Top Lawyers 2008

Dean RobbChampion of Civil Rights

Dean Robb: Dean Robb Law Firm, Suttons Bay
The Brief: Wayne State University, LL.B., 1949
Practice Areas: Civil Rights, Personal Injury, Discrimination, Employment Law.

You’ve had a long, rich career as an attorney. Tell me about your current focus.

Being a counselor to help people decide whether they have a winnable legal matter. If I can’t handle it, I steer them to someone who can. I’ve also been enjoying helping young people in minor criminal matters. Young people are our future. Sometimes if their problems are taken care of when they are young, the problems won’t follow them the rest of their lives.

You began your career in the early 1960’s as a civil rights lawyer.

That was a very exciting period. I was an organizer to get lawyers to go south and take civil rights cases.

Your seminal case, Liuzzo vs. United States, came out of the family of Viola Liuzzo, a white civil rights volunteer from Detroit, murdered by Klansmen in Alabama in 1965. A quarter century later, it was revealed that the Klansman who shot her was an FBI informant. You sued the FBI for her family. Even though the judge awarded no money you feel that good came out of the trial.

The trial exposed the dirty role of the FBI informant, Gary Thomas Rowe, and the FBI cover up. The trial, which was covered extensively by CNN and ABC’s 20/20 cast Luizzo, rightfully, as a hero in the Civil Rights movement.

And you count State of Michigan vs. Jeanette Smith in 1979 as your other seminal case?

Yes, it was the first time the battered wife syndrome had ever been used as a syndrome. Smith was acquitted of a charge of open murder.