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Wayne Law alumni, professor being honored as part of State Bar of Michigan Annual Meeting

August 30, 2013

Five Wayne State University Law School alumni and a Wayne Law assistant professor will be honored in September as part of State Bar of Michigan Annual Meeting events in Lansing.

Eugene Driker, Class of 1961; Robert Mossel, Class of 1996; Valerie Newman, Class of 1992; the Honorable Chad Schmucker, Class of 1977; and Elizabeth Stafford, Class of 1993, will be honored Wednesday, Sept. 18, at the State Bar of Michigan Awards Banquet.

The five alumni also will be recognized at the annual Wayne Law Alumni Reception hosted by the law school from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, at the Lansing Center, 333 E. Michigan Ave. The alumni reception also will honor Assistant Professor Eric Zacks, who will receive the Wayne Law 2013 Donald H. Gordon Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Alumni, faculty and friends are invited to join Wayne Law Dean Jocelyn Benson at the alumni reception, which will provide an opportunity for attendees to network and reconnect with colleagues.

Register for the alumni reception by Friday, Sept. 13, at http://specialevents.wayne.edu/michbar2013. For more information, email lawalumni@wayne.edu or call (313) 577-3113.

Driker of Detroit and Newman of Pleasant Ridge will be honored with the State Bar's Champion of Justice Award, given for integrity and adherence to the highest principles and traditions of the legal profession; superior professional competence; and extraordinary professional accomplishment that benefits the nation, state or local community.

Driker, one of the founding members of Barris Sott Denn & Driker, is a member of Wayne State University's Board of Governors. He has been honored and awarded numerous times by his peers over the years and has been named as one of the best lawyers in the nation. His areas of specialization are complex business litigation and corporate and business counseling.

He has served as lead or co-lead trial counsel in numerous business cases, including the representation of one of the state's largest utilities in a $500 million fraud and breach of contract action brought by a major industrial firm. He has represented numerous lawyers and law firms, including several of the largest in the state, in professional liability, disciplinary and partnership dissolution matters. He also has represented the state of Michigan, the judges of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and the city of Detroit in complex litigation matters.

Driker has significant experience in alternate dispute resolution, both as an advocate and as an arbitrator/mediator. He often has been called upon by other trial lawyers and judges to serve as a special mediator in complicated business matters.

Newman is an assistant defender of the State Appellate Defender Office in Detroit, and last year was honored with the office's first Thomas Award for Excellence in Appellate Advocacy. She has been honored many times over the years by her peers for professional excellence and for her community volunteer work. She often speaks at Wayne Law to benefit students and is an adjunct clinical professor at Wayne Law and the University of Michigan Law School.

In 2011, Newman successfully argued for her client before the U.S. Supreme Court in Lafler v. Cooper. The court's decision has been recognized as a watershed opinion clarifying that the constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel includes guilty plea negotiations. She also recently litigated the highly publicized case of People v. Thomas (and Raymond) Highers, which resulted in the release of two men who each had served 25 years of incarceration for crimes they didn't commit.

Newman has represented hundreds of clients on appeal since she started working at the State Appellate Defender Office in 1995. She's also an active community volunteer. She is active within the State Bar of Michigan and has served on numerous committees, including as co-chair of the Task Force on the Recording of Custodial Interrogations. She currently co-chairs the Criminal Issues Initiative and Task Force on Eyewitness Identification Issues and is a member of Justice Initiatives.

Mossel of Canton will be honored with the State Bar's John W. Cummiskey Pro Bono Award. An attorney with Ford Motor Credit Co., Mossel chairs the company's active pro bono committee. Since 2009, Ford's pro bono program has been nationally recognized by a number of organizations for its efforts, including a partner of the year award in 2009, Kelvin W. Scott Corporate Counsel Pro Bono Award for Excellence in Corporate Involvement in 2010 and 2011, and Corporate Pro Bono Partner Award from the National Pro Bono Institute.

Stafford of Grosse Pointe Park will be honored with the State Bar's Representative Assembly Unsung Hero Award, given annually to an attorney who has exhibited the highest standards of practice and commitment for the benefit of others.
Stafford is a prosecutor who has been with the U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Michigan, for more than 10 years. She has tried numerous cases ranging from bank robberies and firearms charges to multi-state drug conspiracies. She currently serves in the office's Public Corruption unit, where she oversees investigations involving allegations of criminal activity among elected, appointed and career government officials. She has argued extensively before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Stafford has contributed substantially to the State Bar. In addition to serving on the Executive Board of the Federal Bar Association, she has co-chaired the FBA Diversity Committee for a number of years. During that time, she spearheaded the FBA Diversity Mentoring initiative, which pairs newer members of the bar with more seasoned members to help them successfully develop a federal practice. She also partnered on behalf of FBA with the Just the Beginnings Foundation, a judge-led effort to create a pipeline to the legal profession beginning with high-school age students of color.

Schmucker of Jackson will be honored with the State Bar Foundation's Access to Justice Award, which honors an individual who has significantly advanced access to justice for the poor in Michigan. The judge was named state court administrator by the Michigan Supreme Court in 2011. He oversees administration of all the state's trial courts, five regional court administrator offices and all court administrator divisions, including the Michigan Judicial Institute, Judicial Information Systems, Child Welfare Services, Friend of the Court Bureau, Office of Dispute Resolution, Statistical Research and Trial Court Services. The foundation's award acknowledges Schmucker's long public service as a judge and now as state court administrator in helping those with barriers to access to courts.

Zacks of Huntington Woods will be honored with the Wayne Law 2013 Donald H. Gordon Award for Excellence in Teaching. This award is named for a former Wayne Law dean, who served from 1975 to 1980, and includes a $1,000 stipend.

Zacks' recent scholarship focuses on the relevance of behavioral sciences to contract formation, breach and enforcement. His work has been widely published. In 2012 and 2013, he was voted Professor of the Year by the second- and third-year law students. He teaches a variety of business law courses, including Corporate Finance, Mergers and Acquisitions, Securities Regulation, and Corporations, as well as a first-year Contracts course.

Prior to joining Wayne Law, Zacks was a partner in the corporate and securities department of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP, a Detroit law firm, with a practice focus on complex acquisitions and divestitures, debt and equity financings, and other aspects of corporate transactions. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Michigan and his law degree from Harvard Law School.

*Photos of Recipients Available Upon Request

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 29,000 students.

  • Contact: Shawn Starkey
  • Voice: 313-577-4629
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