Moch None Big House Won

June 5, 2002
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When last heard, Joseph Moch was preparing to build apartment and office towers on the bank of the Grand River, north of Michigan Street. Having divested himself of his law office on Michigan Hill, Moch represents himself as a man of means around the community, with political aspirations and community commitments.

The tower deal folded and faded, as apparently has his law practice. Alas, he has lost his last stand in an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court of Attorney Discipline Board orders revoking his law license for two years. Rather than rehashing the excruciating details, which have occasionally enlivened this column for several years, suffice to say that Moch was accused of representing that his law clerk at the time was a licensed, experienced attorney, directed her to appear at a deposition and represent his clients, improperly assessed charges and attorney fees and generally committed professional misconduct. Moch has maintained that the boys at the Big House (Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett) were just plain out to get him, most notably Varnum attorneys Steve Afendoulis and Robert Eleveld (who has since left the Big House). He has appealed the Grievance Board decision at every level to the high court, which now has affirmed the order of suspension last made by Ingham County Hearing Panel #1.

The Discipline Board in findings and conclusions wrote, “The Panel found little testimony relevant to explain, mitigate or otherwise compromise the factual record of Respondent’s misconduct.” Noting Moch presented “as a paragon of his professional community, a virtual ‘Renaissance Man’ in his wide variety of accomplishments, interest and activities in the civic community, incredibly well connected politically and untiring in his dedication to a number of causes,” and further as “a skilled golfer, enthusiastic racing buff, jogger, fisherman, collector, charitable contributor, seasoned politician, dedicated medical researcher and an appointed ambassador … this Panel questions whether such credentials mitigate or make more egregious the Respondent’s professional misconduct determined by the facts.”

The Panel was not persuaded that Moch has intentionally given up the practice of law to move to “the broader stage of politics and commerce,” and further declared that “if he is ever again to practice law in his home community or any other community, he must be shown to have the requisite knowledge and respect for his ethical and professional responsibilities to his clients, his community and his profession that seem so lacking in the history of this matter.”

Moch was given final notice of a two-year suspension and costs assessed in the amount of $6,061.26. He was further ordered to “enroll in, attend and complete all course work and examinations necessary to satisfy the course requirements for professional responsibility/legal ethics or such standard requirement as offered by any recognized law school in the State of Michigan as a condition precedent to re-admission to the practice of law, and sit for and pass with a minimum acceptable grade the legal and professional ethics section of the multi-state bar examination.”

**Frivolous lawsuits? Business owners know well the extent and cost, not to mention suits filed of pure spite and disgruntlement. Well, now Sen. Ken Sikkema, R-Grandville, knows, too.

Sikkema has helped found “citizens for Michigan’s Future,” a non-profit dedicated to environmental advocacy and policy issues, particularly those affecting the Great Lakes. The group uses the work of Grand Rapids artist Mark Heckman, well known for satirical billboards on a host of political, social and environmental issues. Hoekman’s latest environmental billboards used a representation of ye ole English “Beefeater” guy to represent a doorman or concierge, who holds a plunger, at the “Royal Flush Hotel.”

Now comes local blues musician Jimmy Stagger who went to an attorney decrying the image as his, and begging compensation for the “embarrassment.” Those who know or have watched Stagger may be confounded about this stretch of mirror likeness, unless given a photo of Jimmy like we’ve never seen him: hair and beard trimmed, and a hat to almost match the billboard guy.

Sikkema is r-e-a-l-l-y mad. Like you’ve never seen. (Might we suggest he unload with some new state rules?) On the record his comment is, “There is no basis for these wild allegations, and they are nothing more than a thinly disguised attempt to get enriched at someone else’s expense. To add insult to injury, the someone else in this case is a non-profit organization totally dependent upon voluntary contributions and dedicated to protecting the environment.”

Business owners may well know the shock of which Heckman speaks. He emphatically denies the image was taken from anyone other than Mr. Beefeater, and suggests Stagger sue the Beefeater.

And who took this unlikely case? Attorney Mark Smith, Nantz, Litowich, Smith & Girard.

  • Now to the Smart Zone: The long wait may finally be coming to an end for the economic development folks in Grand Rapids and Muskegon who are backing each community’s SmartZone proposal.

The word is that the state will announce this week the first group of communities to receive SmartZone designation. The state economic development tool is designed to promote investment from high-tech businesses in specific areas of a community or communities. SmartZones would be webbed and wired for high-tech businesses.

State Sen. Leon Stille, a Spring Lake Republican whose district includes Muskegon, is keeping his fingers crossed.

“I’m very optimistic. We’ve worked hard on it and Muskegon certainly deserves it,” Stille said.

  • Most of West Michigan was out on spring break last week, but may be green with envy to know Michigan State University President Peter McPherson was out to join former President Jimmy Carter, and a delegation of 33 other people, to observe Sunday's legislative and presidential elections in Peru. One might ask whether he would have preferred Florida as did so many other Michiganders last week.

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