The following RAM history was compiled by Referee Douglas Dok, Jr., and was published in the 2003 and 2004 conference booklets.
"R.A.M.", more formally known as the Referees' Association of Michigan, began as an organization in 1984. One who was there in the beginning (Jon Ferrier), recalls then Chief Assistant Friend of the Court for Oakland County, Kim Bateman, suggesting at an "M.J.I." training seminar that anyone interested in forming an organization of Referees (akin to the Friend of the Court Association), should meet with Wayne Kristall and Ron Foon, then Oakland County referees.
And so, it came to pass that R.A.M. was created, with Wayne Kristall, Ron Foon, Jon Ferrier, Laura Cheger-Barnard, Dace Bremanis and Linda Hallmark involved in the earliest stages. In the fine tradition of lawyers everywhere, the Friend of the Court "Constitution and By-Laws" were heavily "borrowed" from for the creation of the R.A.M. documents. The Association's first President was Wayne Kristall.
Following President Kristall's year of service, Jon T. Ferrier became President for two years. It was during his reign that he and Ron Foon presented an explanation of the "Role of the Referee" to a standing-room only capacity crowd at the State Bar's Family Law summer seminar at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in July, 1986. Beyond the in-depth presentation of how Referees around the state serve their respective Circuit Courts, there was the show-stopping unveiling of President Ferrier's black-and-white-striped "ref" shirt, replete with whistle and yellow flag, as he called a 15-yard penalty on a party for unsportsmanlike conduct! Referee hearings have never been the same since!
Ron Foon soon followed Ferrier as President, with his own two-year term. The Association had at least one other conference on Mackinac Island, followed by a visit to the Shanty Creek/Schuss Mountain complex (at least according to some memories). Around 1990 or so, the R.A.M. "annual" conference began a long run at the Waterfront Inn in Traverse City.
Marie Johnson became President after Foon, and continued the trend of serving for two years, while starting the trend of "Madam" Presidents. Linda Hallmark (now "The Honorable Judge Hallmark") followed President Johnson. She was succeeded by Wendelyn ("Wendy") Machnik, who was then followed by Karen Liwienski. After President Liwienski, the women rested, and Vince Welicka was elected President. Philip Ingraham followed Vince, and then Zaira Maio reclaimed the Presidency for "Madams". Zaira served two years, followed by Mark Sherbow. Currently, the "youngster", Deborah McNabb, is Association President.
In the interest of keeping this brief, all the other hard-working officers of the organization will be noted in a future chapter of this history. Suffice to say that many have contributed to the tasks of Vice-President and Secretary and Recording Secretary, not to mention those who have organized our annual conferences. And then there is David "bet it all" Elias, our almost perpetual Treasurer. That will take a separate chapter, for sure!
In preparing this very brief history, I consulted with my colleagues Jon Ferrier and Deb McNabb about the significant points in the evolution of R.A.M. We identified several points, including the recognition of R.A.M. as a special-purpose association by the State Bar, the efforts to include our "Juvenile Court" sisters and brothers well before the "Family Court" legislation, and our resolution of our "I.R.S." status. Each of these subjects deserves more space than can be allowed here, so like the history of R.A.M. itself, please stay tuned for further installments. And if there is enough time at the conference, and enough attitude adjustment during the "round table" discussions, possibly the story of how we almost came to be known as "C.R.A.M." can be told!
Douglas J. Dok, Jr.
R.A.M. member since 1984
No history of the Referees' Association of Michigan would be even close to complete without some recollection of the contributions of the organization and many hard-working individuals therein to the law and procedure of the Great Lakes Sate.
Initially conceived as an organization of individuals performing quasi-judicial functions, and those whose jobs included certain "hybrid" functions like staff attorney and/or caseworker/casework supervisor, many of R.A.M.'s early members perceived a sense of conflict or stress between their job duties and that of their institutional overseers. Wearing a judge-like hat (or even a black robe!) one minute, then switching to the attorney hat (are those scales of justice or beverage holders on your head?) the next, followed by the hard hat of management (21 days accident-free!), stress is a natural handmaiden of the Referee. So, why not start a club ("Referees Anonymous?") and get together to share our woes and maybe help a little in understanding the often confusing role of Referees.
Others, of course, saw the "club" as having a greater role, with possibly a chance to contribute to changes in court rules and statutes and even add to the discourse in formal court proceedings via "amicus" briefs. And finally, a number of R.A.M. members have advanced to "real" judgeships and turned their experience as Referees into effective deliverers of justice, where the "rubber meets the road"!
Early on, such long-term R.A.M. members as Ron Foon, Marie Johnson, Kent Weichmann, and Jon Ferrier were involved with the State Bar's Family Law Section Council, which in turn led to activities on subcommittees involved in rewriting certain court rules, as well as creating new ones. Marie Johnson from Kalamazoo is especially noted for her long service on the Family Law Section court rule committee, and her earlier work to revise rules in the domestic relations area directly contributed to the formation of a State Court Administrative Office subcommittee to write MCR 3.215, the "new" rule for "Domestic Relations Referees". My colleague, Jon Ferrier, as well as Ron Foon, joined with two private practice attorneys, two Friends of the Court, and two Circuit Judges (the Honorable Marianne Battani and the Honorable Michael Cherry) for two years of meetings and numerous drafts, before presenting the proposed rule to the Supreme Court in 1989. MCR 3.215 was then adopted and made effective in May 1993. On the "juvenile" side, the senior Referee from Kent County, David Dorr, was instrumental in the revisions to MCR 5.900 et seq, now renumbered as MCR 3.900 et seq.
The roster of "promoted" Referees includes District Judges Pat Morse, Laura Cheger-Barnard, and Catherine Steenland; Probate Judges Linda Hallmark, Karen Tighe, Thomas Shumaker, and Janet Hayes; and Circuit Judge Martha Anderson. (Note: This list is not meant to be exhaustive and will be supplemented as needed.) Finally, it should be noted that David Elias claims to be an Albanian prince!
Douglas J. Dok, Jr.
R.A.M. member since 1984