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January 11, 2012 5:39 PM

The Lateral: Former Detroit Deputy Mayor Saul Green Rejoins Miller Canfield

Posted by Tom Huddleston Jr.

Saulgreen

Six months after ending a nearly three-year run as Detroit's deputy mayor, lifelong Motor City resident Saul Green landed at Miller Canfield last week as of counsel in the firm's litigation and trial group.

In joining Miller Canfield's Detroit headquarters office, Green returns to a firm where he spent seven years in a similar role beginning in 2001, when he ended a seven-year stint as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. Green left Miller Canfield in 2008 to oversee Detroit's public safety agencies as a member of then-Detroit mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr.'s administration. At the time, Detroit was reeling from the sex-and-perjury scandal that toppled former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Green stayed on as deputy mayor after former Detroit Pistons star Dave Bing beat Cockrel in a 2009 special selection. 

In addition to supervising Detroit's police, fire, law, and homeland security departments, Green guided the city's efforts to comply with a federal consent decreee issued after the  Justice Department uncovered abuses related to both to the police department's use of force and the conditions under which it confined arrestees.

Having spent a big chunk of his career in the public sector, the 64-year-old Green will now represent clients facing criminal investigations, as well as those involved in alternative dispute resolutions. He also expects to lead internal investigations and consult law enforcement agencies on carrying out reforms. Green talked with The Am Law Daily this week about his tenure overseeing public safety for one of the nation's most troubled municipalities and his reasons for returning to private practice.

What prompted you to join Miller Canfield in 2001 after so much time in the public sector?

I talked to a number of different firms, and Miller was the most accomodating in terms of trying to build a practice around the things I thought I would enjoy. That meant trying to look at my experience as a prosecutor, and whether we could build a criminal practice, which we have.

How did the process play out this time?

The fact is I decided to leave the mayor's office probably a little sooner than I had planned. I had planned to serve out Mayor Bing's first term [through 2013], and then decided that I had probably accomplished as much as I could. I started talking with the folks at Miller soon after I stepped down. I took about six months to decompress a little bit and think. I held a series of meetings and realized that this is the spot from which I think I can continue to have a fulfilling career.

When you stepped down as deputy mayor, some newspapers used the term "retirement." How active do you plan to be at Miller Canfield?

Well, the word "retirement" was used. I must admit, I did not see that press release before it went out. I plan to have an active practice that, hopefully, will entail some of the things that I was doing before I left [the firm], such as criminal defense and investigations. I served as special master and monitor of the Cincinnati Police Department for over six years, and I think that there's going to be some [similar] opportunities going forward based on some Department of Justice investigations that are going on.

The national spotlight has been fixed on Detroit's financial issues in recent years. What are some things you did as deputy mayor to try to put the city back on the right track?

Part of what we needed to accomplish in the city is to actually work our way through a Department of Justice consent decree. When I got there in 2008, I think we were at about 29 percent compliance after five years. In the last report, the monitor had us at 80 percent. We also worked on a lot of issues related to how to use scarce resources on both the police side [and] fire side. Those are issues that I think we made a lot of progress on.

What more needs to be done in Detroit?

The city is at a point where, essentially, the governor has started the process of determining whether or not a financial manager will be appointed. And the city has been saying—particularly in the last 45, 60 days—that it is taking the steps of meeting between the mayor, the city council, and the labor unions to put in place a plan that will avert a financial manager and will be able to deal with the kind of budget crisis that looms. That's the key. It appears it's going to happen one way or another. Either people are going to be willing to make the sacrifices and the normal governance will continue, or there is going to be a financial manager who is going to come in and have an awful lot of authority to make decisions that hadn't previously been made.

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