July 24, 2017
Attorney Steven M. Gursten of Michigan Auto Law recently received the Melvin M. Belli Society annual Mel Award, one of American law’s most prestigious honors, at the American Association for Justice’s annual meeting in Boston.
This legal honor recognizes an attorney’s courage, creativity and contributions to American trial law.
Gursten was also selected to receive the award for his actions in exposing a notorious defense medical doctor. A defense medical examiner is a doctor who is selected by insurance companies to do one-time examinations of people and then write reports and to testify. In this case, the doctor had testified, under oath, that Gursten’s catastrophically injured client told her several things that turned out to not be true — all things that would have greatly helped the trucking company that hired the doctor for the lawsuit.
“I wanted to warn other people. I wanted people to know what she did and what she almost got away with, and what she might be doing to other people who were being forced to see her as well,” Gursten says about his November 2014 blog post.
The defense medical doctor, who also happened to sit on the Attorney Discipline Board of Michigan (the board that disciplines attorneys), demanded Gursten take down his blog post about her, and then attempted to use her power and position with the Attorney Discipline Board to file a grievance against Gursten with the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission.
Gursten did not back down. “I was willing to speak truth to power, and risk even my law license to fight for what I believed was right.
The grievance was later dismissed, and Gursten’s case has since become the seminal case in the country for attorney First Amendment rights. The case has attracted the attention of legal bloggers, ethics professors and the national news media. It is discussed on legal ethics listservs and legal seminars and is now being taught in law schools across the country.
The Belli Society is a legal group comprised of some of the greatest trial lawyers from throughout the U.S. It presents hard-hitting, practical legal seminars from trial lawyers who are experts in the courtroom and who focus on new and creative trial ideas and techniques.
The group is named for Mel Belli, a California attorney who was known as “The King of Torts.” He wrote the seminal, six-volume “Modern Trials,” which, 60 years after its publication, is still considered an essential textbook for American personal injury lawyers on demonstrative evidence.
Created in 2001, the Mel Award is presented to an attorney who, “by virtue of his or her creative advocacy, spirit of innovation and paradigm-shifting techniques in the presentation of evidence, best exemplified Mel Belli’s tremendous contribution to the work we do as trial lawyers. Thus the Mel pays tribute to the recipient and keeps alive the legacy of the greatest personal injury lawyer of the Twentieth Century.”
“I’ve long believed that innovation and creativity both inside and outside the courtroom is even more essential now than ever before,” says Gursten. “We practice law today where there are more lawyers than ever before. There are now lawyers in Walmart stores. In the age of Legal Zoom and computers replacing lawyers and legal work being outsourced and all of the challenges faced by the legal profession, being able to think outside the box and do things differently are more important now than ever before. It’s how we will survive and continue to add value as a profession.”