Dana Nessel, Michigan’s 54th Attorney General, began her legal career as an Assistant Prosecutor in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. For more than a decade, she was assigned to a number of elite units within the office and handled some of Wayne County’s most difficult cases in the Child & Family Abuse Bureau, Police Conduct Review Team, and Auto Theft Unit. Nessel was specially assigned to try homicide, arson, criminal sexual conduct and gang-related conspiracy cases, among many others.
In 2005, Nessel left the Prosecutor’s Office to open her own legal firm. In her criminal practice, she vigorously defended the rights of indigent defendants on hundreds of criminal cases, from petty theft to first degree murder. She also handled civil rights actions for plaintiffs against police departments and government agencies that have committed transgressions against community residents. Nessel has petitioned courts across Michigan on behalf of dozens of victims of domestic violence who sought Personal Protection Orders (PPOs) against their abusers. She has also handled a myriad of other disciplines, ranging from family law, probate matters, and driver license restoration cases.
Dana Nessel is also recognized as one of the premier litigators of LGBTQ issues in Michigan. In 2010, she brought the matter of Harmon v. Davis, in which a Michigan court, for the first time, held that a non-biological parent in a same-sex couple could establish custodial rights to the couple’s children. Nessel also successfully petitioned for the first second-parent adoptions for same-sex couples in Oakland and Wayne Counties. She has defended and acquired exonerations for scores of defendants wrongly targeted for prosecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity and have represented various clients terminated from employment based upon those classifications.
In 2012, Nessel spearheaded the precedent-setting case, DeBoer v. Snyder, which challenged the bans on adoption and marriage for same-sex couples in Michigan. DeBoer was later consolidated with its affiliated U.S. Sixth Circuit cases into Obergefell v. Hodges in the United States Supreme Court. This landmark case legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
Nessel is the founder and first president of the Fair Michigan Foundation. In 2016, she and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy created the Fair Michigan Justice Project, a first of its kind task force which investigates and prosecutes hate crimes committed against the LGBTQ community. In the first few years of existence, the Justice Project had charged more than 20 capital offenses including homicides, sexual assaults, armed robberies, child abuse, attempted murder, and car-jackings. The Fair Michigan Justice Project has a 100 percent conviction rate.
Nessel has received numerous awards for her civil rights initiatives, including the “Champion of Justice” award from the Michigan State Bar Association, “Woman of the Year” from Michigan Lawyers Weekly and the “Treasure of Detroit” award from Wayne State University Law school. Nessel lives in southeast Michigan with her wife, Alanna Maguire, and her twin sons, Alex and Zach, along with various cats.