MSU College of Law News

Geoffrey Fieger Trial Practice Institute to host chief judge of the United States District Court

For Release October 27, 2003

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Geoffrey Fieger Trial Practice Institute to host chief judge of the United States District Court

The Geoffrey Fieger Trial Practice Institute at Michigan State University-DCL College of Law will host its second annual lecture as a part of the Geoffrey Fieger Trial Practice Lecture Series. This year’s lecture featuring, the Honorable Robert Holmes Bell, will be held on Wednesday, October 29, 2003 at 7 p.m. in the Castle Board Room, Room 343, of the Law College Building on MSU’s campus.

The Honorable Robert Holmes Bell was appointed to the United States District Court, Western District of Michigan, by President Ronald Reagan in 1987. He was elected twice in Ingham County, first as District judge and followed by service as Circuit judge. After graduation from Wayne State University Law School in 1969, Judge Bell served four years as an assistant prosecuting attorney in Ingham County. In 2002, he was the recipient of the prestigious State Bar of Michigan “Champion of Justice Award.”

Also in 2002, Judge Bell heard the first death sentence case in Michigan since 1846, the year Michigan outlawed capital punishment. The defendant, Marvin Gabrion, was accused of murdering a woman on federal property, and certain federal crimes are punishable by death regardless of the state in which they occur.

On March 16, 2002, Marvin Gabrion was sentenced to death, and his case marks the first federal death sentence imposed on a defendant in a state that does not have the death penalty since the federal death penalty was reinstated. Since this conviction, Judge Bell has heard one other federal death penalty case and is currently hearing a third.

The Geoffrey Fieger Trial Practice Institute was established in 2002 through a $4 million donation by Geoffrey Fieger, nationally renowned trial lawyer and MSU-DCL class of 1979 alumnus. The rigorous two-year certificate program offered by the Institute trains selected law students to become successful trial lawyers and gives students valuable experience in courtroom litigation. The curriculum, featuring both required and elective courses, allows individuals to enhance their skills while expanding real-world perspectives through externships, field placements, clinical experience and other such areas of study. The lecture series, which takes place annually and features nationally known trial lawyers and mentors, is another beneficial asset of the Institute.

For reservations to hear Judge Bell speak, call the MSU-DCL Events Office at 517/432-6955 or e-mail events@law.msu.edu.

Michigan State University-DCL College of Law, formerly known as Detroit College of Law, was founded in 1891 and was the first law school in Detroit. To extend its commitment to educational excellence, the Detroit College of Law affiliated with Michigan State University in 1995 and moved to MSU’s East Lansing campus in 1997.

The move to MSU enabled the Law College to provide law students the benefits of a Big Ten university while maintaining its private law school status. Today, MSU-DCL has more than 1000 students and remains the nation’s oldest continuously operating independent law school.

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