Celebrating Women's History: Alumnus Feature-Hon. Michelle M. Rick ‘91

March 25, 2024

michelle rick alumni featureJudge Michelle M. Rick '91 aspires to be a servant leader. “For me, this requires leading from the heart and valuing the contributions of all members of the team. It is critical to see that every person has skills that can benefit the task at hand.”

Rick always knew she wanted to become a lawyer, but it wasn’t until after her second year at Detroit Mercy Law that she learned she wanted to be a litigator. “I had the opportunity to become an intern through a program managed by the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan and was placed in the Allegan County Prosecutor’s Office. I was fortunate enough to have my own docket under the supervision of an assistant prosecutor. That summer, I had several jury and bench trials. I was hooked and immediately knew I wanted to be a litigator.”

Prior to joining the bench, Rick briefly worked in private practice before devoting her career to public service. She served as a prosecutor in Livingston County, an assistant attorney general for the State of Michigan, and Deputy Legal Counsel to Michigan’s Governor Jennifer M. Granholm.

“It is a privilege to work as a public servant,” she said. “Prosecutors and those working on behalf of the state wield significant power. It must only be used to advance justice.” Rick believes the job of the prosecutor is not to win, but to see that justice is done.

Rick was elected to the Michigan Court of Appeals in 2020. Prior to that, she served as a trial judge for the 29th Circuit Court of Michigan. She values oral argument as an opportunity to better understand an advocate’s position.

“I ask hard questions as a judge,” she explained. She reminds her students that oral arguments are not an opportunity to argue with the judge on their case. “I tell them to view it as the time and place to test the strength of one’s position. I have respect for lawyers who are willing to concede a losing position rather than going down with the ship. When blatantly obvious, concessions are noble, and not a sign of weakness. You also gain credibility.”

Rick credits Detroit Mercy Law for providing her a firm foundation to be a successful attorney and now judge.

"Detroit Mercy Law taught me to be analytical, empathetic, morally responsible, and just. I believe the school gave me the tools necessary to become a complete lawyer. It isn’t just a saying – it is true."

Now, as an experienced jurist, engaged alumna, and adjunct professor, Rick advances the mission of Detroit Mercy Law and is an important contributor to educating the complete lawyer. She teaches the course Access to Justice, and helped organized traveling expungement clinics across the state of Michigan staffed by Detroit Mercy Law students that helped hundreds in need of legal assistance.

Originally printed in the 2023 edition of The Docket.