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March 29, 1985 - Image 25

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-03-29

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, March 29, 1985

25

HOLDING
PATTERN
IN THE
HOT SEAT

BY ALAN ABRAMS
Special to The Jewish News

Acting U.S.
Attorney Joel
Shere awaits
a Presidental
decision on
his professions
future.

T

o the casual observer, Joel
Shere looks both confident
and comfortable sitting be-
hind his mammoth desk on
the eighth floor of Detroit's Federal
Building. But in reality, Shere is vir-
tually just keeping the chair warm for
his soon-to-be-named successor as
United States Attorney for the East-
ern District of Michigan.
Although Shere is widely consid-
ered to be a talented and vigorous pro-
secutor in his own right, he sits ec-
lipsed by the ever-present shadow of a
legend, his predecessor and friend, the
late Leonard R. Gilman. Undeniably,
"Lenny" Gilman is a tough act for any
attorney to have to follow, which helps
explain Shere's public identity crisis.
But that's only half his problem.
Vying for space in Shere's office,
with Gilman's still-pervasive
presence, are the hands of an unseen
clock slowly ticking off the remaining
days of Shere's appointment.
Partisan politics injects itself
whenever it is time to name a U.S.
attorney. Although Shere oversees the
fifth largest district in the country, the
selection of his successor is being de-
termined in the same political method
as if it were any other jurisdiction. A
trio of candidates, apparently selected
solely on the basis of their loyalty to
the Republican Party, are currently
under the microscope of Attorney
General Edwin Meese, who is expected
-to shortly choose one for appointment
by President Reagan. Critics have as-
sailed the three finalists as lackluster,

citing their virtual inexperience in
criminal law. Shere's name, of course,
is not on the list. Indeed, a Detroit Free
Press story earlier this week on the
jockeying for his position never even
mentioned his name.
Republicans defend the abilities
of their nominees and point out that
the appointment process has always
been political. "The Democrats have
done the same," one G.O.P. official
said.
Is Shere disappointed? If he is, he
doesn't show it. From the standpoint of
experience, Shere who has twice
served as assistant U.S. attorney,
would appear to clearly overshadow
the combined credentials of the politi-
cal partisans who want his job. But
Shere apparently is also a realist. The
up-to-date biographical sketch he
hands a reporter bears a heading read-
ing "Resume".
Does Shere want to retain the job
he's held since Gilman's sudden death
Feb. 12? "I'd welcome the opportunity
to stay and carry on the tradition," he
says, adding, "I'd be honored to do it —
if I were asked."
Just what is the "Gilman tradi-
tion" and why did the death of the 43-
year-old Jewish lawyer unleash a tor-
rent of public praise and eulogies?
Perhaps it was because Gilman
captivated the media's attention with
his newsmaking winning streak of
courtroom victories including the Vin-
cent Chin civil rights case and the
Vista bribery trial. Everybody loved a
winner, and everybody agrees that
definition fit Lenny Gilman. But to the
man who now sits at Gilman's desk,
surrounded by the same framed
photographs that must have caught
Gilman's eye from time to time, the
reason is much more personal.
"Lenny was a mensch in every
sense of the word," recalls Shere. "He
was open. He was honest. He had a
playful side. He was warm in personal
relationships. What you saw is what
you got. There wasn't a pretentious
bone in his body. He was just the kind
of person you wanted to be around.
"It was amazing — we used to

walk down the street and it was just
like walking through the streets of
New York with Mayor Koch. Every-
body knew him. Once I asked him, -
'Lenny, who was that? You just
greeted him like an old friend.' He said
he wasn't that sure. People knew him,
or thought they knew him, and to
everyone he was Lenny.
"But beyond his friendliness,
warmth and openness, he was a tre-
mendously effective attorney, both as
a trial lawyer and as a U.S. attorney.
He had the best instincts for people
and for solving problems of anyone I've
known. He really had a commitment to
public service, and his word could al-
ways be depended on. Even if you dis-
agreed with him, you knew that you
had gotten a fair shake and you under-
stood where he was coming from. He
was an upfront person and he had
greatecredibility with everyone."
Shere first met Gilman in De-
cember 1981 shortly before Gilman of-
fered him the position as his chief
assistant. "It was love at first sight,"
recalls Shere. "I really liked him."
Although Shere served as an
assistant U.S. attorney under Lawr-
ence Gubow in 1964-67, he had spent
the following 15 years as a member of
the Southfield law firm of Shere and
Klein.
From the beginning, Shere and
Gilman really hit it off. Both native
Detroiters, they soon found they had a
lot in common, especialy their great
respect for the responsibilities of pub-
lic service.
"Lenny said we would be partners
when I came to this office," remembers
Shere, "and we wvre. He was the
senior partner and he brought me in on
all the important decisions in the
office. I was well trained by him for
this position. We consulted on every
major issue — the door was always
open."
Shere learned his lessons well. He
quickly made his mark with his pros-
ecution of Detroit-area "prescription
mill" operations, which were supply-
ing illegal prescription drugs, con-

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