Criminal defense attorney and civil rights icon, Dana Nessel, will be recognized next week by Wayne State University’ Law School. At the annual Treasure of Detroit ceremony, Ms. Nessel will be recognized with several other promenent members of Detroit’s legal community who have made significant contributions to the practice of law
As a graduate of Wayne Law’s class of 1994, Ms. Nessel began her career with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office, where she served in several specialized units. During her tenure Dana Nessel successfully prosecuted dozens of murder cases, specialized in “shaken baby” cases, and prosecuted major auto theft and chop shop rings, to name only a few of her areas of practice.
2005, Dana Nessel left the prosecutor’s office to enter the world of private practice, where she has become renowned as a staunch defender of constitutional rights. In her criminal practice, Ms. Nessel has vigorously defended hundreds of criminal cases, from petty theft to first degree murder. Dana Nessel’s extensive knowledge of the law and her personal experience with the judges, prosecutors and police officers in the area makes her ideally suited to best advise her clients on their concerns, and to know how to approach their cases. As a result, she is able to achieve results unmatched by most attorneys’ practicing in the area, making her one of the top criminal defense attorneys in Michigan.
While Ms. Nessel’s practice has a heavy emphasis on criminal defense, she also handles civil rights actions, family law matters, and general tort litigation. Ms. Nessel is recognized as one of the premier litigators of LGBT issues in Michigan. In 2010, Ms. Nessel brought the matter of Harmon v. Davis, in which a Michigan court, for the first time, held that a non-biological parent in a same-sex couple could establish custodial rights to the couple’s children. Ms. Nessel also successfully petitioned for the first second-parent adoptions for same-sex couples in Oakland and Wayne Counties. She has defended and acquired exonerations for scores of defendants wrongly targeted for prosecution based on sexual orientation and has represented various clients terminated from employment based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2012, she spearheaded the precedent-setting case, DeBoer v. Snyder, which challenged the bans on adoption and marriage for same-sex couples in Michigan. Deboer was later consolidated with its affiliated Sixth Circuit cases into Obergefell v. Hodges in the United States Supreme Court. This landmark case legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. In 2014, Ms. Nessel, along with her co-counsel on DeBoer, was honored with the “Champion of Justice” award by the Michigan State Bar Association. In 2015, she was designated as “Woman of the Year” by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. Ms. Nessel is also an officer for Fair Michigan, an organization dedicated to the equal protection of women and LGBT residents under the Michigan Constitution.
Here is a link for information regarding the Treasure of Detroit ceremony.
In these times of tumult and political unrest, Nessel & Kessel remains steadfast in its commitment to defending the rights of all citizens but particularly those who identify as part of the often marginalized LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersexual, asexual) community. There was no greater honor for our Detroit family law firm than to have represented April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse in a suit to protect the sanctity of their family; we went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States!
But DeBoer and Rowse were not the first, and haven’t been the last Michiganders to seek legal counsel and advice from Chris Kessel and Dana Nessel regarding issues concerning life, love, family, and civil rights.
LGBTQIA advocate Dana Nessel & Fair Michigan selected to help combat hate crimes in Detroit.
Fair Michigan — a nonprofit led by Dana Nessel that proclaims to “create a Michigan where the presence and contributions of everyone are welcomed and celebrated regardless of their gender, gender identity, sex, or sexual orientation” — was approached by Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy to address a growing problem in the region. “I noticed a national trend, ticking upward, of people being killed because of their sexual orientation,” said Worthy in a statement.
The group led by Nessel has taken up an initiative, appointing an investigator and a special prosecutor to work in conjunction with the Wayne County judicial system, to solve and prosecute especially heinous crimes committed against the LGBTQIA community.
Nessel was recently featured in the Detroit Jewish News for these very same efforts, highlighting the successes on behalf of civil justice in Michigan.
The following content was originally published on January 18, 2017.
So far, there have been five convictions, with five more pending, plus two criminal sexual conduct cases that include a serial rapist who had been targeting victims inside and outside the LGBTQ community.
“You stem the violence by successfully prosecuting [the perpetrators],” Nessel said. “It sends a message. I know this is a way to stem the violence, make the community safer.”
FMJP’s special prosecutor Jaimie Powell Horowitz, a former assistant prosecutor, and special investigator Vicki Yost, a former Inkster police chief and deputy chief for the Detroit Police Department, work in conjunction with Worthy and her staff to bring about justice by charging and convicting the perpetrators of these violent crimes, especially those cases where victims or witnesses were previously afraid to come forward.
“People who would never have called the police are coming to us,” said Nessel, who serves as president of the organization in addition to being a partner in the Downtown Detroit firm of Nessel & Kessel Law. “I give great credit to Kym Worthy. I don’t know anywhere else in the country with a task force for this.”
Dana Nessel was asked by Fox 2 to be a panel member on a recent episode of Let It Rip. Ms. Nessel was asked to participate as an expert on the judicial nomination process and its political ramifications. Specifically, the panel discussed the new potential United States Supreme Court appointment by President Trump.
Here is a link to the episode.
Members of the LGBT community have often found themselves the targets of crime. Unfortunately, with the advent of technology, the range of these crimes has significantly broadened. Recently, a number of gay men have become the focus of a blackmail scam.
These men would meet other gay men online and then engaged in consensual sexual acts. However, almost immediately afterwards, these men would be contacted by a third party who would tell them that the person with whom they just engaged in consensual sexual acts with was a minor. In Michigan, statutory rape is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The third party would then tell these men that he would report them unless they paid him off. Sometimes the payment was a few hundred dollars, but in other instances the payment would be upwards of $70,000.00.
Many of these men contacted Dana Nessel, of Nessel and Kessel Law and founder of Fair Michigan, a nationally known civil rights attorney. Ms. Nessel advised these men to contact the police because it was clear that they had been targeted by a scam artist. Thankfully some of the men did and one man has been taken into custody.
Here is a link to a story done by Channel 7 WXYZ, in which Michigan LGBT attorney Dana Nessel spoke about the matter.
This week, civil rights attorney and activist Dana Nessel and her organization, Fair Michigan, has helped take another step forward in the battle for protection of members of the LGBT community. In conjunction with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the Detroit Police Department, a new unit has been created that is specially designed to handle crimes against members of the LGBT community. The unit will be assigned one special prosecutor and one special investigator, each with special training to handle cases in which members of the LGBT community have been specifically targeted.
Because of Dana Nessel’s continued work as a defense attorney all across Michigan, she will take no part in any of the investigations or prosecutions handled by the new unit. However, Ms. Nessel is the President of Fair Michigan, the organization behind the push to create the unit.
Here is a link to a story by the Detroit News.
Last week, in the 36th District Court, criminal defense attorneys Dana Nessel and Chris Kessel secured a major victory for their client. Charges of armed robbery, felonious assault, and felony firearm, were all dismissed against our client. The charges were brought as a result of an altercation where 5 people were present; the complaining witness and the 4 defendants. The complaining witness claimed that he went to the home of one of the defendants, where all 4 men (including our client) were present. According to the testimony, the 4 men asked the complaining witness about some money the men believed the man owed them. Then, the conversation turned violent as three of he men engaged in a fight with the complaining witness. The key was that there was never any testimony that our client was involved in the physical fight. Eventually the men separated, at which point our client had a conversation with the complaining witness about the money he believed he was owed. However, at that point, one of the other three men pulled a gun and began shooting into the air.
All four men were charged with armed robbery, felonious assault, and felony firearm. At the preliminary exam, the attorney for the other defendants focused their attention primarily on the actions of the complaining witness. However, Dana Nessel and Chris Kessel had a different strategy; focusing on the actions of their client. Through extensive cross-examination of the complaining witness, Dana Nessel was able to establish that our client took no part in the actual fight, nor did he attempt to take any money from the complaining witness.
Continue reading “Armed Robbery Charges Dismissed” »
A new kind of custody battle.
Battles involving child custody are often hotly contested between the parties. These can also become very complicated, when the couples used donor genetic material (eggs or sperm) to conceive their child. Now, thanks to the ruling in Obergefell (the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling), a new wrinkle has been added to these cases.
A same sex couple in southeast Michigan finds themselves at the center of a new, and potentially ground breaking, area of law. The parties are a lesbian couple who entered into a domestic partnership in New York and a civil union in Vermont. They did these things before same-sex marriage became legal. They then used a donor egg and sperm to have their children. The parties have been co-parenting the children since birth. Now the couple is splitting up and the birth mother is trying to deny our client parenting time with the children.
There are two things particularly interesting about this case. First, according to the Michigan Custody Act, the birth mother is not technically a parent. This is so because she is not genetically related to the children, nor is she an adoptive parent. Second, our client is the legal guardian of the children, meaning she may in fact have more legal rights to the children than the birth mother.
The central issue is whether or not the court will recognize that because these women did all they could to be a family and co-parent each should be entitled to parenting time as though they had been married.
Here is a link to a story done by Local 4.
In what should come as a shock to no one in the State of Michigan, Dana Nessel was named one of 2015’s Newsmakers of the Year, by Gongwer news service. Dana’s work made worldwide news when the United States Supreme Court voted to recognized the Constitutional right to marry for all same-sex couples.
Here is a link to the full text of the article.
Don’t be surprised if you see Dana Nessel as one of 2016’s Newsmakers of the Year…work has already begun on passing an anti-discrimination amendment to Michigan’s constitution, which would be the first of its kind in the United States.
Dana Nessel, a household name in the LGBT community, has dedicated herself to fighting against injustice in the courtroom. Now she has taken the fight out of the courts and is taking it to the ballot box. Unfortunately, not all in the LGBT community are supporting Dana’s efforts. Dana and several other dedicated citizens, Democrat and Republican, have begun an initiative to have an equal rights amendment added to the State Constitution of Michigan. The amendment would ban discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The organization behind the effort, Fair Michigan, is working to gather enough signatures to have the measure placed on the ballot in time for the 2016 election.
Here is a link to an excellent story by Jack Lessenberry, who writes about the seemingly curious divisiveness that Dana’s fight has created in the LGBT community.
On a day that was overflowing with emotion from all parties, April and Jayne Deboer-Rowse were finally able to officially become legal parents to all 5 of their beautiful children. The battle that started on January 23, 2012, in a federal court house in Detroit, finally came to a conclusion on Thursday, November 5, 2015, in the Oakland County Circuit Court. Judge Karen D. McDonald, who presided over the hearing, was clearly feeling the excitement that filled the room as she questioned both April and Jayne about the legal obligations they were about to undertake. After the obligatory questions were asked, and the hearing concluded, Judge McDonald gave big hugs to April and Jayne as she congratulated them.
After weeks of time spent assembling the packets for the Family Court, attorneys of record, Dana Nessel and Chris Kessel were happy to have only a minor role as the hearing proceeded. With the adoption hearing over, everyone (including some of the local reporters) enjoyed some cake. Rarely do long court battles have completely happy endings…thankfully this one did.
Below are links from various local news outlets that covered the hearing.
Here is a link to a story by Fox 2 Detroit.
Here is a link to a story by the Detroit Free Press.
Here is a link to a story by the Detroit News.
Here is a link to a story by the Pontiac Morning Sun.