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Distinguished Brief Award Winners Joel Finnell & Stephen Sinas

Posted at 5:03 PM, Jul 29, 2019

LANSING, Mich. — Each year, Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law Review recognizes excellence in legal writing presented to the Michigan Supreme Court and honors the authors with its Distinguished Brief Award. This year, attorneys Joel T. Finnell and Stephen H. Sinas, of Sinas Dramis Law Firm, received this distinct honor for a brief which they co-authored.

The Cooley Law School Distinguished Brief Award is an eagerly anticipated award within the legal community. Any brief submitted to the Michigan Supreme Court qualifies for consideration, making this a highly competitive achievement and recognizes the most scholarly brief filed before the Court. A panel of judges determine the winner(s) based on seven set criteria: the question presented, point headings, statement of case, argument and analysis, style, mechanics, and the best overall brief. The law school carefully selects three winners each year.

This year, authors Joel Finnell and Stephen Sinas have been recognized for their co-authored brief Richard and Janet Jankowski’s Supplemental Brief, dated August 3, 2018, which was recognized for two of three awards for 2019. The ultimate issue in the case was whether the Jankowski’s (Defendants) were ineligible to receive Michigan personal protection insurance benefits (PIP benefits) for an auto accident that occurred in the state of Florida while they were driving their Florida owned vehicle – which was never driven in Michigan. Their claim was denied by their insurer because their Florida vehicle was not insured with Michigan auto no-fault insurance. The supplemental brief by Finnell and Sinas carefully elaborated on the incorrectness of this conclusion, confirming that (1) Michigan auto no-fault insurance is only required for vehicles that must be registered in the state of Michigan; and (2) the Jankowski’s Florida vehicle was not required to be registered in Michigan because it was never driven in Michigan. Therefore, the brief submitted argued that the Jankowski’s were therefore eligible for Michigan auto no-fault personal injury protection benefits.

Joel T. Finnell is an in-house appellate specialist at the personal injury law firm, SINAS, DRAMIS, LARKIN, GRAVES, & WALDMAN P.C. in Lansing Michigan. Since in the beginning of his practice in 2011, Finnell has obtained many appellate victories, several of which have resulted in published Michigan Supreme Court decisions. Finnell has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by THOMPSON REUTERS’ Michigan Super Lawyers Magazine, and NATIONAL TRIAL LAWYERS acknowledged him in its “Top 40 Under 40” list in 2017 and 2018. Joel Finnell is dedicated to his work as an appellate specialist and particularly enjoys his work since it allows him to be able to shape the law, while also advocating the best for Michigan citizens.

Stephen Sinas is a partner at Sinas Dramis Law Firm. He specializes in representing people who have been injured or harmed by the negligence or wrongdoing of another person, company, institution, or governmental entity. He also specializes in litigating against insurance companies that have wrongfully denied coverage or benefits to injured people. Stephen currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of the Michigan No-Fault Auto Insurance Law at Michigan State University College of Law. In his field of Plaintiff’s Personal Injury Law, Stephen has received various accolades, including being recognized as a “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyer Magazine and a “Leading Lawyer” by Leading Lawyer Magazine. He also serves as an Executive Board Member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Executive Board Member of the Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council, Executive Board Member of the Ingham County Bar Association, and a Member of the State Bar of Michigan Character and Fitness Committee. He received his undergraduate degree from University of Michigan, where he double-majored in Economics and English Literature. He received his law degree from Wayne State University Law School.

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