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Wayne Law alumni, professors to be honored as part of State Bar of Michigan annual meeting

August 28, 2014

Four of five Champion of Justice Awards given this year by the State Bar of Michigan will go to Wayne State University Law School alumni and professors. The Unsung Hero Award also will go to a Wayne Law alumna.

Wayne Law alumna Susan F. Reed, class of 1976, will be awarded the Unsung Hero Awad. To be honored as Champions of Justice are Brian L. Morrow, class of 1986; Michael L. Pitt, class of 1974; Dawn A. Van Hoek, class of 1994; and, as a group, the members of the plaintiffs’ legal team in the DeBoer et al v. Snyder lawsuit over same-sex marriage. The team members are Wayne Law Adjunct Professor Kenneth M. Mogill; Dana M. Nessel, class of 1994; Wayne Law Distinguished Professor Robert A. Sedler; and Carole M. Stanyar.

The awards will be given at the State Bar’s annual meeting, which will be Sept. 17, 18 and 19 in Grand Rapids. Wayne Law also will recognize these alumni at its annual Alumni Reception hosted by the law school from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, 187 Monroe Ave. N.W. The reception also will honor Assistant Professor Kirsten Matoy Carlson, who will receive the Wayne Law 2014 Donald H. Gordon Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Register for the alumni reception by Friday, Sept. 12, at law.wayne.edu/statebar2014. For more information, email lawalumni@wayne.edu or call (313) 577-3113.

Reed, a Detroit resident, is a veteran criminal defense attorney and president of the Wayne County Criminal Defense Bar Association. She’s handled many high-profile cases, including the 2012 defense of handyman Joseph Gentz in the highly publicized murder of Grosse Pointe Park marketing executive Jane Bashara. Reed worked as a Detroit Public Schools teacher before attending law school.

Morrow of Northville is deputy chief of the Juvenile Division of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and coordinator for the office’s Teen Court program, where trained juries of high school students sentence juvenile offenders who have admitted responsibility for minor violations of the law.

In 2011, the Brian and Mary Morrow Community Service Scholarship was established by Morrow and his wife to reward the initiative of Detroit Public Schools students actively involved in community service projects such as the Teen Court. Morrow said the students involved in the program inspired creation of the scholarship. Mary Morrow, Wayne Law class of 1986, was awarded as a Champion of Justice in 2008.

Pitt of Huntington Woods is a founding member of Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers PC and specializes in employment law and civil rights litigation. He’s won a number of awards for his work, which this year included defending Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown, a defendant in the DeBoer v. Snyder case who stood on the side of the plaintiffs. Pitt was co-counsel for the female prisoners who were awarded $100 million for sexual abuse in the notable Neal v. Michigan Department of Corrections class action suit settled in 2009.

Pitt is active in many leadership positions for numerous organizations and serves as an executive committee member on Wayne Law’s Board of Visitors. He and his wife, Peggy, have endowed a scholarship awarded yearly to a Wayne Law student with a severe disability.

Van Hoek of Ann Arbor is director of the State Appellate Defender Office and past president of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan. She’s won a number of awards for her work and serves on the boards of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, Michigan Campaign for Justice and Wayne County’s Criminal Advocacy Program.

The team of Mogill, Nessel, Sedler and Stanyar, on behalf of lesbian couple April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, filed DeBoer v. Snyder in 2012 in federal district court, challenging the state’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples. The suit was amended to challenge Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage. DeBoer and Rowse sought the right to marry legally so they could have joint custody of their three adopted children. In March 2014, after a nine-day trial, Judge Bernard Friedman ruled for the plaintiffs. The case was appealed and awaits resolution.

Mogill of Lake Orion, who teaches Professional Responsibility and the Legal Profession at Wayne Law, is a past president of Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan and a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He is a partner with Mogill Posner & Cohen.

Nessel of Plymouth practices with Nessel & Kessel Law. Her practice has a heavy emphasis on criminal defense, and she also handles civil rights actions, family law matters and general tort litigation.

Sedler of Southfield, an expert on constitutional law and civil rights, has been educating law students for more than 50 years. The last 36 of those years as a professor have been at WSU, where he is a member of the Academy of Scholars. Membership in the academy is voted on by faculty members and is the highest academic honor that can be bestowed on a professor by university colleagues.

He has earned many awards over the years, and Sedler, who has published extensively and travels abroad frequently representing Wayne Law, often is sought by the media for his comments and insights as an expert on constitutional law

Carlson of Grosse Pointe Park focuses her research on legal advocacy and law reform, with particular attention on the various strategies used by Indian nations and indigenous groups to reform federal Indian law and policy effectively.

From May 2014 through July 2016, she has a National Science Foundation Law and Social Science Program grant to fund her research project, “Legal Mobilization, Rights Claims, and Federal Indian Policy Reform.” She incorporates her research into her classes.

At Wayne Law, Carlson teaches American Indian Law and Civil Procedure. She is faculty advisor to the Native American Law Student Association and serves on the State Bar of Michigan Standing Committee on American Indian Law.

Prior to joining Wayne Law in 2011, she advocated nationally and internationally to protect the rights of Indian nations as a staff attorney at the Indian Law Resource Center. She led the center’s advocacy efforts to restore criminal jurisdiction to Indian nations to end violence against women in Indian Country. Carlson also has been a visiting research scholar at the University of Ottawa and a visiting associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School.

She earned her law degree cum laude and a doctorate in political science from the University of Michigan, a master of arts degree with distinction in Maaori studies from the University of Wellington, New Zealand, and a bachelor of arts degree in international studies from The Johns Hopkins University. Her articles have been published in the Michigan Law Review, Georgia State Law Review, American Indian Law Review and Michigan State Law Review.



Susan F. Reed

Brian L. Morrow

Michael L. Pitt

Dawn A. Van Hoek

Kenneth M. Mogill

Dana M. Nessel

Robert A. Sedler

Kirsten Matoy Carlson


Advocating for justice, serving the community, revitalizing Detroit and Michigan