Eastern District of Michigan Chapter History

The Eastern District of Michigan Chapter was originally founded as the Detroit Chapter on August 26, 1957. The Detroit Chapter became the 20th Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. On March 16, 1995, the Detroit Chapter formally changed its name to the Eastern District of Michigan Chapter.

Chapter Presidents

1959-1960 Hon. Fred W. Kaess
1960-1961 Mr. Fred W. Walker
1961-1962 Mr. Julius J. Kabatsky
1962-1963 Mr. Lawrence J. Verdier
1963-1964 Mr. Wallace D. Riley
1964-1965 Mr. David H. Patton
1965-1966 Mr. David A. Goldman
1966-1967 Mr. Charles R. Rutherford
1967-1968 Mr. Russell M. Paquette
1968-1969 Hon. George E. Woods
1969-1970 Mr. Norman H. Birnkrant
1970-1971 Mr. Arthur Allan Smith
1971-1972 Mr. John S. Crandall
1972-1973 Mr. John S. Crandall
1973-1974 Mr. Marcel C. Phillips
1974-1975 Hon. Ralph B. Guy
1975-1976 Mr. Thomas A. McNish
1976-1977 Mr. Richard T. Tarnas
1977-1978 Mr. Frank L. Zagelmeyer
1978-1979 Mr. John M. McMillan
1979-1980 Hon. Fred M. Mester
1980-1981 Mr. Joseph F Dillon
1981-1982 Mr. Alan C. Harnisch
1982-1983 Mr. Richard A. Rossman
1983-1984 Mr. Sheldon S. Toll
1984-1985 Hon. Paul D. Borman
1985-1986 Mr. Robert P. Hurlburt
1986-1987 Mr. John P. Mayer
1987-1988 Ms. Michele Coleman Mayes
1988-1989 Mr. John R. Runyan
1989-1990 Mr. Robert E. Forrest
1990-1991 Hon. Maura Corrigan
1991-1992 Mr. Joel M. Shere
1992-1993 Ms. Geneva S. Halliday
1993-1994 Mr. Edward M. Kronk
1994-1995 Mr. Lawrence G. Campbell
1995-1996 Mr. Thomas M. Cranmer
1996-1997 Hon. Virginia M. Morgan
1997-1998 Mr. Daniel M. Malone
1998-1999 Mr. Michael C. Leibson
1999-2000 Mr. Mark Brewer
2000-2001 Mr. Thomas W.B. Porter
2001-2002 Mr. Brian D. Figot
2002-2003 Ms. Christine M. Dowhan-Bailey
2003-2004 Mr. Dennis J. Clark
2004-2005 Mr. Dennis M. Barnes
2005-2006 Mr. Grant P. Gilezan
2006-2007 Ms. Julia A. Caroff
2007-2008 Hon. Mark A. Goldsmith
2008-2009 Ms. Barbara L. McQuade
2009-2010 Ms. Elisa Angeli Palizzi
2010-2011 Hon. Laurie J. Michelson
2011-2012 Hon. Michael J. Riordan
2012-2013 Mr. Thomas G. McNeill
2013-2014 Mr. Michael K. Lee
2014-2015 Mr. Thomas M. Schehr
2015-2016 Ms. Kimberly G. Altman
2016-2017 Ms. Susan E. Gillooly
2017-2018 Mr. Jeffrey Appel
2018-2019 Mr. Saura J. Sahu

Golden 50th Anniversary Commemorative Issue

Discovering Our Roots
By Brian D. Figot

Through the pages of this Newsletter, and by means of the Chapter’s “strategic partnership” with the Historical Society of the Eastern District of Michigan, we have learned much about the history of the Eastern District of Michigan. However, little has been said about the history of this Chapter. Recently, I had the opportunity to learn some of that history in connection with some research I am doing at the national offices of the Federal Bar Association in Washington, D.C.

As Deputy Chair of National’s ad hoc Historic Preservation Committee, I am engaged in a project initiated and spearheaded by FBA President Kent Hofmeister — the significant task of putting together the oral and written history of the FBA. Phase I of the project has been to determine what we have.

On a bright spring-like day in D.C. during the middle of the winter (before the storm), I spent a day assisting in the cataloging of the existing materials; and traversed the course of history from 1931 to 1960 as contemporaneously reported in the Federal Bar News, the predecessor of “The Federal Lawyer,” a magazine which is distributed to FBA members. The materials which are of interest to the national organization, and the Project itself, are more fully described in an upcoming article of “The Federal Lawyer.”

“When I reached the late 1950s, the names started looking more and more familiar, as I reached the formation of a Detroit Chapter of the FBA. The President’s Page for January, 1957, reported:

At this writing, I have a petition, addressed to the National Council, for a Detroit, Michigan Chapter, sent to me by Fred W. Kaess, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, and signed by twenty-one applicants for membership.”

Mr. Kaess and Wilfrid R. Laurie, an attorney with the Army Ordinance in Detroit, both saw the need for a Detroit chapter. They joined forces, and assisted by Richard T. Tarnas of Detroit Army Ordinance, did the necessary preliminary work. The application is signed by Mr. Kaess; George Edward Woods, Jr., Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney; Joseph A. Moynihan, Jr., formerly Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney; and the following Assistant U.S. Attorneys: Robert E. DeMascio, Otto E. Haass, Dwight K. Hamborsky, John R. Jones, Orrin C. Jones, John L. Owen, Elmer L. Pfeifle, Jr., Robert L. Richardson, Jr., Horace L. Rodgers, John Paul Sitek, Willis F. Ward, and Donald F. Welday, Jr. Signing from Army Ordinance, in addition to Messrs. Laurie and Tarnas, were Robert M. Barrie, Assistant General Counsel, John S. Crandall, Jack F. Gardner, Phyllis K. Johnson, R. Cass Ready, and Alexander A. Trout.

Thus, we now know: Our founders were Fred W. Kaess (later a district judge and Chief Judge of the Eastern District of Michigan), Wilfred Laurie, and Richard T. Tarnas. Dick Tarnas, who has remained active throughout the entirety of this Chapter’s history, is owed a particular debt of gratitude. We also now have a list of our charter membership, which includes two other judges of the Eastern District.

Later that year, the Chapter was formalized at an organizational luncheon attended by 63 people. The first temporary officers were elected (President, Fred W. Kaess; secretary- treasurer, Wilfred R. Laurie); committees were established; and plans were laid for a banquet at which the Chapter’s charter would be presented. Within the next couple months, Dick Tarnas was named secretary, and as of November, 1957, the Chapter’s membership numbered 59.

On December 3, 1957, the Chapter held its first major event, a “Charter Banquet” in the Casino Room of the Sheraton-Cadillac Hotel, attended by “more than 250 members of the Chapter, their wives and friends.” According to chapter president Fred Kaess, the group was addressed by Laurence H. Axman, then president of the FBA, who spoke of the effort “to bring about a greater and more efficient relationship between Government lawyers and officials and those representing the public,” and commented on the need to better equalize public and private sector pay to stop the exodus of “experts in their field, who are leaving their jobs for higher pay in private enterprise.” Officers were then elected; and honorary memberships were given to Chief Judge Charles C. Simons of the Sixth Circuit, Chief Judge Arthur Lederle, and District Judges Frank A. Picard, Theodore Levin, Thomas P. Thornton, Ralph Freeman, and Clifford O’Sullivan. The group was then entertained “by strolling musicians and the Detroit Bar Association Glee Club,” and a “a highlight of the evening was the entertainment given by Mr. Bud Guest, Detroit’s foremost radio and TV humorist.”

Also of historical and current interest was the Chapter’s adoption of its first formal resolution – which was described by Judge Kaess as follows:

“A feature of the evening was the adoption by the membership of a resolution endorsing a plan to erect a new Federal Court Building and companion Lawyers’ Library Building as part of Detroit’s new Civic Center. The resolution was adopted by unanimous voice vote as the first official act of the new Chapter. The Honorable Arthur F. Lederle, is the guiding spirit behind this plan. His farsightedness for the anticipated need of a new Federal Court Building which will lend itself to a realistic program of expansion and will meet the requirements of new and additional judges who will serve the District in the future, deserves the thanks and appreciation of all members of the Chapter.”

Forty-six years later, as we prepare for another Annual Dinner, the names are all different; the Sheraton-Cadillac is gone (though there remains talk about its resurrection); the Casino Room has been supplanted by Detroit’s casinos; and entertainment by musicians and a humorist has been replaced by musical humor. However, the camaraderie described in the yellowed pages of the Federal Bar News remains; the respect and cooperation between the Bench and Bar survives; the issue of equalized pay and flight to private enterprise has yet to be resolved; and Detroit still waits for a new Federal Court Building and Lawyers’ Library.


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