Law School in the news

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Which Michigan drivers are eligible for controversial MCCA refund checks?

By Kim Russell  Governor Gretchen Whitmer asked the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) to use a $5 billion surplus in its fund to give drivers a refund check, and the association agreed. The refund will come in the form of checks sent to insured drivers, even if they chose not to buy MCCA coverage last year, with the idea being that all Michigan drivers previously contributed to the base amount in the fund. Gov. Whitmer has emphasized that the surplus exists because of overpayments, but director of the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services Anita Fox says it is also in large part due to investment returns and cuts. Attorney Wayne Miller, a professor at Wayne State University Law School, has represented crash victims as they fight for care and says concerns that the refund could put their futures at risk are legitimate. “I think people don’t understand what is at stake. They look at it as, hey, it’s found money” Miller said. “Of course, nothing is free and there are reasons that surplus existed.”  

Gig-economy rise prompts FTC chief’s call to alter antitrust law

Gig-economy rise prompts FTC chief’s call to alter antitrust law  Gig-economy workers fighting for higher pay and better working conditions through protests and grassroots organizing campaigns face yet another obstacle in their campaigns: U. S. antitrust law. Federal statutes aimed at promoting competition and preventing monopolies leave out gig workers, classified as independent contractors, from protections for unionizing or other group actions. Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan is pushing to change that through legislation or joint guidance with the U.S. Justice Department, which would be a more straightforward, if legally risky, way of clarifying that current antitrust exemptions for traditional unions can extend to gig workers. The FTCs push joins an ongoing tug-of-war in the U.S. among gig companies, lawmakers, regulators, academics, and legal advocates over the employment status of app-based workers for Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc., DoorDash Inc., and others. Companies themselves may not bring suits against workers for antitrust violations, but they have attempted to further insulate themselves from worker activity, said Sanjukta Paul, an assistant professor of law at Wayne State University.  
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Dual degree: Corporate law student seeks to impact community

By Sheila Pursglove  Involved in his family’s commercial real estate business from a young age, Basem Younis learned early on that he had an affinity for numbers. He went on to earn an undergrad degree in accounting and finance from Wayne State University, remaining a Wayne Warrior for JD and MBA studies. His parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon and Syria in pursuit of an American education and the American Dream, always emphasized that education is a powerful and essential tool for nurturing positive change in society.  “They taught me higher education is an avenue to access the type of opportunities that would allow me to help nurture the communities that helped nurture me,” Younis says.  “My undergraduate career helped me realize small businesses are catalysts for thriving communities, as it had proven to be for my parents and my community. Given that many business decisions are influenced in some manner by the law, I decided a formal understanding of the law is essential to meaningfully influence the course of businesses.” Choosing Wayne Law was an easy decision for pursuing a JD/MBA dual degree, he adds. 
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Experts say Michigan's "bipartisan success" on no-fault reform is really a "bipartisan failure," as people lose care

When Michigan lawmakers, the mayor of Detroit, and the governor of the state gathered on Mackinac Island on May 30, 2019 to celebrate her signing the just-passed no fault insurance reform bill into law, the mood was almost giddy. It sometimes sounded like a family reunion, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer praised the fully bipartisan effort to make sweeping changes to Michigan’s auto insurance system. "When we see one another as people, as Michiganders, we can focus on getting things done," Whitmer said. “When we see one another as Michiganders first we are capable of great things, and it doesn't stop today." Governor Whitmer has since asked the state Legislature to fix the law. But Wayne State University Law Professor Wayne Miller, an expert on no-fault, said Whitmer never should have signed it in the first place because she knew — or should have known — that it would have a devastating effect on auto accident patients. He said he and other no-fault experts were called to the governor’s office a day before the vote happened. "We thought we were being called in for an emergency conference, like, 'We’re close to a deal, we want your input and we want you to look at what we’ve drafted.' It was nothing like that," he said. "It was a done deal."Instead of a meeting with the governor’s top negotiator, a staff member handed them a copy of the final bill. Bluntly put, everyone flipped out when they saw what was in it. "We said, 'Oh my God,'" Miller recalled, because they could immediately see that the bill would destroy Michigan’s entire system of care for catastrophic car accident survivors — not just previous survivors, but all those going forward. 

Law student strives to ‘bridge the gap’

Growing up, Shanice Leach was always interested in shows and movies about mysteries, true crime, and criminal justice.  “At first, I thought I wanted to do forensic science or forensic psychology but then I was introduced to the legal side through my law and public safety class in high school,” says Leach, who earned her undergrad degree in criminal justice and corrections from Wayne State University and is now a student at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.  “I love the idea of being able to help people when they are going through a tough time in their life—bridging the gap between the community and the legal system is extremely important to me.” After graduation, Leach spent 9 months as a domestic violence advocate for the AmeriCorps Urban Safety Project (AmUS) in Detroit, where she enjoyed the community interaction. Helping more than 800 victims of domestic violence receive assistance in their time of need, Leach said her work consisted of emergency planning and helping victims file personal protection orders.
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Law student strives to ‘bridge the gap’

By Sheila Pursglove  Growing up, Shanice Leach was always interested in shows and movies about mysteries, true crime, and criminal justice.  “At first, I thought I wanted to do forensic science or forensic psychology but then I was introduced to the legal side through my law and public safety class in high school,” says Leach, who earned her undergrad degree in criminal justice and corrections from Wayne State University and is now a student at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.  “I love the idea of being able to help people when they are going through a tough time in their life—bridging the gap between the community and the legal system is extremely important to me.” After graduation, Leach spent 9 months as a domestic violence advocate for the AmeriCorps Urban Safety Project (AmUS) in Detroit, where she enjoyed the community interaction. Helping more than 800 victims of domestic violence receive assistance in their time of need, Leach said her work consisted of emergency planning and helping victims file personal protection orders. “My favorite thing to do is emergency planning—specifically because most people think the only way you could help a victim in a domestic violence situation is to make them leave or force them to understand why they should leave this situation at this very moment, when in reality, they can only leave when they are ready,” she says. “Planning for emergencies includes making two to three realistic escape situations so that when it’s time for the victim to leave, he or she has an effective escape route that is logical and nothing important is forgotten.”  Leach then spent 15 months as a domestic relations specialist for the Wayne County Circuit Court, where she enjoyed meeting and interacting with attorneys, judges, and referees.  “They were extremely friendly and always available to answer any questions I needed,” she says. “Friend of the Court is like a big family.” Now a rising 3L at Detroit Mercy Law, Leach particularly enjoys the culture.  “Professors are extremely involved inside and outside the classroom—they’re knowledgeable and tell the best stories,” she says. “The competitive atmosphere is still there, of course, but everyone is still friendly and gets along well.” 
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Steve Bannon Faces Criminal Charges Over Jan. 6 Panel Snub, Setting Up a Showdown Over Executive Privilege

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is tasked with providing as full an account as possible of the attempted insurrection. But there is a problem: Not everyone is cooperating. As of Oct. 14, 2021, Steve Bannon, a one-time aide to former President Donald Trump, has stated that he will not comply with a committee subpoena compelling him to give testimony. Bannon’s lawyers have said their client is not acting out of defiance; rather, he is following the direction of Trump, who, citing executive privilege, has told Bannon not to produce testimony or documents. Either way, Bannon now faces the prospect of criminal contempt charges. 
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Michigan Solicitor General becomes first Arab American Muslim woman to argue before US Supreme Court

Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa A. Hammoud made history on Tuesday by becoming the first Arab American Muslim woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case she was arguing originated in Kalamazoo in 2007 and has now made it all the way to the high court. “Every single one of the justices actually asked a question. Justice Kavanaugh was on the phone, but every single one of the justices obviously was interested,” Hammoud said. She said arguing in front of the Supreme Court was the highlight of her career. “It really is surreal. The attorney general and I both went to Wayne State Law School. We went to an urban law school and we bring all of that that here to the Supreme Court and to the Capitol and to Washington D.C. with us. And this is what’s so wonderful about our experience,” Hammoud said. “I know that my family is here, came to surprise me -- my husband, my children, my father, my colleagues are here.” 
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What the Constitution says and doesn't say about the truth

Jim Townsend is the director of the Levin Center at Wayne State University law school and a former member of the Michigan House of Representatives. He says the public can’t solve important problems when it disagrees on certain truths. At the Levin Center, Townsend says he is trying to encourage people “to return to the facts,” and constrain representatives to do that. “They have to feel that pressure,” he says, referring to lawmakers. Townsend says representatives also have to work across political boundaries to do what former Sen. Carl Levin taught, which was to conduct investigations with those with whom they disagree. Many policy issues go unsolved, says Townsend, because legislators are not favoring the better angels of their nature. “We have to own up to the fact that a significant reason why we’re failing to address these situations is that lawmakers don’t hold themselves accountable and they don’t hold the executive branch accountable,” he says.  https://wdet.org/posts/2021/09/29/91488-what-the-us-constitution-says-and-doesnt-say-about-truth/ 
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Wayne Law welcomes four new faculty members

Wayne State University Law School announced this week four new faculty members: Nancy Chi Cantalupo, Daniel Ellman, Jamila Jefferson-Jones and Hillel Nadler. Cantalupo is a nationally respected voice on Title IX, sexual harassment and gender-based violence. She has contributed significantly to U.S. public policy, including as a member of the 2013-14 Negotiated Rulemaking Committee for the Violence Against Women Act. Her scholarship focuses on using the law to combat discriminatory violence and draws from her more than two decades of work as a researcher, campus administrator, victims’ advocate, attorney and policymaker. She joins the Law School as an assistant professor of law. She was previously a faculty member at California Western School of Law. Ellman is a former trial lawyer at New York City’s Bronx Defenders. He joins the faculty after clerking for Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard H. Bernstein and teaching in the Sociology Department at the University of Michigan. Drawing in part on his work at the Bronx Defenders, he has been instrumental in launching Wayne Law’s innovative new Holistic Defense Partnership with the university’s School of Social Work. 
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House committee investigating Capitol insurrection has a lot of power, but it’s unclear it can force Trump to testify

Associate Professor of Law and Adjunct Associate Professor of Political Science, Kirsten Carlson, wrote an article for The Conversation. “In the intensely partisan atmosphere surrounding the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, will the committee be able to get the information it needs? The American people, said Republican House member Liz Cheney, “deserve the full and open testimony of every person with knowledge of the planning and preparation for Jan. 6.” In opening statements link takes to a paywall at the first hearing held on July 27 by the House select committee investigating the attack, Cheney and other committee members said that an accurate record of the events on Jan. 6 - and in the time that led up to it - is essential to understanding the factors contributing to the attack so that future attacks may be prevented. The committee has several tools for shedding light on the events of Jan. 6 and ensuring that the American people learn the truth about what happened. Transparent, research-based, written by experts – and always free.”
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Levin Center expert takes part in panel on insurance oversight

State legislators from across the country learned about the importance of insurance oversight from a National Conference of Insurance Legislators panel entitled, “The Delicate Balance of Legislative Oversight.” One panelist was the Levin Center’s Ben Eikey, an expert on state legislative oversight. “Oversight can play a critical role in state legislatures seeking to promote a healthy insurance sector and so that families and businesses can obtain effective insurance at a fair price,” said Eikey. “Legislative oversight can help identify and analyze problems, encourage best practices, and help make sure financial help is there if disaster strikes.” The Levin Center at Wayne Law is named in honor of former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. senator who retired in 2015 after 36 years in the Senate conducting fact-based, bipartisan oversight investigations. Levin serves as the chair of the center which is headquartered at Wayne State University Law School. The center’s mission is to promote high quality oversight in Congress and the 50 state legislatures through oversight workshops, research, events, and other activities.
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Big Tech is trying to disarm the FTC by going after its biggest weapon: Lina Khan

Amazon and Facebook have filed petitions seeking Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan’s recusal in antitrust cases involving their companies. Khan’s confirmation to the FTC and appointment to lead the agency presents one of the clearest threats of major regulatory action in the tech sector in years. By seeking to recuse Khan, the companies are going after one of the biggest antitrust weapons the FTC has and, whether Khan is recused or not, the decision could muck up the antitrust charges against either company. Experts told CNBC that it makes sense for Facebook and Amazon to try to get Khan removed from the suits. Experts interviewed by CNBC said petitions for recusal of FTC commissioners happen but aren’t common. That makes the two petitions in a matter of weeks seem like an outlier. But, the experts said, it makes sense the companies would pull out all the stops given their opportunity to do so. “The last thing a party would want to do would be to sleep on its rights, so it’s not surprising that they would go ahead and raise the issue now,” said Stephen Calkins, a law professor at Wayne State University and a former FTC general counsel. “And raising it could serve a purpose even if all it does is to provide an argument the parties could make if any matter ever goes forward and ends up in a court.”

WSU's Nikki Wright lauded for efforts to give back

As a little girl on vacation visiting her lawyer uncle’s home in Mississippi, Nikki Wright would wander through his study in wide-eyed awe, mesmerized by the endless rows of legal tomes lining the bookshelves, daydreaming of a future where she would follow in his footsteps. Her uncle, Reuben V. Anderson, went on to become Mississippi’s first African American state Supreme Court judge, and Wright returned home to Detroit and transformed the girlhood aspirations Anderson had inspired into inspiring professional triumphs. After earning both her undergraduate and law degrees from Wayne State and then clerking for only the second Black man to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court, Fred L. Banks, Jr., Wright went into private practice as a litigation attorney, honing both a sharp skill for investigation and a strong desire to give back to the community that nurtured her. These days, Wright serves as assistant vice president in the Wayne State Office of Equal Opportunity, her skills and passions having dovetailed at the same university campus where she pursued her earliest dreams. Among other things, she supports the university’s compliance efforts in investigations involving discrimination and harassment, and helps train faculty and students about these issues. Wright also helps the university ensure that WSU’s hiring committees are diverse. A member of the Social Justice Action Committee, Wright also helped the university draft recommendations aimed at boosting diversity, inclusion and equity as related to faculty hiring and retention. “I saw this job as a way for me to give back to the university,” Wright said about her decision to leave private practice for her alma mater. “Obviously, I could go into the public sector and potentially make a great deal more money, but I really wanted to take a step into a different direction and help a university that helped me. So it really came full circle for me. And that was the right decision because it allows me to give back, something I really enjoy.” Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Recently, Wright was among several other women honored by the Michigan Chronicle with its “Women of Excellence” Award. The award recognizes African American women throughout metro Detroit for their leadership and public service. “When they selected me, I was really happy,” said Wright. “This type of work is really important work, and it supports the university, it supports our community. And the Michigan Chronicle is all about recognizing the work that African Americans do. It was nice that they recognized me. “ Her work at Wayne State, she says, is an extension of the efforts she’s made throughout her career to serve as a positive influence on both the community and individuals. In addition to being active in her church, Hope United Methodist, Wright has provided pro bono legal work for organizations such as the Horatio Williams Foundation, which supports local youth through mentoring, tutoring and afterschool activities. She has done charity work for the public school systems in both Detroit and elsewhere, providing resources for needy children and families. She’s also served as in-house and outside legal counsel for the Detroit Public Schools Community District. And while none of the work is easy, the load grew especially heavy in 2020 as Wright and her family also had to struggle with the death of her older brother, who passed away that March just as the coronavirus pandemic erupted. (Wright says her brother wasn’t diagnosed with COVID-19, although she suspects he may have had it.) “It was very difficult,” Wright admits. “And so we're just getting through it. We're still challenged, but we're getting through it. We were very, very close. Some of what we do now is in memory of my brother. He worked with students with the Southfield public school system, in particular, with the disabled student body. And so my family and I help to make students’ Christmas bright. We support them during Christmas by making sure that they have a full and happy Christmas.” Her work with students also reaches back to the WSU campus. For example, Wright serves as a judge for Wayne State’s Moot Court Competition. In private practice, Wright also hired and mentored young attorneys often giving them their first experience of practicing law. Whether she’s helping to diversify the faculty ranks at Wayne State or supporting students and new attorneys in metro Detroit, Wright takes heart in the fact that she’s helping others access dreams, not unlike the uncle who guided and inspired her. Doing this at her alma mater, says Wright, makes the job all the sweeter. “I’m the glad the Michigan Chronicle recognized the important work we’re doing, and I see us as continuing to support Wayne State’s efforts to tear down the barriers that impact minorities,” she says. “And I'm really happy to be doing it in a university that I care about, where I graduated with a degree in undergrad and law school. It means a lot to me.”  
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Antitrust crusader Lina Khan faces a big obstacle: The courts

The fiercest foes of America’s technology giants cheered when Lina Khan, a professor at Columbia Law School, was confirmed by the Senate last week for a seat on the Federal Trade Commission. Khan has since been named by the president as the chairwoman of the antitrust agency. Khan is one of the most prominent antagonists of big business, and in her role she will be responsible for challenging mergers and taking on companies when they use their market muscle to snuff out competition. According to antitrust experts, the biggest hurdle to putting her agenda into action is a judiciary that has made it very difficult for competition watchdogs to win ambitious cases. To make any change of consequence, whether breaking up a monopoly or stopping a takeover, enforcers must prevail in court. “None of that is easy, and it’s particularly not easy when courts are very conservative, as they are today,” says Stephen Calkins, a law professor at Wayne State University and a former general counsel at the FTC. “She’s certainly talked about breaking up companies but, my golly, that’s incredibly hard to do.” 
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Supreme Court affirms tribal police authority over non-Indians

Kirsten Carlson, associate professor of law and adjunct associate professor of political science, wrote an article for The Conversation on police authority over non-Indians. “The Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the sovereign power of American Indian tribes on June 1, 2021, ruling that tribal police officers have the power to temporarily detain and search non-Indians on public rights-of-way through American Indian lands. In most communities in the United States, the local government has the authority to investigate and prosecute both misdemeanor and felony crimes. And local police can detain and search individuals suspected of state and federal crimes, at least until handing them off to the appropriate authorities. Tribal governments – the local governments in Indian country – have the power to prosecute tribal citizens on tribal lands. When it comes to non-Indians, though, the situation is different. In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled that tribal governments could not prosecute non-Indians for any crimes in Indian country. Tribal governments have to rely on state and federal governments to prosecute non-Indians – which doesn’t happen often. Effectively, non-Indians have been able to commit crimes in Indian country with impunity.
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Wayne State University launches “holistic defense” pilot for criminal defendants

Wayne State University will implement a holistic defense partnership program in fall 2021. The program will pair social work and law students to assist clients in criminal defense offices in Detroit. The students will tackle systemic issues in the criminal justice system under the supervision of licensed attorneys and social workers. Administrators at the university believe that the holistic approach will spur criminal justice reforms and inspire change in their community. Dan Ellman is an externship professor at the Wayne State University Law School. “When people become enmeshed in the criminal justice system, they face a lot of consequences,” Ellman says. For some individuals, he explains, these consequences can include the deprivation of employment, parental rights and housing. Sheryl Kubiak is the dean of the Wayne State University School of Social Work. Kubiak says interdisciplinary partnerships are often fraught with misunderstandings about objectives. “In these offices, we hope to produce lawyers and social workers who are used to working together,” Kubiak says. Though this initiative may prove to be costly, Kubiak says it is a necessary investment to improve the livelihood of citizens. She explains, ”When you look at the unintended consequences of an individual who goes further and further into the criminal legal system, you have to think about what happened to their children, what about their lost revenue, what about the issues of family disruption, and what are those costs to our society?” 
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Wayne State to pilot holistic defense partnership for law and social work students

Wayne State University Law School and School of Social Work are launching a holistic defense partnership for J.D. and M.S.W. students beginning in fall 2021, with the goal of addressing clients’ legal and social support needs in tandem. Holistic defense – also referred to as community orientated or comprehensive defense – is a term used to describe an innovative approach that employs an interdisciplinary team to consider both the individual and community needs when working with a person charged with a criminal offense. Unintended or collateral consequences of arrest and conviction can include loss of housing, removal of children, and even deportation. The holistic defense approach brings lawyers and social workers together to achieve positive legal and social outcomes for criminal defendants. “Holistic defense is an underutilized opportunity to effect real change in the lives of people navigating the criminal justice system,” said Wayne Law Dean and Professor Richard A. Bierschbach. “Lawyers and social workers have the same goal – to achieve the best possible outcome for their client. By training lawyers and social workers together, we open the door for future professional collaboration that can make all the difference.” In fall 2020, Social Work students embarked on the initial holistic defense pilot year, completing an immersive field placement experience and Social Work courses focused on the intersection of the criminal legal system and the behavioral health needs of their clients. Five students who recently completed the initial requirements in May 2021 worked with lawyers and fellow allied health professional teams to assess client needs, provide resources and information, and serve as an advocate for their client as they navigate complicated social systems. “The holistic defense model encompasses much of what we do each day as social workers – working in tandem with our clients, colleagues and community partners to provide comprehensive care and empower change in our community. What is unique about this approach is the integration into the criminal legal system, which has resulted in shorter client sentences, a reduction in pre-trial detention and ultimately saved taxpayer dollars,” said Social Work Dean and Professor Sheryl Kubiak.
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Michigan businesses must decide to keep or drop their mask mandate

As more businesses announce new policies on vaccinations and masks, business owners have to decide whether to keep a mandate in place and how to enforce it. For some, a relaxation on mask recommendations is, as Bay City commissioner Kerice Basmadjiam says, “a light at the end of the tunnel.” But Lance Gable, a law professor at Wayne State University, says it could be problematic. “If everyone just stops wearing masks and just stops taking precautions, including people who are unvaccinated, that’s going to result in a lot more spread of the disease,” Gable said. The problem is the unknown. “A lot of people now are going to be going around without masks and you’re not going to be able to tell who’s been vaccinated and who hasn’t been,” Gable said. But are separate businesses and entities allowed to require proof of vaccination? “They certainly could request that information, but if a person refuses, there’s nothing the business can necessarily do to force them. You can’t force someone to divulge their private medical information,” Gable said. “It’s not only going to be confusing, but I think it’s going to be unsettling for a lot of people,” Gable said.
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Former chief justice shows ‘ardent desire’ to do good at WSU

Marilyn Kelly, Board of Governors chair, is profiled in a story by Detroit Legal News Editor-in-Chief Tom Kirvan. “When Marilyn Kelly retired from the state Supreme Court nine years ago, most political observers figured it would be but a brief respite from the world of public service. For that, we should all be thankful, as it was only two years before Kelly ran for elective office again, winning a seat in the November 2014 election on the Board of Governors at Wayne State University, where she earned her law degree with honors. Kelly’s return to the campaign trail was rooted in her “deep commitment to Wayne State and an ardent desire to help it accomplish its mission to provide an excellent education for its students and better serve the community,” she wrote in announcing her candidacy. Last month, Kelly was unanimously chosen to serve as chair of the Wayne State Board of Governors, hoping to usher in a new era of cooperation and collegiality, much like she did when she served as chief justice of Michigan’s top court. “The start of 2021 is the perfect time to reflect on the past and frame intentions for the future,” Kelly said after she was chosen chair. “To that end, I’ve consulted in recent weeks with every member of the Board of Governors. Each of us has pledged to renew our efforts to work together in the best interests of this great university. Her ties, of course, to her legal alma mater are strong. She is a past recipient of the University’s Outstanding Alumni Award, and received an honorary doctorate from WSU, where she also has been named its Distinguished Jurist in Residence. She has served as co-chair of the law school’s capital campaign and also established an endowed scholarship for law school students “who are dedicated to public service.”