Spotlight On: Liane M Kufchock

Please tell us something about your background, where you practice, and how long you have been a criminal defense lawyer.

I’ve had a practice in Warren for about eight years. I also specialize in immigration law and some general. The most delightful and utilitarian (two words seldom used together) part of my background is that I’ve backpacked through over twenty countries … understanding other perspectives and cultures has helped my practice.

What drew you to criminal defense?

One of my very first cases hooked me. I took on a case after the first two attorneys withdrew because the “uncooperative” client refused to plea. I quickly determined that the complainant had my client mixed-up with another same-named guy at the crime scene. I was shocked that the other attorneys were so unwilling to listen or do a very simple investigation. It felt so satisfying to save my client from a wrongful conviction and to hear, “Case dismissed!” It’s surprising how many clients are wrongfully or over charged. I’m proud to help them obtain just outcomes and love getting phone calls from former clients hearing how they’re living successful lives.

Please tell us about one of your interesting or unusual cases.

 I had an appellate case involving a mother who was convicted of felonious assault on the basis of “he-said, she-said” trial testimony. Collateral damage included almost losing custody of her son and losing her job. Although there were witnesses who could have corroborated her testimony, the trial attorney did not conduct an adequate investigation or produce witnesses for trial. The Court of Appeals overturned the conviction. Sounds simple enough, but the decision came two years to the day after I filed the very first of many motions and briefs.

Were experts needed in the case?

Yes, I reached out to MAACS’s Appellate Investigation Project. I worked with Katherine Marcuz and Andrew Lee. They provided so much more than investigative support. I learned how to better interview witnesses, research, organize briefs, and advocate more persuasively in court. It changed my approach to my trial and appellate practice.

Have you noticed any trends in the law – good or bad – in Michigan criminal defense work?

I’m thrilled about the varied and improved courses that will be offered in response to the new MIDC standards. I’m excited that I’ll be teaching a class. I’ll also be assisting with a few evidence seminars. In the past, I’d much rather stick a pencil in my eye than nail the rules of evidence. But now, I’m actually looking forward to this and becoming an “Evidence Jeopardy” champ! (I admit that I just put this in writing to help motivate myself!)

What advice do you have for other defense attorneys and, also, specifically for attorneys new to criminal defense?

Around the time I opened my law practice, my beloved, uber-compassionate, and very intelli-gent godmother, Aunt Peggy (pictured with Liane), gifted me a pair of her gently-used black pumps – much needed and appreciated. When meeting with clients, or advocating for them, I have always strived to “stand in her shoes,” as much figuratively as I was literally. The now-tattered shoes will always stay in the back of my closet as a little reminder to up my game. My advice is to emulate those you respect most.

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor