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Wayne Law to host free Feb. 13 lecture on municipal law, civil rights in Detroit

February 06, 2014

DETROIT – Three speakers who excel in civic engagement will be featured in the next installment of Wayne State University Law School’s Good Governance Lecture Series.

Addressing the topic of “Municipal Law and Civil Rights: Spotlight on Detroit Government” on Thursday, Feb. 13, will be:

  • Melvin “Butch” Hollowell, corporation counsel for the city of Detroit.
  • Portia Roberson, director of the city’s Civil Rights and Justice Division.
  • Donnell White, executive director of the Detroit branch of the NAACP.

The lecture, free and open to the public, is in honor of Black History Month. It will be from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. in Room 2242 of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at the law school, 471 W. Palmer St. Lunch will be provided. Register at (313) 577-2733 or brianna.fritz@wayne.edu.

Parking will be available for $6.50 in Structure One across West Palmer Street from the law school.

The lecture is the second in the Good Governance Lecture Series. The series was inspired by the October leadership summit, “Building an Honest and Open Government in Detroit: Why Public Integrity Matters.” That event was moderated by Bankole Thompson, an author and editor of the Michigan Chronicle, who also leads and moderates the lecture series.

Hollowell, who earned his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law, served as chief legal counsel for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan before the mayoral election. He also is general counsel for the Detroit branch of the NAACP and serves on the national NAACP’s legal committee.

Hollowell was assistant Wayne County executive from 1985 to 1991 and is legal counsel for the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus. He has served as chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, and serves on the board of Cass Community Social Services. His legal expertise includes public law, election law, business law and municipal finance.

Roberson, a 1993 Wayne Law alumna, was appointed in 2012 as Detroit’s corporate counsel under Mayor Dave Bing. She worked for the U.S. Department of Justice from 2009 to 2012 and was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as director of the department’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in 2011. She also accepted an assignment with the White House Office of Domestic Policy Council and a position as Detroit team lead of the federal Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative, which promotes federal collaboration with local governments to encourage economic growth. In that role, she worked with local officials on all issues related to the Justice Department.

Roberson has served as an assistant Wayne County prosecutor, an associate general counsel at the Detroit Medical Center and political director for Wayne County with the Michigan Campaign for Change.

White began his service at the NAACP’s Detroit branch as a volunteer in 2002. He was hired as an administrative assistant in 2003 and has risen through the organization’s ranks ever since. He is the youngest executive director in the history of the NAACP.

He also serves in numerous community organizations and was appointed by Bing as a Detroit police commissioner in 2010. White’s activism for social justice and community improvement has earned him a number of honors, including multiple Spirit of Detroit Awards and the 2007 Michigan Chronicle Newspaper’s Contemporary Pioneer Award. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Michigan State University.

The series is sponsored by Wayne Law, under the leadership of Dean Jocelyn Benson, in partnership with Thompson. Subsequent forums will take place in March and April.

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