Cass County Bar Association hosts annual Law Day event

Published 3:11 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2023

CASSOPOLIS — Most people don’t relish the idea of going to court for any reason, but that’s especially true for those who are victims of crime. That’s where Marie Anderson comes in, she is the Victim Rights Coordinator for the Cass County Prosecutor’s Office. 

Anderson has been working with victims and their families since 2014, making sure people know what to expect during the court proceedings and lending them a sympathetic ear when they need to talk. Her efforts were recognized Monday as part of the Cass County Bar Association’s Law Day celebration. 

Anderson is the 2023 recipient of the bar association’s Liberty Bell Award which is given annually to a non-lawyer citizen who gives of his or her time to promote the American system of freedom under the law. Past recipients include former State Sen. John Proos, Swift & Sure Coordinator Dr. Barb Howes and Cassopolis Police Chief Frank Williams. 

Cass County Bar Association Vice-President Sarah Mathews presented the award to Anderson. She noted that Anderson “tirelessly works to ensure victims are aware of the status of their cases, assists them through hearings and trials, coordinates the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Ceremony, and many other things.” 

Mathews, who is also the Cass County Friend of the Court Director, read from the nomination submitted by Cass County Assistant Prosecutor Ryan Funk. “I have been inspired by the tireless, focused, and heartfelt determination and dedication she has shown on a variety of fronts and in a variety of ways,” Funk wrote. 

“She spends countless hours speaking with the victims of crime in our community and their families, she is at the forefront of our office as the Victim Rights Advocate, helping people who need it the most in their time of need, and she provides care, comfort, information … and a guiding hand to serve as a beacon of light to countless members of our community,” he added.  

Funk noted that Anderson attends meetings, accepts phone calls after hours and on weekends and spends countless hours in the courtroom with attorneys and staff.  

“Her position is often difficult and thankless, but she does it with a smile and a tremendous attitude,” he wrote. “… She is an absolute anchor of stability, a true professional and a pillar of knowledge in our office. There is no one in Cass County who deserves this honor and recognition more than her.” 

Mathews agreed with Funk, noting that she saw Anderson’s work firsthand when she herself worked in the prosecutor’s office. “Marie’s work ethic is that of a servant’s heart full of compassion and a desire to help those who find themselves at the courthouse in need of assistance,” she said. 

As she pointed out, Anderson will provide people visiting the Law & Courts Building with everything from information about a case to a hug, a prayer or a mint.  

“All she does each day she does simply to serve and support others, and she does so with an attitude of love for those she serves,” Mathews said. “And through her tireless service to the victims of crime, she has strengthened the effectiveness of our court system by ensuring that victims have the support they need.” 

Anderson gave her thanks for the award as co-workers, friends and family looked on in the Cass County Probate Courtroom where the ceremony was held. “I don’t know what to say except thank you,” she said. “I am a woman of faith and without my faith, I wouldn’t be here.” 

Monday’s Law Day celebration also featured remarks via Zoom by Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Elizabeth Clement. Clement spoke on the day’s theme of “Cornerstones of Democracy” with emphasis on the three pillars of civics, civility and collaboration. 

“We have to make sure the courts work for everyone,” she said. “They deserved to be treated with dignity and respect as they come to court on the most difficult day of their life.” 

She pointed out the Michigan Supreme Court’s efforts in several areas, from educating the public about the rights and duties of citizenship to taking action to make the courts more transparent, accountable and accessible. She noted the success of the state’s problem solving courts in helping people turn their lives around and not commit more crimes. 

Clement said she had worked in all three branches of state government during her career and stressed the importance of collaboration. Work is currently underway to develop a strategic plan for Michigan courts and to involve stakeholders from across the spectrum, she added.  

Law Day has been celebrated on or around May 1 every year since 1958 under the sponsorship of the American Bar Association to honor the nation’s heritage of liberty under the law. Clement and fellow Michigan Supreme Court Justice Megan Cavanagh spoke in person and via Zoom at Law Day observances across the state on Monday and Tuesday.