A Lifelong Resident of Our Community

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Many of my oldest and happiest memories are of East Lansing. I remember the warm aroma of Bagel Fragel and the hopes that Mom and Dad would allow us to add a few cinnamon -sugar fragels to our order. I spent Saturday mornings in the lower level of Kresge Center taking art classes, making pinhole cameras and bathed in the red light of developing rooms. Later, in high school, I spent hours in the practice rooms in the MSU music building taking flute and oboe lessons from music majors. In high school and on college breaks, I spent most of my babysitting money on clothes from Jacobson’s and Pappagallo’s or ice cream from Melting Moments.

I grew up in the Groesbeck area of Lansing and so much of my life revolved around East Lansing. Today I round the corner of Grove and M.A.C. anticipating a Crunchy Buddha Bowl at Hop Cat, but years ago I dreaded the prospect of a checkup and a shot from Dr. Sprigg Jacob. (Dr. Jacob was a very good doctor, but I hated needles. Still do.)

My family attended St John Student Parish, where I received sacraments from two beloved priests, Father Tom McDevitt and Father Jake Foglio. They preached service, compassion, and equity and we were expected to live those values every day.

A Family History of Service

Public service started at the dinner table. My mom was a teacher and a devoted volunteer. My father, now deceased, was a social worker who served governors Milliken and Blanchard, running several state departments, including Labor, Mental Health, and Social Services. One of my sisters has a master’s degree in public health policy and helps community-based health care programs. My youngest sister is a lawyer who works in economic development and, as a wheelchair user, is a passionate and effective advocate for people with disabilities. (My nephew is an engineer. He must have gotten the math skills from his dad’s family!)

My parents embraced school desegregation, which changed my life.

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Experience inside - and outside - the courtroom

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I knew I’d become a lawyer the day Thurgood Marshall died. I was 26, a young news reporter watching the obituary roll across the Associated Press wires. I knew him as the first Black Supreme Court justice but hadn’t realized he was the architect of Brown vs Board of Education, the school desegregation ruling that profoundly changed my life.

“He did it all with words,” my editor said. My life’s goals changed instantly. It took a few years – I wouldn’t get to law school until I was almost 35 and worked as a Senate policy aide – but I immediately understood the power of the law to change lives.

 

As a lawyer, I’ve almost always represented the underdog. You learn things when you represent the underdog – you have to work harder, you have to dig deeper, and you have to consider all the options. The more unsavory the client, the harder to job, but the greater the said.

I empathize with people in rough situations because I’ve had some pretty awful jobs. I worked at the world’s fourth busiest Burger King (Frandor, in the mid-1980s), made lattes for snobby U-M students, and dragged merchandise across a humungous grocery store. (Meijer)

Why I Believe in District Court

I believe in second chances, and District Court is where second chances matter most. District Court is “the people’s court” – aside from divorce, it’s the court people are most likely to encounter: traffic, misdemeanor crimes, civil suits under $25,000, small claims, and traffic. (You can also get married in District Court, but you have to go to Circuit Court to get divorced.)

How people are treated in District Court often determines the credibility of the whole system. I’ve been in courts across the state for decades and East Lansing’s is one of the best. People are treated with respect. It’s organized. Cases are handled in an orderly and professional manner.

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