Ex-prosecutor in hit-and-run readmitted to Michigan bar

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REUTERS/Chip East

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  • Michael Schuitema was chief assistant prosecutor in a northern Michigan county
  • Attorney ethics board was divided in order delaying effective date of suspension

Jan 13 - A former Michigan prosecutor was reinstated to the state bar on Wednesday after a 30-day suspension of his law license following his misdemeanor hit-and-run conviction.

Michael Schuitema, former chief assistant prosecutor for a small county in northern Michigan, pleaded guilty in February 2020 for leaving the scene of a crash with property damage and was ordered to pay a $350 fine upon his conviction.

A hearing panel of the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board divided 2-1 in November to delay the effective date of the 30-day suspension to coincide with Schuitema's move to Guatemala with his wife, who works for a nonprofit involved with juveniles in detention centers in Central America.

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"I believe that extending the effective date of respondent's 30-day suspension to coincide with his move to Guatemala creates an illusory suspension," committee member Christina DeMoore said in a November report.

An earlier suspension, DeMoore said, would "constitute a real period of suspended practice rather than a convenience for respondent's move out of the country."

Michigan's attorney grievance office agreed to the delay of the 30-day suspension to allow Schuitema to wrap up trials and other open cases on his docket, filings in the case show. The filings showed Schuitema was overseeing more than 100 cases.

Michigan grievance administrator Michael Goetz on Thursday declined to comment about the Schuitema case.

In an email to Reuters, Schuitema said that "sometimes our biggest mistakes and most difficult experiences end up being the best and most impactful events in our lives." Schuitema, a member of the Michigan bar since 2009, said "through this experience I have learned to prioritize my faith and family instead of my job and reputation."

A representative from the Emmet County prosecuting office did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The case is Attorney Grievance Commission v. Michael Schuitema, Michigan Attorney Discipline Board, No. 21-61-JC.

For the commission: Cynthia Bullington

For respondent: Michael Schuitema

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