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Father, daughter choose Wayne Law, careers on the bench

September 07, 2010

DETROIT (Sept. 7, 2010) – To say that Barry Grant, ’60, and his daughter, Nanci, ’89, have a lot in common is a bit of an understatement. They both decided to pursue careers in the law and chose Wayne State University Law School as their law school. After a number of years as practicing attorneys, each decided to serve their communities by pursuing careers on the bench, and both chose the Sixth Circuit Court in Oakland County, Mich.

And though they have a lot in common, their situation is quite unique. When Nanci was elected to the bench, in 1996, she and her dad were the only father-daughter sitting judges in the state.

But ask Nanci if her father influenced her decision, and her answer is not what you would expect. “My mother and father are wonderful parents who encouraged my brothers and me in any activity or career choice,” she said. In fact, her father’s response seemed a bit low-key when she called to tell him her plans to attend law school. “I called my mom back and said, ‘I don't think Dad sounds very enthusiastic about law school.’ She told me that, after he hung up, my dad started crying because he was so happy,” Nanci said. “Similar to that, he never pushed me toward the bench, but once I decided to run, he was my biggest supporter.”

Barry retired from the bench in 2008. He had practiced law for 16 years, including a three-year stint as assistant prosecutor, before Gov. Milliken appointed him to the Oakland County Probate court in 1977. “I always wanted to become a judge, because I always enjoyed helping people,” Barry said. “Being a probate/juvenile judge gave me the opportunity to help people and solve family problems.”

Not surprisingly, Nanci echoes her father’s motivation for being a judge. “I loved being a litigator, yet always had a call to public service,” said Nanci, who was an attorney at Dickinson Wright for seven years. “While I enjoyed being an advocate for a client, I also believed that I could effectively resolve cases and effectuate justice as a judge.” In 1996, she was the youngest elected circuit court judge in Michigan. She went on to be appointed chief circuit judge in 2009.

“The most rewarding part of my job is when I have the opportunity to influence younger criminal defendants to turn their lives around and be the person that I believe they can be,” she said. “While this may not happen frequently, it happens often enough that I am not discouraged.”

It’s hard to tell which of the two is more proud of the other. “As a judge, my father had more than 30 years of making very real and positive differences in people's lives,” Nanci said. “Not a day goes by where he doesn't run into someone who thanks him for his time on the bench and all he did for them. He took the time with difficult cases and truly tried to resolve matters so everyone felt like they were heard and the outcome was fair.”

“Judge Nanci Grant has achieved many legal successes through hard work and always being well prepared,” Barry said. “She has a deep concern about people and makes sure that everyone who appears before her feels that they really have had their day in court, through justice and fairness. She does what is right.”

And, though Barry claims he only gives advice when he is asked, his daughter certainly appreciates his input. “His best advice, on the day I was elected, was this: to remember that every person in front of me was unique and that their case is the singular most important one to them,” she said. “He also told me to stay as I am and not become the job. I still hold to that philosophy today.”

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Wayne State University is a premier urban research university offering more than 400 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 32,000 students.

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