Wayne Co. appeals lawyer has no objection to retiring

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Tim Baughman has seen a lot in his four decades fighting crime as a member of the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.

Baughman, who retired this month as the chief of the appellate division, has been on the battlefield so long that he's seen trends come and go.

When he started at the prosecutor's office in 1975, the illegal drug of choice was heroin and drive-by shootings weren't as commonplace as they are now. In the 40 years he's been in the office, he's seen an explosion of crime in Metro Detroit that has caught many innocent victims in the crossfire.

"The disappointing thing to some degree is that there still seems to be so much violent crime in terms of the homicides and the shootings," Baughman said. "It's unfortunate you seem to see almost every day in the paper that there's a drive-by shooting, a shooting here, a shooting there, and that seems not to diminish.

"People always say the field we're in we don't have to worry about job security and that crime just doesn't go away."

In addition to prosecuting cases, Baughman also was chief of research, training and appeals for the prosecutor's office before becoming the head of the appellate division office 30 years ago.

His role in the appellate division took Baughman to the U.S. Supreme Court. He successfully argued six of his seven cases before the justices. Baughman even appeared with his daughter, who also worked in the appellate division of the prosecutor's office, before the High Court in 2006 and 2010 when he and his daughter argued cases together. They prevailed in both cases.

"To sit second chair to my father before (the Supreme Court) was a dream come true. I was able to not only listen as my father prepared, but also help him," Lori Baughman Palmer said. "How many people get to sit before the Supreme Court of the United States, let alone with their idol and mentor? I have never been more proud."

The 2006 case that took Baughman and his daughter before the High Court was Hudson v. Michigan, a Fourth Amendment case dealing with the issue of "knock and announce."

The 2010 case, Michigan v. Bryant, stemmed from a 2001 fatal shooting in Detroit in which the victim told police who shot him before dying later. The case highlighted a Confrontation Clause, which hinges on the Sixth Amendment guaranteeing that a defendant has the right to be confronted by the witness against him.

In 2010, Baughman returned the favor, sitting second chair for his daughter before the court.

"That was extremely exciting," he said of the case. "It was more nerve-racking to sit there while she argued than when I argued, because it's your own child up there and you're nervous for them."

Palmer said she believed "nothing could ever match that experience," before the nation's highest court, "until he sat second chair for me. I was more nervous arguing before my father than any of the justices."

Another memorable case, Baughman says, was one before the Michigan Supreme Court. People v Goldston established the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule here in Michigan.

"Though it wasn't a gruesome case, and I've had my share of those, it was still appalling, as the conduct was very soon after 9/11, and the defendant was wearing a shirt with the word 'Fireman' written on it and holding a fireman's boot, while also carrying a firefighter's helmet and jacket, and collecting money from people 'for the firefighters in New York' when it was all a scam," Baughman, who has appeared 60 times before the Michigan Supreme Court, said.

When authorities searched the man's house in Inkster with a "bad" search warrant, the issue became whether evidence found in the house should be thrown out, and the court held that where the search is based on a warrant issued by a judge, there is no "misconduct" on the part of the police and so evidence won't be suppressed, Baughman said.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy praised Baughman's contributions.

"His intelligence, knowledge of the law and his sense of fairness make him an asset not only to this office, but to the entire legal community," she said. "I have been honored to have such a distinguished member of the legal community on my staff."

His colleagues also applauded Baughman.

"There is no lawyer whose skills and successes have contributed more to Wayne County's reputation for outstanding legal expertise than Timothy Baughman," the late Michigan Supreme Court Justice Patricia Boyle said of him in 2013. "He is known throughout the state and nation as a superb researcher, litigator, advocate and teacher. In 30-some years on the Michigan Supreme Court, I have never seen an all-around better lawyer. Tim Baughman is the jewel of Michigan's criminal law jurisprudence."

Baughman says technology has made a huge difference in the legal realm, particularly in his area of appeals and evidence collection for things such as DNA, which have aided in prosecution of cases.

"It is (now) so advanced toward finding out what happened," he said. "Cellphones and pinging towers really make a difference."

Colleagues and other legal professionals will honor Baughman at a party at 5 p.m. June 11 at the International Banquet Center at the Atheneum Hotel in downtown Detroit.

His daughter will be among those honoring his work.

"I can tell you that my father is the reason I joined the legal profession," Palmer said. "I saw his passion, his fire in doing what he believed was right, his excitement in doing justice. How can you want to do anything else?

"Although my father is a man of great intelligence, what has always made him stand out is that he is a man of integrity. He is my role model for always, unfailingly, practicing law with honesty and integrity first, then drawing upon his considerable intelligence and wit."


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Baughman bio

Born: Hazard, Kentucky, and grew up in Highland Park. Lives in Royal Oak.

Family: Married to Faith; one daughter, Lori Baughman Palmer; three grandchildren.

Schooling: Bachelor's degree from Albion College in 1971, and law degree from Wayne State University.

Career: Began working for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office in 1975 and became chief of Research, Training, and Appeals in 1986.

Won six of seven cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Supervised the briefing and argument of four other cases before the High Court. He also has appeared more than 70 times before the Michigan Supreme Court.

Selected by the Federal Bar Association in 2013 to receive the prestigious Leonard Gillman Award, named in honor of the late U.S. attorney for the Eastern District during the early 1980s.

Adjunct law professor at Wayne State University Law School.

Author: Michigan Criminal Law and Procedure: Search and Seizure; Michigan Criminal Law and Procedure: Practice Deskbook; Michigan Model Criminal Jury Instructions Annotated