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Alumni Association honors two Wayne Law graduates

June 06, 2012


              DETROIT — U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds may never think of “legal briefs” the same way again after presiding over the high publicized “Christmas Day Underwear Bomber” trial. And attorney Nick Schroeck likely thinks of “illegal immigration” in terms of fish — invasive Asian carp — in his role as executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center.
                Their legal roles and interests differ widely, but Edmunds and Schroeck have something in common. These two outstanding Wayne State University Law School graduates were among seven alumni honored May 7 for their achievements, excellence and service during the annual Alumni Awards Gala at Ford Field.
                Edmunds, a 1976 Wayne Law graduate, was presented with a Distinguished Alumni Award honoring outstanding service to the university over a period of years, personal accomplishments that enhance the prestige of WSU and distinguished service in her field of endeavor.
                Anyone who follows the news will be familiar with Edmunds, who presided over the recent “Christmas Day Underwear Bomber” trial. In that role, she made several important decisions to ensure the defendant’s right to a fully fair trial would be protected despite his notoriety.
                Even before that, the judge was no stranger to the news media. She made an important and controversial decision in Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft in 2002, a case that arose in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks. Edmunds ruled that it was a violation of the First Amendment for the government to designate certain immigration hearings as “special interest cases” and close them to the public. Her decision was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District. That opinion, written by another Wayne Law alumnus, Judge Damon Keith, contained the much quoted statement, “Democracies die behind closed doors.”
                Edmunds has served as a U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of Michigan since 1992, when she was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush. She spent 14 years before that as a private practice attorney with the Detroit-based firm Dykema Gossett in its commercial litigation section.
                She graduated summa cum laude from Wayne Law, and served as editor-in-chief of the Wayne Law Review as a student.
                Edmunds began her career as a judicial clerk to U.S. Senior District Judge Ralph Freeman.
                Throughout her 35-year legal career, she has been active in a number of professional and civic organizations, including the Federal Judges Association, American Bar Association, Federal Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan.
                She served as a member of the board of trustees of Temple Beth El from 1990-97, board of governors member of Cranbrook/Kingswood Schools from 1999-04, and as a board of trustees member of the Jewish Community Relations Council from 2005-07. She also has been active with the Stratford Shakespearean Festival of America.
                Over the past 10 years, Edmunds has made significant contributions to WSU.
                “She has lent her wisdom and gravitas to Wayne Law’s Board of Visitors for the past nine years, including four years as chair of that board, which serves as an advisory body to the dean,” said Marguerite Rigby, interim executive director of the Wayne State University Alumni Association. “As the board’s chair, Judge Edmunds played a major role in revitalizing that body, an accomplishment that continues to bear fruit. During my deanship, I have personally appreciated Judge Edmunds’ advice, which is always characterized by integrity and professionalism.”
                Edmunds also served two years as a member of the alumni association Board of Directors.
                Schroeck, a 2007 Wayne Law graduate, was presented with the Recent Alumni Award for outstanding professional achievement, community contributions and service to the university.
                Since early in 2010, Schroeck, an adjunct instructor with the WSU Law School, has served as executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, an independent and not-for-profit organization founded by WSU Professor Noah Hall to help shape the future of environmental law and protect the Great Lakes. The group has helped reform water law, working with many other organizations, by educating lawmakers and the public, litigating precedent-setting cases and researching new policy approaches and solutions.
                As a Wayne Law instructor, he is director of the Transnational Environmental Law Clinic in partnership with the University of Windsor (Ontario, Canada) Law School. The clinic provides students with opportunities to gain legal experience in U.S. and Canadian environmental law and Great Lakes regional issues.
                Previously, he worked for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Natural Resources Center in Ann Arbor, and was a Sea Grant Fellow with the Great Lakes Commission. He represents clients in a variety of water and quality litigation in state and federal courts, and serves on the board of Saving Birds Thru Habitat.
                Schroeck frequently appears in the media as an expert on high-profile environmental law cases, including the well-publicized, ongoing dispute over how to keep Asian carp, already established in the Mississippi River basin, out of the Great Lakes. He recently was named co-chair of the Water Law Committee of the State Bar of Michigan Environmental Law Section, and presented the State of Law update for water law in Michigan at the group’s annual meeting.

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