Dawn Van Hoek Named State Appellate Defender by Appellate Defender

Dawn Van Hoek has been named Director of the State Appellate Defender Office by the Appellate Defender Commission, at its meeting on March 16, 2011. Van Hoek succeeds James R. Neuhard, who retired on January 3, 2011.

The Commission’s Chair, Donald Martin, praised Van Hoek as “a highly respected leader who has repeatedly demonstrated her ability to innovate and manage. Her passion for the office and indigent defense system in Michigan is unsurpassed, and the Commission is confident that she is the right person for the job.”

The State Appellate Defender Office (SADO) is Michigan’s only state-funded public defense agency, handling approximately 25% of the state’s indigent appellate assigned caseload. SADO takes criminal appeals from all Michigan counties, including many of the most complex and challenging cases. In 2009, SADO received the Clara Foltz Award for outstanding achievement in providing services to indigent defendants, awarded by the American Bar and National Legal Aid and Defender Associations. SADO’s innovative work on sentencing, and outcomes for clients, have been the subject of frequent testimony about cost savings for the criminal justice system.

A graduate of the University of Michigan, Van Hoek received her law degree from Wayne State University Law School in 1976. She has practiced law at the State Appellate Defender Office since that time, serving in numerous capacities including, most recently, Chief Deputy Director. Her accomplishments at SADO include creation of online resources for the criminal defense bar, management of statewide training projects and publications, and management of SADO’s Lansing office and government relations.

Van Hoek’s prominence in the legal community is reflected by her numerous prior leadership positions, including Chair of the State Bar of Michigan’s Representative Assembly, Chair of the State Bar’s Criminal Jury Instructions Committee, and Co-Chair of the State Bar’s Task Force on Racial, Ethnic and Gender Issues in the Courts and Legal Profession. She currently serves as the Chairperson of a Hearing Panel of the Attorney Discipline Board. A former President of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, Van Hoek now serves as President of the WLAM Foundation. Her current board memberships include the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, Michigan Campaign for Justice, and Criminal Advocacy Program of Wayne Circuit Court.
Van Hoek was recognized as one of ten “Lawyers of the Year” in 2005 by Michigan Lawyers Weekly, an honor awarded to lawyers making a positive impact on the Michigan legal system. Readers of Michigan Lawyers Weekly also selected her in 1990 as one of two dozen of the state’s most influential lawyers. Van Hoek, who has long advocated for reform of Michigan’s indigent defense system, received the 2005 “Right to Counsel Award” from the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan.
Contact: Secretary to the Appellate Defender Commission