities cases, Ms. Postula-Stein challenged brokerage house practices for advising investors and managing accounts. She also influenced the U.S. Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.
During that time, Ms. Postula-Stein was appointed for six years to the State Bar of Michigan Standing Committee on Character and Fitness and served on the Executive Board of Michigan’s League of Women Voters - Oakland Area. At the beginning of her legal career, Ms. Postula-Stein was a State of Michigan Court of Appeals Prehearing Attorney and a long-term Intern for the United States District Court in Chicago, IL. She is the only clerk or intern to ever receive permission from Judge George W. Lindberg to use his court opinions as her personal writing samples.
As a Community Development Consultant, Ms. Postula-Stein has helped to strengthen several arts, education, and empowerment organizations in Detroit. She is a former Executive Director of The Birmingham Temple, and she was the first in-house Grant Writer for the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit. Early in her career, Ms. Postula-Stein focused on improving education for minorities. She was Co-Founder of LEAP, Living Educational Alternatives Program, and a Program Coordinator of Detroit Compact, a collaboration between the Detroit Chamber of Commerce and Detroit Public Schools.
Ms. Postula-Stein obtained her JD from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 2000 and her AB in Social Sciences from the Residential College of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 1991. She speaks Spanish proficiently and is acquainted to varying degrees with American Sign Language, French, Hebrew, and Arabic.
|2009-2010 Kim Winokur View Bio
Kim received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. She received her Master of Laws in Corporate and Finance Law from Wayne State University Law School. She has been practicing law in Michigan since 1996, in Southeastern Michigan and more recently in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She was a founding partner of the Michigan Professional Guardianship Group Inc. where she represented the most vulnerable of adults.
Kim is a past president of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan (2009-2010) and President of Zonta Club of Marquette Area (2017-2018) and has served on many boards. She is a certified Civil, Domestic, and Advanced Elder and Adult Family Mediator and earned her certificate from the Probate and Estate Planning Certificate Programs. Kim is engaged in the general practice of law with emphasis in probate and estate planning, elder law, special needs planning, and mediation. She is admitted to practice in Michigan and before the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan; U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, the Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa Tribal Court, and is a Veterans Administration Accredited Attorney. Kim is a member of the State Bar of Michigan and its Probate and Estate Planning, Elder Law and Disability Rights, and Taxation Sections, Marquette County Bar Association, and National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). She is a 2011 recipient of the Mary Foster Leadership Award presented by WLAM- Washtenaw Region.
|2008-2009 Ann Erickson Gault View Bio
In February 2016, after nearly 20 years of practice, and more than 10 years at Oakland County Circuit Court, Ann took a leap of faith and hung out her shingle as an attorney and legal writer at her firm Ann Erickson Gault PLC. Ann’s specialties are appeals, contract writing for other attorneys and law firms, and limited scope representation.
In May 2017, Ann became of counsel to the firm Cohen, Lerner, and Rabinovitz, PC in Royal Oak, where she primarily practices business litigation.
Ann recently launched her campaign for Oakland County Board of Commissioners, 11th District. If elected in November 2018, Ann will represent people of Troy, Rochester Hills, and Auburn Hills.
For the past 14 years, Ann has lived in Troy with her husband Thomas Gault, a project manager with General Motors Corporation, and her daughter Eleanor, a student at Larson Middle School.
In the free time she doesn’t really have, Ann is an avid reader and gardener.
|2007-2008 Kristin Arnett View Bio
Kris graduated from Michigan State University with an undergraduate bachelor's degree in General Business/Pre-Law. She obtained her Juris Doctorate from the West Virginia University College of Law in 2002, and then returned to Michigan where she was admitted to the Bar that same year and began her legal career.
Kris began working at the Gallagher Law Firm where she focused on estate planning, probate and trust administration, and probate and trust litigation. She then joined the firm of Foster Zack and Lowe; and later the Hubbard Law Firm where she added domestic relations and mediation to her practice. Kris is now working at Newburg Law in Grad Ledge, Michigan where she continues to practice in those fields, with an emphasis on mediation. Kris is a trained mediator in domestic relations,
general civil, special education, and child protection.
She counts herself fortunate to have worked with outstanding attorneys throughout her practice.
Kris is active on the Family Mediation Council, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Dispute Resolution Services Center of Central Michigan.
Kris is married with two growing daughters. She is a school representative to the Okemos School District Parent Teacher Council.
Kris joined the WLAM soon after being admitted to practice law, and held the position of Regional Representative for the Mid-Michigan Region for a number of years. During her time on the Board and her Presidency of WLAM in 2007, Kris worked with amazing and dedicated women who were devoted to the advancement of women in the practice of law. Being a part of WLAM is uplifting and empowering, and Kris looks forward to continuing to support the mission of WLAM.
|2006-2007 Kathleen M. Allen View Bio
Kathleen Allen is a lawyer with a passion for advocacy and community. A 1989 graduate of Valparaiso School of Law, she has been a practicing attorney focusing on expanding access to justice for nearly three decades Kathleen has been actively involved with non-profit organizations that protect the interests of the disadvantaged as a volunteer Board Member, Director, attorney, and fundraiser for over 20 years. After being a life-long West Michigan resident, Kathleen recently relocated to Southeast Michigan. She now is a member of Lakeshore Legal Aid where her practice currently focuses on individual advocacy in consumer, housing, family, and civil litigation.
Kathleen’s entire career demonstrates her commitment to serving those who are marginalized or underserved. She was legal director for Michigan’s first pro se clinic, Past President of The State Board of the Woman Lawyers Association of Michigan and Board President of The Arc of Kent County, a non-profit advocacy agency for people with developmental disabilities. She served several years as Board member of Catholic Social Services West Michigan, which operates foster care and other social welfare programs.
Prior to relocating to Southeast Michigan, Kathleen was a long-time attorney with Legal Aid of Western Michigan, representing low income clients. While there, she established and served as the director of the Legal Aid of West Michigan Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, an IRS-affiliated taxpayer assistance program. Kathleen also was a member of the Grand Rapids Bar Association, participating in several committees and the American Inns of Court.
Kathleen passion for service also extends to her profession. She served as a member of the State Bar of Michigan Representative Assembly from 2006 to 2011 when she was elected its clerk. Kathleen served as Chairperson of the State Bar’s Representative Assembly from 2013 to 2014, which allowed her to serve with the State Bar of Michigan Commissioner and its Executive Committee. Kathleen is a member of the State Bar of Michigan Foundation.
Ms. Allen received the 2004 Ford Motor Company Menttium Award from the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan Foundation and was recognized as a 2008 Athena Award Finalist.
|2005-2006 Ann L. Routt View Bio
Ann was president of the Washtenaw Region of WLAM from 1994-95 and of the state organization from 2005-2006.
Ann is the Deputy Director of the Michigan Advocacy Program (MAP) where she began her legal career as a staff attorney in 1985. During her over three decades at the organization, MAP has grown from an organization serving four to one covering thirteen counties and administering five statewide programs – Farmworker Legal Services, Michigan Poverty Law Program, the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative, and Michigan Legal Help. Through individual representation and systemic advocacy, MAP provides access to justice for the indigent and other special populations. As deputy director, Ann is engaged in litigation, supervision, training and grant administration. In her substantive work, Ann has specialized in legal issues impacting low income parents and survivors of domestic violence.
In 2013, Ann was recognized as a Champion of Justice by the State Bar of Michigan for her commitment to ensuring access to justice for low-income and other vulnerable populations. This commitment is further demonstrated by her other bar and community activities including serving as a founding member and current president of the Fair Housing Center of Southeast and Mid Michigan; co-chair of the Legal Services Association of Michigan; member of the Michigan State Planning Body for the Provision of Legal Services; and past c-chair of the Race, Ethnic and Gender Bias Awareness Committee of the Washtenaw County Bar Association. Ann is the immediate past president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Livingston County where she also serves as a Big Sister. In 2007, she was elected to the Howell Public Schools Board of Education and served as the board president for her two final years, 2010-2012.
Ann is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Ohio State University College of Law. She and her husband, Michael Foley, are the parents of two adult daughters, Maura and Emma.
|2004-2005 Lee A. Somerville View Bio
Education: BFA, Wayne State University; MFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; JD, University of Michigan Law School. I closed my general practice in 2005, and now just do Court appointed work, through the Michigan Assigned Appellate Counsel System, and through Wayne County Juvenile Court. Criminal and Juvenile appeals, and some juvenile trial work.
|2003-2004 Hon. Lisa Sullivan|
|2002-2003 Hon. Cylenthia LaToye Miller View Bio
Cylenthia LaToye Miller was appointed Judge of the 36th Judicial District Court on April 10, 2006, elected by the people of the city of Detroit in November 2006, & reelected in November 2010 & 2016. Judge Miller is the Founding & Presiding Judge over Street Outreach Court Detroit, which assists Detroit's homeless population with clearing their driver's licenses and returning to self-sufficiency. You can learn more about Street Outreach Court Detroit through our website www.streetdemocracy.org/socd. She is honored and humbled to serve on the largest district court in the state of Michigan and one of the busiest district courts in the country. Judge Miller has also worked as an Adjunct Professor in the Criminal Justice department at Baker College of Allen Park since 2012.
She received her Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Michigan State University College of Law in 1996. Judge Miller was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan in 1996 and to the State Bar of Arkansas in 1997.
Judge Miller is Past President of the Association of Black Judges of Michigan; Past Chair of the Women Lawyers Division of the National Bar Association; Past President of the Wolverine Bar Association; and Past President of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan. She is a member of St. Charles Lwanga Church; the Wolverine Bar Association; the Association of Black Judges of Michigan; the State Bar of Michigan; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; and the Michigan Democratic Party.
Throughout her career, Judge Miller has received numerous awards and honors. She is also a published co-author of articles regarding employment issues.
|2001-2002 Laura M. Canfield View Bio
Laura M. Canfield is a Senior Claims Attorney with SECURA Insurance. She was previously a litigation associate with Plunkett & Cooney, and has been practicing law since 1994. She currently manages litigation files for SECURA Insurance in the state of Michigan, as well as specialty files for Canadian and intellectual property litigation. She regularly provides industry presentations on the topics of Michigan law, indemnification and litigation risk management.
Laura received her law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1993 and her BA in Political Science from Michigan State University in 1990. She studied at Regents College and the University of London in London, England during both her undergraduate and legal education, concentrating on various aspects of international law in general and the EU in particular. Laura earned her Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter designation in 2003.
In addition to being a past President of WLAM, Laura is a past board member of the WLAM Foundation and previously sat on the ABA Young Lawyers Division, Women in the Profession Committee, specifically working on the role of telecommuting and its impact on women practicing law. Laura is also a member of Michigan Defense Trial Counsel and the Defense Research Institute. She currently resides in Williamston with her daughters Grace and Erin.
|2000-2001 Lauren M. Tomayko|
|1999-2000 Margaret A. Costello|
|1998-1999 Barbara S. Weintraub Kimmel View Bio
Barbara Weintraub Kimmel has a Master of Music Degree from the Peabody Institute of Music and a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School.
In her previous career as a concert pianist, Ms. Kimmel traveled extensively to perform solo and chamber music concerts. She was a founding member of the Rogeri Trio, which was the Trio in Residence at Yale University.
While in Law School, Ms. Kimmel participated in an externship with the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Technology and the Law. After her graduation from Law School, Ms. Kimmel served as Law Clerk for the Honorable William Schma of the 9th Judicial Circuit.
Barbara Weintraub Kimmel has served as past President of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, and was the first female President of the Kalamazoo County Trial Lawyers Association. Ms. Kimmel has also been a member of the Family Law Council for the State of Michigan, and the Kalamazoo County Family Bar Association.
After several years of private practice in the area of domestic relations, Ms. Kimmel became the Staff Attorney of the Van Buren County Friend of the Court. For the past three years she has served as Domestic Relations Referee for the Van Buren County Friend of the Court.
Ms. Kimmel resides in Portage, Michigan, with her husband and two cats. She spends her spare time watching Seinfeld reruns.
|1997-1998 Laura M. (Slenzak) Vogel|
|1996-1997 Kimberly M. Cahill* View Bio
Kimberly was born October 25, 1960 in Detroit, Michigan the daughter of Florence (nee: Schoenherr) Cahill- Warnez and the late Maurice Cahill.
Kim was a very astute and gifted attorney, practicing for over 20 years in areas of real estate, probate, estate planning and family law matters, with her mother Florence Schoenherr-Warnez and sister Dana M. Warnez. Kim was a lifelong resident of Warren. She graduated from Paul K. Cousino High School class of 1978, and received her B.A. in 1982 and Juris Doctorate Degree in 1985 from the University of Michigan.
From a very young age Kim was an avid reader, enjoying the daily newspaper, comics, long novels, professional journals and educational materials. When not reading, she could be found listening to music (her favorites were Bono from U2 and Bruce Springsteen), or listening to the latest political news (she eagerly awaited the 2008 upcoming presidential election, and anticipated our next president would be a woman or a rock star). She loved theater of all kinds, attended Red Wings games and U of M football games, and going out to dinner with friends and family. Her favorite spots to relax and vacation include the family cottage in Lewiston and trips to Hawaii, with either family or friends.
Kim was highly active in the local community. She held many positions of leadership, including president of the Macomb County Bar Association in 2001-2002. She was a founding member of and recent past-president of the Macomb County Bar Foundation, which supports law related educational programs in Macomb County. She also served as President of both the Macomb Region of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan in 1989, and the state WLAM in 1996. She served as Treasurer of the WLAM Foundation, which also promotes educational opportunities for women lawyers and law students.
Kim also served and led the State Bar of Michigan in many ways, culminating in her presidency of the organization in 2006-2007. Kim was only the fourth women to achieve the distinction of serving as State Bar President. She served as a State Bar Commissioner from 1997-2007, and chaired the Representative Assembly from 1999-2000. She served as a commissioner liaison to numerous sections and committees, and served as the statewide chair of the Bars Access to Justice Campaign. She sat on the board of the Michigan State Bar Foundation, which helps administer and coordinate grants to legal service providers.
During her distinguished career, Kim was honored with many awards and accolades, including the Alexander Macomb Citizen of the Year Award in 1998, as was listed in Crains Detroit Business Top 40 Detroiters under 40 in 1997.
Kim passed away January 21, 2008 following a brief but courageous battle with cancer.
|1995-1996 Leslie Myles-Sanders View Bio
Before retirement in 2012, Leslie Myles-Sanders was General Counsel and Secretary to the Board of Trustees of Delta College. She practiced law from 1985 to 2012. Before that she was among the first five staff members for New Detroit, Inc. in 1967; Director of Research and Development and Dean of Community Affairs at Delta College; and Director of the Management Development Division at Henry Ford Community College. With a BA in political science, Phi Beta Kappa, from Scripps College, and MA in political science, Pi Sigma Alpha, from Wayne State University, she earned her JD from Wayne State University Law School in 1985. Leslie was President of the Women's Bar Association (the Oakland County section of WLAM) in 1991-92, and was chair of the Education Committee in 1989-93, Board Member and Director 1989-93, Second VIP 1993-94, First VP in 94-95 and President in 1995-96.
|1994-1995 Elizabeth K. Brandsdorfer View Bio
Elizabeth K. Bransdorfer served as President of Women Lawyers Association of Michigan from 1994 to 1995, completing a term of service on the State Board that began in 1989 when she was elected Regional Representative from the Western Region. Liz graduated from WLAM and joined the Board of the National Association of Women Lawyers, which she served as President from 2001 to 2002. Liz is a member of Mika Meyers in Grand Rapids, and specializes in litigation, with a practice emphasis on domestic relations. She completed collaborative law training and is able to assist clients who, from the beginning of the divorce process, are committed to settling their cases in ways that work for their particular families, rather than having the court process impose decisions on them. She has served on the Board of the Collaborative Practice Institute of Michigan. Liz is actively engaged in family law litigation, advocating for her clients to help achieve their goals through the courts. In addition to representing clients as an advocate, Liz is a trained neutral arbitrator and mediator. She is admitted to practice in all Michigan state courts, the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the United States District Court for both the Western and Eastern Districts of Michigan, and the United States Tax Court. She serves on the Council of the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan, and is the Corresponding Secretary for the Section. Liz represented the 17th Circuit (Kent County) on the State Bar of Michigan Representative Assembly from 2014-2016. She has served as Treasurer of the Grand Rapids Bar Association and Chair of the Gerald R. Ford Chapter of the American Inns of Court.
In addition to Liz’s busy practice, she is very active in the community and has been recognized for her great efforts. She was named the 2009 recipient of the Michael S. Barnes Award in recognition of her exemplary contributions toward the provision of free legal assistance to the poor and the elderly in Western Michigan. In 2011, Liz was honored by Michigan Lawyers Weekly as one of its 20 Women in the Law 2011 for her meaningful and inspiring contributions to the legal community. In 2015, Liz was selected for the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan (WLAM) Western Region Outstanding Member Award. She is also listed in Best Lawyers of America for collaborative law: family law.
Liz grew up in Minnesota and not only received her undergraduate degree from the College of Liberal Arts University of Minnesota, but also her law degree cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School.
Liz comes from a family of lawyers, including her father, mother and younger brother. Her mother was initially an English teacher, but decided to go back to school to become an attorney. Learning and the legal field have been a large part of Liz’s life. Of course, the best parts of her life are her two children: Charlotte (who was born while Liz was a WLAM Board member, and who accompanied her to many meetings) and Henry (who traveled with his mom to NAWL meetings five years later).
|1993-1994 Suellyn Scarnecchia View Bio
Suellyn Scarnecchia is a Clinical Law Professor at the University of Michigan Law School. She has taught in the Human Trafficking Clinic since January 2013. Before that, she taught for 15 years in the UM Child Advocacy Law Clinic, served as the Dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law, and was Vice President and General Counsel of the University of Michigan. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Michigan Law School.
|1992-1993 Paula M. Talarico View Bio
Paula Talarico grew up in Michigan, and attended Wayne State University for both undergraduate and law school. She graduated in 1983 and was licensed to practice law in November of that year.
She began her legal career in a small Detroit firm, a true general practice. She learned trial skills through criminal law, automobile negligence and other personal injury work. Over the years her practice evolved to family law, estate planning and probate/trust litigation. She was managing attorney, then managing partner at Mooney & Talarico, P.C. In 1995 after her daughter’s birth, she set up her own practice, first in Detroit, and then in Troy, where she still maintains an office and busy practice today.
Ms. Talarico served as President of the WLAM Wayne Region from 1989-90. She was President of WLAM from 1992-93. She served on various committees, including Candidate Endorsement and Children and the Law. With Dawn Van Hoek (and others), she served on the Presidential committee to screen and choose candidates for the federal bench. She has been a mentor to many young women attorneys as a return of the gift given her by many women who mentored her. She has served on the Attorney Discipline Board since the early nineties, and now chairs a panel.
In 1997 Ms. Talarico joined the WLAM Foundation, first as director at large, and then upon the death of Kimberly Cahill, as Treasurer. She continues on the Foundation, and enjoys the work of raising money for scholarships to benefit young women who demonstrate their commitment to women in the profession.
Ms. Talarico is married to Mike, has three children and two precious granddaughters. She enjoys singing in choirs, gardening, her dog, and travelling. And she loves being affiliated with the vibrant WLAM.
|1991-1992 Janet E. Lanyon|
|1990-1991 Lisa A. Godfrey|
|1989-1990 Dawn Van Hoek|
|1988-1989 Kathleen Leavey-Hatty* View Bio
I graduated cum laude from Wayne State University in 1980. I was an evening student while teaching full time at a Detroit Public School. Without exception my instructors at the Law School were excellent.
In my senior year at Wayne, I was elected to be the Chancellor of Moot Court. Our team won the Regional Championship and proceeded to New York for the National Finals. While we did not win at that level, our 1979 Regional win was the first for Wayne in twenty years.
After Law school, in 1980 I went to work for a small personal injury firm. This type of work was not appealing to me so I sought employment elsewhere. I wanted to do Court work and litigation. In 1985 I started working for the City of Detroit's Law Department's water division. My first assignment was the 1985 major lawsuit resulting from the first Fifteen Mile sewer collapse (not far from the most recent collapse). There were 21 plaintiffs versus the City. I brought in the construction companies so their insurance companies could partake in the discovery and settlement recovery. Through a full review of pre and post photographs, records (medical, financial, etc.), we were able to settle the case for $90,000 as opposed to the 21 million that was demanded. This remains my favorite case.
During this time-1985 to 1990-I became active in the Wayne County Region Woman Lawyers, and was eventually elected President of the local region. Amongst the things I was able to accomplish was to form a coalition with the Wolverine Bar Association to merge the WLAM and WBA slates for the election of state bar delegates. Ultimately, we were successful in helping to create a more diversifiedrepresentative body in the state bar.
While working at the City's Law Department, Director Charlie Williams asked me to take over management of the Water Office Program Management division. This division had just complete the planning and oversight of the reconstruction of the wastewater treatment plant under the orders of the Federal Court. Almost immediately, the state of Michigan issued a proposed new permit for the operation of the wastewater plant. It became my task to write the protest against the new permit. A group was created comprised of lawyers, engineers and staff members tho operated the plant. I represented the Water Department alongside the lawyers. The negotiation lasted approximately four years. The Federal Court approved the final document. During the time of the negotiation, Mayor Archer appointed me Acting Director of the Water Department. During this time, I was also elected President of the State of Michigan Women Lawyers Association. During my tenure, the primary issue had again become abortion. WLAM played a major role in bringing this issue to the forefront and ultimately helping to bring about the demise of this issue.
When Kwame Kilpatrick became Mayor, I was moved from the Water Department back to the City's Law Department's contract section. when Kilpatrick was removed from office, acting Mayor Ken Cockrell appointed me as the Law Department's Corporation Council.
I retired in 2009.
|1987-1988 Hon. Marilyn Kelly|
|1986-1987 Charlene M. SnowView Bio
Charlene Snow has worked with United Community Housing Coalition since 2008. She represents tenants & people in tax and mortgage foreclosure at 36th District Court in Detroit. Since January 2017 she has been the supervisor of the Tenant Housing Clinic that UCHC operates Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at the Court. Ms. Snow worked in private practice and in legal services positions during her legal career, representing women prisoners in two class action cases. She was co-counsel from 1977 to 1989 in Glover v. Johnson, 478 F. Supp. 1075 (E.D. Mich. 1979); 510 F. Supp. 1019 (1981); 855 F.2d 277 (6th Circ. 1988); 934 F.2d 703 (6th Cir. 1991). Glover was the first class action in the country on behalf of women prisoners; it dealt with education and vocational training. The other prison case in which she was involved was Cain v. MDOC, 461 Mich 470 (1996) which concerned personal property and the classification of women prisoners. She was co-counsel in Cain, from 1989 to 2000. Her legal practice also included divorce, employment discrimination, probate and other general civil matters. Additionally she is a facilitative mediator with both family law and general civil mediation credentials.
Ms. Snow is a member of the ADR Section of the State Bar. She is a member of WLAM and of the National Lawyers Guild. Ms. Snow served as a public member on the Michigan Board of Dentistry from February 2008 to June 2011, and was chair of the Disciplinary Subcommittee of that board. She was also a public member of the North East Regional Board of Dental Examiners, now the Commission on Dental Competency Assessments, from 2009 to 2017.
Ms. Snow is a precinct delegate and a board member of the Justice Caucus and the Women’s Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party. She coordinates Camp Millie, a candidate training program for the Justice Caucus. Starting with the campaign of the late Justice Blair Moody Jr. while in law school, Ms. Snow has volunteered on numerous judicial and political campaigns. Since approximately 2001 she’s been actively involved in voter protection efforts. In 2008, Ms. Snow attended the Democratic National Convention in Denver, CO as an alternate delegate from the 14th Congressional District, when President Obama was nominated. Most recently, in January 2017 she took a bus with two friends to the Women’s March in Washington DC.
Since 2006, Ms. Snow has been secretary of the Irish Cultural Forum in Detroit. She is also a member & recording secretary of the Detroit Irish Music Association, which is a branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. Ms. Snow was on the Detroit committee that planned events in Detroit commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the 1916 Irish Rising.
Ms. Snow has a BA from James Madison College at MSU and a law degree from the University of Detroit, where Ms. Snow was one of 20 women in her law class. Ms. Snow received a Champion of Justice Award in 1987 from the State Bar of Michigan and a Spirit of Detroit award from Detroit NOW in 1981.
Ms. Snow was president of the Wayne Region of WLAM from 1982-1983 and of the state organization from 1986 to 1987. In 1986, WLAM completed a study on Women Attorneys in Michigan; the results were presented at a Women in Law Conference held by WLAM in October 1986. The Committee that conducted the survey was chaired by Marilyn Jean Kelly, who became president of WLAM in 1987. The late 1980s was a particularly interesting time to be president of WLAM. Julia Darlow was president of the State Bar and a number of women were being elected or appointed as judges in Michigan, including Judge Clarice Jobes, Judge Marianne Battani, Judge Denise Page Hood, and others. WLAM had an active Candidate Endorsement Committee both on the regional and on the state level. As a result of the networking opportunities through women lawyers, Ms. Snow was appointed to other committees and boards, including the Diversity Committee of the State Bar of Michigan and the board of what would become Michigan Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company, and later Professionals Direct Insurance Company. Ms. Snow served on the insurance company boards for approximately ten years.
There was a lot of activity around women’s issues and WLAM members were in the thick of it. In 1986 a group of women, many of them WLAM members, started the Michigan Women’s Campaign Fund which endorsed and provided funds to pro-choice women running for local and state offices. The Mabel Dinner, the primary fundraiser for the group, was first held in 1986. The dinner was named for Mabel Dingman, a Michigan woman, who held the first all-women’s bear hunt in northern Michigan. The Mabel Dinners, which yearly honored an unsung woman in Michigan history, were attended by 200 to 300 women and a few men, featured humorous skits by women lawyers and judges, and continued for about 20 years. Ms. Snow participated in the skits, hosted a table at the dinner and was on the board of the Michigan Women’s Campaign Fund for most of those years. The Michigan Women’s Campaign Fund was a bi-partisan group and provided funds to the campaigns of many women who ran for office between 1986 and about 2004. While the Mabel Dinner was a fun filled evening, the contributions of the Women’s Campaign Fund to women running for office was a serious endeavor that resulted in many women being elected at all levels of government.
Charlene Snow and her spouse, Tom Carey live in Detroit, where they raised their two children, Patrick and Eleanor Carey. Ms. Snow was active in the mother’s clubs at both U of D Jesuit and Mercy high schools, while her children attended those schools. Prior to that, she was on the board of Friends School in Detroit for nine years when her children were in school there.
Ms. Snow enjoys reading, genealogy, Irish set dancing, listening to live music, and traveling.
|1985-1986 Deborah L. Miela View Bio
Deborah graduated from Detroit College of Law in 1976, beginning employment with the Legal Department of Kmart Corporation in Troy, MI from 1976 to 2003, retiring as Divisional VP of Antitrust and Trade Regulation Law. In 2006, she went to General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, MI, as Contracts Negotiator & Administrator. She retired from GDLS in 2016. Deborah has been partnered with Gloria Gold since 1985, and they are legally married since 2013.
|1984-1985 Hon. Linda L. Bruin|
|1983-1984 Mary M. Fowlie View Bio
Mary M. Fowlie, is President of Compliance Results Associates, PLLC, a firm which provides regulatory compliance consulting services including Community Reinvestment Act and Community Development consulting to financial institutions and non- profit organizations.
She has formerly served as Legal Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer and CRA Officer of a $40 Billion National Bank, a $1 Billion State Chartered Bank, and a $12 Billion Federal Savings Bank.
She has over 35 years of Bank compliance and legal experience. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University College of Law. She is a member of the State Bar of Michigan and a past Chairman of the Michigan Bankers’ Association, Past President of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan and Past President of the Women Lawyers Association Foundation. She is also a former member of the State Bar of Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission, Past Chair of Habitat for Humanity of Michigan and the Salvation Army of South Eastern Michigan. She has served in leadership roles on over 20 non-profit corporation and trade association board of directors.
|1982-1983 Chrysanthe A. Kotsis View Bio
Chrysanthe A. Kotsis graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and French from Michigan State University in 1972. She graduated cum laude from the Detroit College of Law and received her Juris Doctrate in December of 1975 and was admitted to the Bar in May of 1976.
Upon graduation, Chrys joined the Southfield law firm of Bushnell, Gage, Doctoroff & Reizen P.C. as an associate practicing as a general practitioner. In 1979, she started her own law firm in Birmingham, Michigan, as a sole practitioner in the general practice of law with extensive focus in estates, trusts, family law litigation, including but not limited to divorce, custody, support, parenting time and alimony. In 1989, she moved her practice to Novi and subsequently to Northville where she remains practicing today.
From 2000 – 2004 Chrys also worked as Of Counsel to James R. Kohl, P.C. and handled all areas of prosecution for the City of Northville as the regular substitute for James R. Kohl when he was unable to prosecute.
Chrys has had extensive professional involvement over the years and served on the State Bar Representative Assembly for 2 terms; Co-Chair of the State Bar Arbitration and Alternate Means of Dispute Resolution Committee; Guardian Ad Litem appointed by Judges in Juvenile, Probate and Circuit Court Cases; Mediator in Wayne, Oakland Circuit Courts and many District Courts. She was also a grader of the Michigan Bar Exam for 15 years.
Professional leadership has followed Chrys throughout her career. Chrys joined WLAM soon after being admitted to practice law and served as its President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Director, Board Member, Newsletter Editor, and Chair of the Women and Law Conference. Chrys also served as President, Vice-President and Board Member of the Women’s Bar Association of Oakland County and as Chair, Vice-Chair, Treasurer and Board Member of the Michigan Women’s Campaign Fund.
Chrys is married with 3 adult children and 7 grandchildren. She lives in Novi where she has served as the President of her Homeowner’s Association for the past 25 years. Chrys’s youngest daughter, Rachael Kohl, is now also a practicing attorney and is a clinical teaching fellow at the University of Michigan Law School and is a proud member of WLAM.
Being a part of WLAM was an integral part of the development of Chrys’s career and the connections and friendships she made during her tenure in WLAM has lasted a lifetime.
|1981-1982 Karen Colby Weiner, PhD View Bio
I graduated from University of Detroit Law School in 1977. I accepted a 2-year Law Clerk position with Hon. G. Mennen Williams of the Michigan Supreme Court. Upon completion of clerking, I then accepted a position with Dickinson Wright, ultimately focusing on banking and real estate law. After 4 years at Dickinson, our 3 children were getting into their teens and my husband and I felt that more parental supervision at home was needed. I resigned from practice and, while being at home more, entered the doctoral program in clinical psychology at University of Detroit. I received my Ph.D. in 1988, and practiced in that area for over 25 years. I have also served as President of the Michigan Psychological Association.
During my term as president of WLAM, the Board moved forth on expanding our Regions. At the time, WBA of Oakland County was the only Region. We fostered out state groups to form Regions so that woman attorneys outside of the Detroit Metropolitan area could have the benefit of regularly coming together in an organized fashion. The year I was past president, I moved forward on something Julia Darlow had been pushing: I completed the application and process of forming the Women Lawyers of Michigan Foundation, and was its first president.
Our children managed to become adults and expand our lives with 7 grandchildren, 6 boys and 1 girl. After 53 years of marriage, we now spend winters in Sarasota, FL, and summers in Michigan near our family.
|1980-1981 Rosemary K. Wolock|
|1979-1980 Elaine Grand Stulberg View Bio
Participating in Women Lawyers and having the honor of serving as one of its presidents was among the most rewarding experiences of my legal career. WLAM will always have a special place in my thoughts and memories as I consider the long road to equality for women in our country, a road that still has many, many miles ahead. I hope and trust that todays women lawyers will not forget those who came before them and will not fail to continue to stand up and work for the full equality women deserve not only in our profession but in our country and the world.
|1978-1979 Beverly J. Clark*, first Native American President of WLAM View Bio
Beverly received her BA in 1961 and her MA in 1963 from the University of Michigan. Prior to entering into the practice of law, Beverly was a public school teacher. She received her JD from Wayne State University in 1972. Her law practice focused on family law in the Detroit area. Beverly made history when she became the first American Indian on the Commission following her appointment by Governor William Milliken. Prior to her appointment, she had been active in several legal and American Indian organizations, including the board of directors of Michigan Indian Legal Services. In 1983, Beverly became the first woman President of the Michigan Trial Lawyers Association (now known as the Michigan Association for Justice). She also served as president of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan. She served on the Detroit Human Relations Commission as a Chair and Vice-Chair. She was the first Native American Commissioner for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and served between 1982 and 1991. She was the 2006 awardee of the American Indian Law Section’s Tecumseh Peacekeeping Award and served on the Board for Michigan Indian Legal Services.
|1977-1978 Julia Donovan Darlow View Bio
n 1971, when I graduated from Wayne State Law School and began practicing law in Detroit, I was a single mom of a young child. I was trying hard, but with much uncertainty, to take charge of our lives.
Soon, I had the great good fortune to meet a small group of women lawyers who were committed to change for women. They were actively revitalizing the then more than 50 year old Women Lawyers Association of Michigan. I learned so much from and with them. For a small group, we accomplished a lot, especially in reaching out to women through out the state, in promoting the election and appointment of women judges and in creating the Michigan Women and the Law Conferences. Professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg was our first keynote speaker in 1976. Above all, we supported each other.
I served as President of WLAM in 1977-78. Thereafter I remained active in bar association activities for many years. In 1986 I was elected President of the State Bar of Michigan – the first women in that position. When my term ended, after extensive lobbying by women lawyers, the Michigan Supreme Court created its Task Force on Gender Issues in the Courts, which I chaired. The Task Force dug deeply for two years and made extensive recommendations for reform, many of which were implemented by the Bar or the Court.
Through out my professional career I have worked to support women and girls. I was one of the founders of the Michigan Women’s Foundation and the Michigan Women’s Campaign Fund. I served on the boards of the Michigan Metro Girl Scouts and Girls Group and as chair of Hutzel Women’s Hospital.
With the Dickinson Wright and Varnum law firms I practiced law for 36 years. I focused on international business transactions and joint ventures, corporate governance and nonprofit corporations. Early on I was the Reporter and principal drafter of the Michigan Nonprofit Corporation Act. Later I served in leadership positions on various governing boards, including a number of German, Japanese and Canadian enterprises in the business area and the Detroit Medical Center, Marygrove College and Michigan Opera Theatre in the nonprofit area. I was also a member of the Michigan Bilateral Trade Team for Germany, the State Officers' Compensation Commission of Michigan and the International Women's Forum Global Affairs Committee.
In 2006 I was elected in the state general election to the Board of Regents of the University of Michigan for an eight-year term. Today, as a Regent Emerita, I serve on the National Council of the University of Michigan Museum of Art and on the Board of the School of Public Health of the University. It has been a very great privilege for me to work with the students, faculty and management of this extraordinary University. My greatest pleasure has been working to ensure the adequacy of financial aid for students with need and to ensure access and support for those with disabilities, for first generation students and for undocumented students.
|1976-1977 Hon. Marianne O. Battani View Bio
Judge Marianne O. Battani graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Detroit in 1966. After college she worked for IBM as a systems engineer and attended night school at the Detroit College of Law. She received her law degree with honors in 1972.
Judge Battani entered the general practice of law after graduation as an associate in the Law Offices of Donald Gratrix. In 1974 she started her own firm specializing in the area of domestic relations. Her judicial career began in 1981 when she was appointed by Governor William Milliken to the Common Pleas Court for the City of Detroit (now the 36th District Court). In 1982 Governor Milliken again honored Judge Battani by appointing her to the Wayne County Circuit Court.
Judge Battani served on the Wayne County Circuit Court for eighteen years. She was Chief Judge Pro Tem for six years and served on numerous local and state bar committees and task forces. She also taught at the Michigan Judicial Institute. Judge Battani was instrumental in developing and implementing the Wayne County individual docket system, which received national recognition. The National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada subsequently asked her to joint a team to develop and teach a course in Case Flow Management. Judge Battani accepted the invitation and taught the course for many years.
Judge Battani’s peers elected her to be a member on the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission, which investigates complaints of misconduct against state judicial officers. She served in this capacity for nine years and chaired the Commission from 1999-2000. She also served as a Commissioner of the State Bar of Michigan for six years. She is a member and past president of the Women Lawyers’ Association of Michigan and a member of the Federal Bar Association and the Italian American Bar Association. Judge Battani is a past secretary of the Detroit College of Law and currently is trustee emeritus of Michigan State University College of Law.
The highlight of Judge Battani’s career is her lifetime appointment by President William Jefferson Clinton to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Her appointment was confirmed by the United States Senate in May, 2000. Although she took senior status in June 2012, Judge Battani continues to sit on the federal bench and presides over a criminal and civil docket which includes a multidistict litigation case, In re Automotive Parts Antitrust Litigation. Notably, the Department of Justice described its investigation into the automotive products industry as “the largest criminal investigation the Antitrust Division ever pursued, both in terms of its scope and the potential volume of commerce affected by the illegal conduct.”
|1975-1976 Judith D. Doran*|
|1974-1975 Hon. Clarice (Jobes) Williams|
|1973-1974 Hon. Theresa Doss, First Black President of WLAM View Bio
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. Before her appointment, she was a teacher, law librarian, a community program developer for the Archdiocese of Detroit, and an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan. Judge Doss was also a commissioner on the Detroit Public Lighting Commission.
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.
Some of her professional affiliations include the following: Michigan District Judges Association (Past Treasurer, Past Secretary, Past Vice-President, President, 1991); the State Bar of Michigan (past member of the Representative Assembly, the Council of the Judicial Conference, and the Michigan Standing Committee on Judicial Ethics, 2009-2014); Michigan State Bar Association (Fellow); the Wolverine Bar Association (Past Director and Secretary); Detroit Bar Association; American Bar Association; National Bar Association (Past Director of NBA and President and Founder of the Women’s Division); and the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan (Past President).
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., Alpha Rho Omega Chapter, and had volunteered many hours tutoring in its reading program. Judge Doss is a member of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church where she has served as a Sunday school teacher, secondary church school superintendent, choir member, and trustee for many years. She received her diploma from the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education, auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. In addition, Judge Doss and her family established the Doss Wahls Foundation, a private foundation that awards scholarships to diverse college seniors.
She has been honored frequently by religious organizations in Michigan and Ohio, as well as the National Council of Negro Women for outstanding community service. In 2001, the National Bar Association, Women Division, granted her the Scroll of Distinguished Woman Lawyers Award and the Black Women Lawyers Association honored her at their 2005 Harriet Tubman Breakfast. Most recently at the National Bar Association 81st Convention in 2006 the Judicial Council gave her their Humanitarian Award. She is also listed in Who’s Who of American Women, 9th and 10th Editions.
Judge Doss is a native of Alabama and reared in Lorain, Ohio by her parents, Ida Richards Doss and the late Eddie E. Doss. She is married to James T. Wahls, a retired businessman. They have one son, James Christopher Doss Wahls, a senior investment analyst at the Annie E. Casey Foundation and a daughter-in-law, Dr. Maria S. Johnson, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware.
|1972-1973 Sharon C. Ranucci*|
|1971-1972 Hon. Gladys Y. Barsamian*, first Armenian-American President of WLAM|
|1969-1971 Virginia C. Dare*|
|1968-1969 Mary Ellen Fulton|
|1965-1966 Pearl D. Newcomb|
|1964-1965 Mary Jane Liddy|
|1963-1964 Claire E. Morrison|
|1962-1963 Virginia E. Hetmanski|
|1961-1962 Anne Alpern|
|1960-1961 Ardis A. Smith|
|1959-1960 Marjorie Jaros|
|1958-1959 Loretta J. Tata|
|1957-1958 Hon. Dorothy R. Comstock|
|1956-1957 Ruth Schugin|
|1955-1956 Esther A. Morden|
|1954-1955 Caryl Hathaway|
|1953-1954 Esther Pollick|
|1952-1953 Mary N. Kolis|
|1951-1952 Charlotte M. Sutton|
|1950-1951 Madeline C. Dinu|
|1949-1950 Gertrude E. Moder|
|1948-1949 Elizabeth L. Stack|
|1946-1947 Annette Thayer Means|
|1945-1946 E Katherine Kilpatrick|
|1944-1945 Zaio A. Woodford|
|1943-1944 Regene Freund Cohane|
|1942-1943 Dorothy Benz Stark|
|1941-1942 Lula Bachman|
|1940-1941 Dorothy Hughitt|
|1939-1940 Lulu Seifert DeMay|
|1938-1939 Phoebe Munnecke*|
|1937-1938 Mary H. Zimmerman*|
|1935-1937 Evelyn A. Green*|
|1933-1935 Hazel Moran*|
|1931-1933 Hon. Lila M. Neuenfelt* View Bio
1941 headline announcing Dearborn Justice of the Peace Lila Neuenfelt’s election to the Circuit Court announced, “Justice Dons a Skirt.” When members of the press agreed with her, they referred to her “womanly wisdom,” and when they didn’t, they wondered how a woman could be so illogical at times and so completely to the point at others.
But Neuenfelt was used to praise and brickbats because she was a trailblazer. Born in Lewiston, Mich. she went to Highland Park to live with her sister and go to high school.
Working in a restaurant and a paint and glass sales company to pay her way, she graduated from Highland Park High School in 1919. Admitted to the University of Detroit, she graduated from its Law School in 1922 and had to wait six months until her 21st birthday to be admitted to the state bar. She became a voter, a lawyer and a notary on the same day.
She was reportedly the youngest woman lawyer in the United States. There would be many more “firsts.”
This was an era of women reformers. Various women’s suffrage associations, led by such stalwarts as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Chapman Catt and Alice Paul, passed resolutions, worked on state constitutions and marched in parades for women’s suffrage. Finally, with the 19th Amendment, they got the right to vote in 1920. But in many states they could not serve on juries, hold office, own a business or sign a contract without their husband’s permission.
Into this cultural setting this young woman lawyer, hired as court clerk, moved into a flat on Reuter Street, right off Michigan Avenue in the village of Springwells.
In an oral history at the Haight Archive of the Dearborn Historical Museum, Neuenfelt said that Reuter had a sidewalk but the street was not paved. “When it rained we parked on Michigan Avenue.” She was paid by the village to type the new charter of the city of Springwells. In this present age of spell check, it is bracing to think back to the difficulty of correction on typewriters of another era, while reading her statement, “There could be no mistakes on the final copy”. Springwells went from village in 1921 to city in 1924 and to the newly established Fordson in 1925. To cap this rapid emergence, Fordson merged with the city of Dearborn (present west Dearborn) in January 1929.
Neuenfelt’s emergence was similarly rapid. Leo Schaefer had been elected judge (justice of the peace) in Springwells village. He and Lila had become close friends. He did not want to continue to serve, so he suggested that she run for judge in 1926.
She felt that her association with Schaefer would help her get votes, but she came in second in the primary to Arthur Mains, an insurance agency owner. So she walked and campaigned house to house in the general election and won. She was the youngest and first woman elected justice of the peace in Michigan and was covered in the newspapers and movie newsreels.
The job called for her to work 50 days a year, so she also opened a law office in the city. When consolidation came, she and Schaefer were elected fulltime municipal judges, a post she held till 1941.
When Lila was elected to the Circuit Court in 1941, Dearborn was booming. In the 20’s with the completion of the Ford Rouge plant, Springwells went from 2,000 in 1921 to 25,000 as the city of Fordson in 1926, and with the merger of Dearborn and Fordson in 1929, the population of Dearborn jumped to 50,000.
On the eve of the Great Depression Henry Ford’s Rouge plant employed 98,000 workers. Workers came from all over the world and trolleyed to the Rouge from all over Detroit. The caseload of a justice of the peace, municipal judge and circuit court judge must have been as colorful. This was the era of prohibition, and since it was governed by federal law, those cases went to federal courts. However, there were many cases involving local transgressions, such as home brewing and operation of illegal establishments.
Neuenfelt’s personality livened up the local scene. The relationship with Leo Schaefer waxed and waned as they became competitors for votes. She found Schaefer’s clerk guilty of contempt because he refused to turn over a file of a person she believed should be tried in her court.
When six bottles of whiskey were found in her car she declared they had been put there by an “enemy.” Schaefer believed that she was behind a recall petition against him in 1929. They ran against each other for Congress in 1932, splitting the Democratic vote and letting a Republican candidate win in the midst of the Roosevelt landslide.
A redhead who dressed fashionably, Neuenfelt made good press. She married William Purvis in 1933, and during her election campaign in 1935, the Dearborn corporation counsel, James Green, ruled that she had to use her married name. She replied,” I will run under any name I choose.” Greene sought got an initial ruling in his favor from Michigan Attorney General Harry Toy. Neuenfelt appealed to Toy that she had always used her maiden name in public affairs. Toy reversed himself and Lila was vindicated.
In July 1940 Neuenfelt, as a municipal judge, declared a Dearborn anti-union ordinance prohibiting the distribution of handbills unconstitutional, and her ruling was upheld on appeal. A biography of Walter Reuther by Frank Cormier and William Eaton saw this as the removal of a major obstacle to UAW unionization of the Ford Motor Company, and indeed on June 20, 1941, the company signed a contract with the union. Needless to say her action aided Nuenfelt in getting labor votes when she ran for the circuit court. Once on the bench however Lila was evenhanded, deciding for and against labor and management.
By the time Neuenfelt ran for the circuit court, Orville Hubbard, soon to be long time Mayor, was in the picture. In an interview with David Good, Hubbard claimed that he had $110 to his name when Lila ran for Circuit Judge in 1941 and gave $100 to her campaign. He worked for her election and in his colorful reminiscence said: “Then, Lila worked like hell for me. She’d take me around like I was a boyfriend. They had stories that you could find me under her bed any time you looked. Lila and I were real close but I never even held her hand in my life. I treated her with more dignity than Sir Walter Raleigh treated the Virgin Queen.”
As president of the Dearborn Bar association in 1941, Hubbard presented Lila with a judicial robe upon her ascension to the circuit bench. Later, as mayor, Hubbard hired her husband as city assessor.
On occasion, Neuenfelt’s caseload on the circuit court directly touched Dearborn. Susan Giffin’s biography of Michael Berry, a leader of Dearborn’s Middle Eastern community and chairman of the Wayne County Road Commission, tells how as a young lawyer Berry was approached by homeowners in the South End of Dearborn to stop the Edward Levy Company from storing the slag it received from the Ford Motor Company behind their homes on Amazon Street. Berry went to Judge Neuenfelt for an injunction. She said she couldn’t grant the injunction, but did issue a restraining order that allowed Berry to organize the families. The women of the community blocked the road and stood in the way of the trucks. Pictures were taken and Berry, realizing that zoning ordinances were being broken, won the case in court and the hearts of the people of the South end. Nuenfelt much later went to work for Berry’s firm.
In September 1968 she retired and in 1969 moved to Ft Lauderdale, Fla. She died there at age 79 in October, 1981.
Wayne Circuit Judge James Montante said of her: “She made her mark as a masterful, masterful judge. She was just a remarkable woman. She handled maters crystal clear. She knew where justice was.”
With her death, Dearborn lost a colorful character from its era of emergence — one who helped women gained ground in their emergence into politics.
(This entry was written by William Hackett, Dearborn Historical Commission.)
|1929-1931 Rachel Newcomb*|
|1927-1929 Catherine Donovan*|
|1924-1927 Anne Davidow* View Bio
Anne R. Davidow was a pioneer for women attorneys. She graduated from the University of Detroit Law School and passed the bar examination in 1920. (Her application to the Detroit College of Law, from which her older brother Larry had graduated, had been turned down on the basis of sex.) She practiced law in the firm of Davidow and Davidow, together with her elder brother. In the 1930s she and her brother served as general counsel to the Reuther brothers and to the fledgling UAW which had been organized around the conference table in her office. She was a suffragist who campaigned for women's right to vote, by speaking from soap boxes at factory gates. While working to help her family and to put her brother through law school, she was once fired for wearing a suffragist's button to work.
In 1948 Davidow argued before the United States Supreme Court the significant women's rights case of Goesaert v. Cleary. The case contested a Michigan law which prohibited women from working as bartenders ('barmaids') unless their fathers or husbands owned the bar. Davidow, for the first time in history, raised the point that sex discrimination violated women's constitutional rights by denying them equal protection and treatment under the law. Although she lost the case, her argument drew much attention and shortly thereafter the Michigan State Legislature repealed the law. Loss of the case became a key element in Congresswoman Martha Griffiths argument for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. This case is now included in the curriculum of law schools across the country.
Anne Davidow was a life member and past president of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, who honored her in a special program on November 7, 1981. She was the fourth president (1925-27) and had served as an officer from its inception and for many years thereafter. She has been a mentor to many young women lawyers. Though she kept her maiden name in the practice of law, Anne Davidow was married to Victor Seeger for 28 years with whom she had two children: Anne Davidow Seeger, Jr., and Victor Harrison Seeger, Jr.
|1921-1923 Henrietta Rosenthal*|
|1919-1921 Theresa Doland Cornelius*|