My four grandparents all came from Greece. They settled in Western Pennsylvania and worked in the steel industry, the railroad, and (my paternal grandmother) for Heinz pickles. My dad didn’t speak English when he started school. He joined the Air Force after high school and met my Mom at a wedding, and soon after they had their own. Dad got a job for the Army Reserve, and mom stayed at home raising me and my two younger sisters.
When we got older, my mom took a job in the high school cafeteria. Besides making Johnny Marzetti and other lunch favorites, she became active in her Union and joined the National Organization for Women.
I got my conscience from her. I wanted to become a lawyer after the Supreme Court decided Tinker v. Des Moines, affirming the right of students to wear armbands to protest the Vietnam war. I saved for college by working as a paperboy, and attended the University of Michigan. With a combination of need-based grants, loans, and working two jobs, I was able to afford the out of state tuition, graduating with a double major in philosophy and psychology.
I didn’t enter law school right away. I was intrigued by psychology and worked in various settings serving children and teens, including child psychology research projects and day care centers. I served Ozone House as a crisis intervention specialist, working closely with runaways and their families.
At the same time, I worked in a fancy restaurant and almost made that a career. But I lost my job after trying to organize my fellow workers, and resolved once again to become a lawyer.
My Legal Career
I attended Wayne State Law School and was transformed by its Free Legal Aid Clinic. Law students are permitted to practice in court in such settings the same as a licensed attorney, as long one signed our pleadings and supervised. The Clinic’s director knew the best way for us to learn was to send us to court by ourselves. The phones rang constantly, and I was privileged to represent survivors of domestic abuse, women who needed divorces, tenants and fired workers. (I also met my future wife Gail Altenburg at the Clinic, along with her two daughters who would sometimes visit.)
After graduation I continued to serve the indigent population of Detroit, for Wayne County Neighborhood Legal Services, where I conducted innumerable hearings, trials, and appeals for tenants facing eviction, foreclosure, utility shutoffs, and the loss of public benefits. Our attorneys were unionized, affiliated with UAW District 65. As President, I led our efforts in collective bargaining, arbitrations, and filing a successful unfair labor practice charge.
Five years later, my supervisor, Doug Lewis, moved to the University of Michigan’s Student Legal Services, and invited me to work with him. I did, for fourteen more years. At SLS I continued a high-volume practice, doing everything from landlord-tenant, consumer protection, misdemeanors, felonies, and divorces – representing a lot of UM athletes along the way.
I trained and supervised law students, in a clinical law setting, over a twenty year period, at Wayne State Law School, Neighborhood Legal Services, and Student Legal Services.
While still working at Student Legal Services, I began a private practice in 1994, where I took on as many challenging cases as I could handle. I focused on civil rights, education, employment, criminal defense, probate and family, commercial, administrative. I successfully defended a national recording artist against a copyright suit that threatened his career. I have tried well over 100 cases to verdict or final decision, including jury and bench trials, and arbitration.
I left UM in 2003, and have since worked exclusively in private practice. I fight for workers and victims of discrimination. I represent hard working Union members. I fight for student rights. I seek justice for survivors of sexual assault, including three brave women who were victimized by Larry Nassar (and let down by Michigan State University).
I won important victories in the United States Court of Appeals for a woman let go for being pregnant, a man fired for taking medical leave, and a woman who blew the whistle on her employer for ripping off Medicare. I received a unanimous decision before the Michigan Supreme Court, affirming the right of a learning-disabled student to attend a private school that didn’t want to educate her. I have won state court appellate decisions in the areas of tenant rights, unemployment compensation, police misconduct, sex harassment, and criminal restitution.
Throughout my legal career, I have been a fighter for the underserved. My experience and passion will serve me well as Washtenaw County’s next Circuit Court judge. I want to make sure that everyone who appears before me will be not just heard, but listened to and understood. Above all, I promise to remember that I would be a public servant, working for the people who appear before me, helping them to find a just and true result, and to move on with respect and dignity, and – as often as possible – hope for the future.
Service to My Community
I have lived in Washtenaw County since 1974 and have had the opportunity to participate in various forms of service to our community, including:
36 Years Courtroom Experience
- Free Legal Aid Clinic, Detroit
- Wayne County Neighborhood Legal Services, Detroit
- U-M Student Legal Services
- Private Practice, currently partner at Nacht & Roumel
- Advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault, including three victims of Larry Nassar
- Multiple discrimination cases: race, LGBTQA, religion, disability, pregnancy, national origin, weight, age, sex, student status, and FMLA
- Advocate for students who are bullied or had their civil rights violated
- Represent several labor unions and associations
- Criminal defense with a focus on student rights and the civil consequences of convictions
- Divorce and family law in both legal services and private practice
Trustee, Ann Arbor School Board
Director, Tenant Advocacy Program
Tutor, HOSTS, Pattengill Elementary
Mediator, Dispute Resolution Center
School-Law Task Force, Ann Arbor Public Schools
Peace and Conflict Resolution Task Force, Ann Arbor Public Schools
Board of Directors, Ann Arbor Tenants Union
Board of Directors, Michigan Peaceworks
Parish Council President and General Counsel, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
Scouting for Equality, Jim Toy Center
Student Teaching, Ypsilanti High School
Member and General Counsel, Elks Pratt Lodge
Anti-School Voucher Ballot Proposal, Debate Chair
Gun Summit Task Force
Youth Soccer Coach, Ann Arbor United and Crush
Freelance writer, Current Magazine
“May It Please the Palate” food column for Legal News
Michigan Football Guide and MGoBlog, “Counterpunt”
Greek cooking instructor, Ann Arbor Rec & Ed
My Brother’s Keeper/Black Men Read
Crisis Intervention Specialist, Ozone House
PIRGIM, Affordable Housing Task Force
I am married to Gail Altenburg, and we have three daughters: Fiona (Rose) Greenland, Katharine (Rose) Roberts, and Olivia Roumel, and five grandchildren.
I enjoy cooking, running, and traveling: see fortyyearsacrossamerica.blogspot.com
U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan
U.S. District Court Western District of Michigan
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Eastern District of Michigan
U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit
U.S. District Court Western District of Pennsylvania
Wayne State University Law School, Detroit, Michigan
J.D. – 1984
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
B.A. – 1978
Published Works and Presentations
“Immigration Consequences of Criminal Proceedings”
“Think Your Client’s Protected By That H.Y.T.A. Plea” Think Again.”
‘How-To? Adult Expungement Kit
‘How-To? Juvenile Expungement Kit
“Does An Employee Have A Retaliation Claim Based On Protected Activity Of A Third Party?”
“Michigan Public School Teachers Coping With Tenure Reform”
“Asking For Facebook And Other Social Media Passwords In A Job Application”
“When can Anonymous Internet Posters be Identified and Held Liable?”
“Marital Torts Can Be a Valuable Tool in a Divorce Case”
School Bullying – Facts, Remedies and Solutions
Honors and Awards
Michigan “Super Lawyer” in employment law (top 5% of practitioners), 2014 – 2019
Professional Associations and Memberships
Washtenaw County Bar Association, Board of Directors
Washtenaw County Bar Association, Labor and Employment Co-Chair
ACLU Lawyers Committee, Co-Chair
Michigan Association for Justice
Washtenaw Association for Justice
National Employment Lawyers Association