Joel Finnell and Steve Sinas Receive Distinguished Brief Award


Each year, Western Michigan Thomas M. Cooley Law Review acknowledges prestigious legal writing filed with the Supreme Court of Michigan by awarding its Distinguished Brief Award. We are pleased to announce Michigan appellate attorney, Joel Finnell, and co-author, Stephen Sinas, are the winners of this year’s Distinguished Brief Award. Finnell and Sinas were recognized on Wednesday, July 25th at the 34th Annual Distinguished Brief Award Banquet at the Country Club of Lansing with keynote speaker, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Megan Cavanagh.

Distinguished Brief Award Qualification

Qualification for the award includes a review by a panel of judges based on a set of seven specific criteria – question presented, point headings, statement of the case, argument and analysis, style, mechanics, and the best overall brief. Every brief submitted to the Supreme Court of Michigan for the entire year is qualified for consideration, making it highly competitive.

Finnell and Sinas’s winning brief, Richard and Janet Jankowski’s Supplemental Brief, is an exemplary example of distinguished legal writing. In this particular case, the defendants’ eligibility for Michigan personal injury protection insurance (PIP benefits) for an auto accident that occurred in Florida was the central issue. Specifically, the defendants’ no-fault insurance provider contended their eligibility for benefits because their Florida owned vehicle was not registered in Michigan and was never driven in the state. The insurer denied their claim since the Florida vehicle was not insured under Michigan’s auto no-fault insurance. However, as explained in Finnell and Sinas’s brief, the incorrectness of the denial of PIP benefits was because (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.

About the Authors

Steve SinasJoel FinnellJoel Finnell is an in-house appellate specialist at Sinas Dramis Law Firm. As an appellate practitioner, he consistently handles complicated appellate matters in heavily defended and highly complex cases. Finnell has obtained many appellate victories since admittance to practice in 2011. Many of these victories have resulted in published Michigan appellate decisions that have shaped Michigan law. Joel’s work, for which this award recognizes him, continues to set the firm apart by providing specialized expertise for withstanding appeals in strategically complicated cases.

Steve Sinas is a Michigan personal injury attorney and partner at Sinas Dramis Law Firm. He specializes in representing victims injured by the negligence of another person, company, institution, or entity. Sinas is also deeply connected to the state of Michigan’s auto no-fault law, and, as such, advocates for injured auto accident victims and skillfully litigates their wrongfully denied claims for no-fault benefits.

Please join all of us at Sinas Dramis Law Firm in congratulating Joel Finnell on his receipt of this award and Steve Sinas on his contribution as a co-author!