Three judicial icons retired at the end of 2018. Chief Judge Robert J. Colombo Jr., Judge and former Chief Judge Virgil C. Smith, and Judge Richard B. Halloran hung up their robes at the end of December. All three judges have made a mark on the legal community and their work has left a lasting imprint on the legal community.
Judge Richard B. Halloran
Judge Richard B. Halloran was appointed to the Third Circuit Court bench in 1998 by Governor John Engler. Judge Halloran is the last of the original Family Court judges on the Third Circuit bench. Judge Halloran has proudly served all of his 20 years as a Circuit Court Judge on the bench in the Family Division.
A graduate of Canisius College, Judge Halloran was born and grew up in the Buffalo, New York area. He graduated from the University of Detroit School of Law in 1975 and was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan that fall.
Before his judicial appointment, Halloran worked as a civilian attorney with the Department of the Army; quit the law and served as regional vice president of several national real estate firms; served as magistrate in the 36th District Court in Detroit; and, served as an administrative law judge for the Michigan Liquor Control Board.
Judge Halloran is widely recognized for his involvement in the fight against domestic abuse. He helped create the first domestic violence docket in the 36th District Court and actively campaigned to help create personal protection orders and making stalking a crime. Additionally, he served on various task force and boards to raise judicial and public awareness of domestic violence and to help call for needed changes in policies and laws regarding domestic violence. He served as co-chair of the Wayne County Coordinating Council to Prevent Family Violence, a member of the Governor's Task Force to create standards for batterer intervention programs, board member on the State Domestic Violence and Treatment Board; and, most recently as a member of the State Bar of Michigan Domestic Violence Committee. As a Circuit Court judge, he created the Personal Protection Order Docket and was instrumental in developing the Solution-Oriented Domestic Violence Prevention Docket that deals with high lethality cases. Judge Halloran has received numerous honors and is especially proud of his work on behalf victims of domestic violence.
He also served on the Family Law Council of the State Bar of Michigan, serving as chair of the Section from 2016-17. He was involved in the creation of the LGBTQA Section of the State Bar and served as its chair from 2017-18.
Judge Halloran is proudest of receiving the Marilyn J. Kelly Award for outstanding service as a Family Division Judge from the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan in 2017.
Halloran also sings in Measure for Measure, a men's choral society.
Judge Virgil Smith
In 2004, Virgil Smith was appointed by Governor Jennifer Granholm to the Third Circuit Court. Prior to his appointment, Judge Smith held various legal positions and appointments. Moreover, he served in the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan Senate. During his tenure as a legislator, he chaired the Economic Development and Energy Committee and served on 21st Century Commission on the Courts, and Law Revision Commission. Judge Smith chaired the Special Committee on Court Reorganization in 1980. The committee created a standardized Michigan judicial system with the Office of the State Court Administrator. As a Senator, Judge Smith was the first African American Senate Democratic leader. Judge Smith has a long list of awards and acknowledgements for his legislative career, including Legislator of the Year by both the Michigan Judges Association and the Police Officers Association of Michigan.
On the bench, Judge Smith served in the Family Division-Juvenile Section and was the Presiding Judge of that division from 2004-2006. On January 1, 2009, Judge Smith became the Chief Judge of the Third Circuit Court, having been appointed by a unanimous vote of the Michigan Supreme Court. He was the first African American chief circuit court judge in the state of Michigan. His accomplishments during his Chief Judgeship included securing financial funding for the court operations and prudently managing those finances. During his Chief Judgeship, he led the charge for efficiency and effectiveness which resulted in innovative court programs and projects such as implementation of the new case management system, eFiling, Court Officers, and child support bench warrant amnesty. Judge Smith has been recognized by many professional and civic organizations for his forward thinking and contributions throughout his career.
Judge Smith was born and raised in the Conant Gardens community of Detroit, Michigan. He graduated from Pershing High School, received his B.A. in political science from Michigan State University, and received his J.D. from Wayne State University Law School in 1972.
Judge Smith rides a motorized scooter bike and resides in Detroit. He is married to the former Elizabeth Little and he's the father of one daughter, Jordan, and three sons, Virgil Kai, Adam, and Anthony.
Judge Robert J. Colombo, Jr.
In November 1982 Judge Colombo was elected to the Wayne County Circuit Court. In 1972, he had graduated cum laude from the University of Miami (Florida) and the Detroit College of Law. Prior to his election, he spend two years clerking at the law firm Jenkins, Fortescue, Miller & Nystrom, and from June 1975 through December 1976, Judge Colombo served as the law clerk for the Hon. George N. Bashara, Jr. on the Michigan Court of Appeals. For the next six years, from 1977 through 1982, Judge Colombo was an associate at the law firm of Riley & Roumell handling civil, criminal, and domestic relations cases at the trial and appellate levels. His civil practice included commercial business and employment cases and representing public school districts.
During his judicial tenure, Judge Colombo has handled civil, criminal, and domestic relations cases. In 1992 Judge Colombo became the asbestos judge for Wayne County Circuit Court. In 1993 he was appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court to handle all of the breast implant cases in the State of Michigan. In 2000 the Michigan Supreme Court appointed him to handle all class action lawsuits brought under the Michigan Antitrust Law against Microsoft.
The Michigan Supreme Court appointed Judge Colombo Chief Judge of the Wayne County Circuit Court in October 2013 for a two-year term beginning January 1, 2014. He was reappointed for a two-year term beginning January 1, 2016. Perhaps the most important accomplishment during Chief Judge Colombo's tenure was the creation of a strategic plan for the Court. The process began in February 2016 to develop a five-year strategic plan to assist the Court to identify priorities, lay out future action to continuously improve the Court, and provide a blueprint for the Court's direction. Other accomplishments include the Court's participation in the launching of statewide eFiling, the continued high ratings in public satisfaction surveys, and the court leadership's presentations at the National Association of Court Managers Mid-Year Conference and the World Conference of the Internal Institute of Restorative Practices.
Chief Judge Colombo has received numerous awards from civic, bar, and community associations. In the September-October 2018 edition of the Detroit Lawyer, the spotlight was on Robert J. Colombo Jr., the recipient of the Dennis Archer where the legal community celebrated his 36 years of contributions. Chief Judge Colombo exemplifies the ideal of the law as public service.
Judge Colombo followed his family into the legal profession. His grandfather, Emil William Colombo, was a principal in the law firm of Colombo, Colombo, Colombo, Vermuelen & Colombo. His father, Robert Colombo, was also a principal in that law firm, as well as a Detroit Recorder's Court Judge and Wayne County Circuit Court Judge until retirement in 1985.
Judge Colombo is married to Administrative Judge Jane Colombo (Sullivan) and they have two adult sons, Jimmy and Bobby.
The legal community has had the benefit of these three judicial icons on a local, state, and national level. Judge Halloran, Judge Smith, and Judge Colombo may no longer be sitting on the bench, but they have made a lasting imprint on the local, state, and national legal community; and they have left the legal community better from their wisdom and their works.