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Owosso — A former Michigan appeals court judge who spent more than 20 years on the bench after a law career in a small town has died.

E. Thomas Fitzgerald of Owosso was 79. His obituary said he died Thursday at Sparrow Health Systems.

Fitzgerald was elected to the Appeals Court in 1990. In 1994, he was part of the 2-1 majority that struck down, on very technical grounds, Michigan’s ban on assisted suicide.

He opened a law office in Owosso a few years after graduating from law school in 1966. Fitzgerald said that he won a big case and business “just mushroomed.” He said he would sometimes see two dozen people a day.

Gerald Lostracco, a former Shiawassee County judge and prosecutor, said Fitzgerald was a “fierce competitor.”

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