Elder Law of Michigan (ELM) is proud to host the Joe D. Sutton Call to Justice Awards. The Call to Justice Awards honor those individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the fields of law and aging. Leading up to the awards, ELM will be sharing what our honorees have to say first-hand about their experiences in the fields of law and aging. Judge James Alexander, honoree at the Southeast Michigan Call to Justice Awards, shared with ELM why he got involved with helping the aging community.
Q: What drew you to working with the elderly and/or vulnerable adults?
A: “I first became interested in senior issues when Lynn [Judge Alexander’s wife] was appointed to the Commission on Services to the Aging. At that time, I was in Private Practice. My practice consisted of Commercial Litigation, Alternative Dispute Resolution, and Government Relations. When Lynn became Director of the Office of Services to the Aging, we would naturally discuss the issues she was facing. Many of these issues were personalized to me when my Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, shortly before I was appointed to the bench.
Q: Why do you continue working in this field?
A: “When Lynn and my colleague, Ed Sosnick, created the SAVE Task Force, I become involved…really in order to spend some time with Lynn. It was through my involvement with the Task Force, and through my experiences both on the Family Docket and then the Criminal Docket that I began to more fully understand the depth and nature of Elder Abuse. I also began to develop a sensitivity for the problems faced by the Elderly in dealing with the Courts. A simple example is not having “Elder Friendly” Courtrooms, which would have wider aisles and better sound systems. Also, a more sensitive scheduling system. SAVE is attempting to deal with this.”
Q: What do you think will be the biggest need(s) for seniors in the next 10 years?
A: “Having had a personal experience with Alzheimer’s disease, I perceive this as a major issue facing us in the immediate future. I’m hopeful that the research that’s now being done will lead to major breakthroughs in treatment and prevention. From the judicial perspective, we will need to educate the Judiciary and the system about Elder need including physical plant. We must do more in insuring that those of us in the Judiciary understand that Elder Abuse is more than financial exploitation.”
Q: How does Elder Law of Michigan help in the work that you do?
A: “Several years ago, Judge Sosnick and I attended an Elder Abuse Seminar that was focused on training Judges from around the Country about recognizing Elder Abuse. We learned of this from Elder Law of Michigan. It was the beginning of my understanding how prevalent this problem has become and heightened my sensitivity to the issue.”
The Joe D. Sutton Call to Justice Awards honor individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the fields of law and aging. This year, Elder Law of Michigan (ELM) is celebrating the contributions of our honorees across Michigan at three awards receptions in Southeast, West, and Mid-Michigan. Award receptions include a cocktail hour featuring hors d’oeuvres and cash bar, followed by an awards ceremony celebrating our distinguished honorees. Tickets can be purchased online at www.elderlawofmi.org/calltojustice. Net proceeds from the Call to Justice Awards will benefit ELM through the Access to Justice Fund. For more information about the Call to Justice Awards, including biographies of all of our honorees, please visit our website.