LANSING — The “People’s Lawyer” doesn’t usually grab as many headlines as the governor, but the role of being the chief legal officer is extremely powerful courtesy of the Michigan Constitution, means presiding over a $102 million dollar budget and is typically a springboard to even higher office.
In recent years, the Michigan Attorney General has made national headlines due to the Flint water crisis and more recently the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal at Michigan State University. However, the attorney general also handles legal questions from the Michigan legislature and acts as a public advocate in child support enforcement, consumer protection, antitrust and utility regulation, enforces federal and state environmental laws, represents the state and state agencies in state and federal courts and tribunals as well as prosecutes in child protective proceedings in some jurisdictions, handles criminal appeals and serious statewide criminal prosecutions i.e. welfare and unemployment benefits fraud and files civil suits on behalf of the state.
Five attorneys (three Democrats and two Republicans) from various legal backgrounds have filed to succeed the term-limited Bill Schuette as chief legal counsel. The nominees from both parties will be selected by delegates to political party conventions in August 2018 and those winners will move forward to run statewide in the November 6, 2018 general election.
These are the candidates who think they’re up for the job and have filed so far:
Background: Leonard was an assistant state Attorney General and assistant prosecutor in Genessee County before being elected to the state House of Representatives in 2012, representing Clinton and and a portion of Gratiot counties. The DeWitt Township resident was elected by his Republican colleagues in 2017 to serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives. He helped push through changes to teachers’ pensions in 2017 and reforms to the criminal justice system. But he also had some failures with the inability to get an income tax cut passed or a reform of Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system. He received a bachelor’s degree from University of Michigan and a law degree from Michigan State University. Website: https://leonardforag.com
Background: After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a law degree from the Detroit College of Law, Schuitmaker was a private practice attorney for 10 years, specializing in family, estate and business law. Schuitmaker is a resident of Lawton in southwest Michigan was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2004 and won reelection in 2006 and 2008. In 2010, she was elected to the state Senate and reelected in 2014. She has been a lead sponsor of legislation that cracks down on elder abuse, human trafficking and fighting the opioid epidemic. Website: http://www.votetonya.com/
Patrick Miles, Jr.
Background: A graduate of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids and Harvard Law School, Miles returned to Grand Rapids and private practice as an attorney until he was appointed to be the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan by former President Barack Obama, a former classmate of Miles at Harvard Law School. Miles is the first person of color to hold the position of U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, which covers 49 Michigan counties including the state’s entire Upper Peninsula . He has said Michigan needs an independent Attorney General who answers to the citizens of Michigan, rather than the President, Governor or special interests. Website: https://www.milesformichigan.com/
Background: After graduating from University of Michigan and Wayne State University Law School, Nessel was an assistant prosecutor in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office. In 2005, she left the office to start her own law firm and is best known for her defense of same sex marriage through her representation of April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, a Madison Heights couple who challenged Michigan’s ban on adoption by same sex couples. The case was later consolidated with other cases that were decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately legalized same sex marriage. In late 2017,Nessel made national headlines when she ran an ad on social media wherein she vowed to “not sexually harass my staff’ if she’s elected, and she’s pushing for all-female ticket to include Jocelyn Benson for Michigan Secretary of State and Gretchen Whitmer for Michigan Governor. If successful, she would be the second woman to become Michigan’s attorney general. Jennifer Granholm was the first. Website: https://www.dana2018.com/
Background: After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame and a law degree from the University of Chicago, Noakes was a judge advocate in the U.S. Air Force, an attorney with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and with General Motors, as well as a deputy corporation counsel for Wayne County and a private practice attorney in two Detroit law firms. Noakes was also the general counsel of Meijer Inc. and has taught at Grand Valley State University, Southern Methodist University, University of Michigan – Dearborn and the University of Chicago law school. Noakes launched his campaign for attorney general in Detroit at “Resurrection City” a tent encampment sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in conjunction with “Dr. Martin Luther King’s – Poor People’s Campaign.” Website: http://www.noakesforag.com/