Melvin Butch Hollowell serves as Managing Partner of The Miller Law Firm Detroit where he oversees the firm’s practice at its downtown Detroit location. Hollowell specializes in complex commercial litigation, class action matters, government and administrative law, and election law. Hollowell is a seasoned litigator in the state and Federal courts of Michigan, and multiple jurisdictions across the United States and Canada. He has handled disputes for a full range of clients, from publicly traded and Fortune 100 companies to small businesses, nonprofits, government officials and agencies and civil rights organizations. Recently Hollowell was appointed to leadership by the Michigan Court of Claims in the mass tort litigation arising out of the May 2020 catastrophic flooding caused by the failure of the Midland and Edenville dams.
Immediately prior to his association with The Miller Law Firm, Hollowell completed a four-year term as Corporation Counsel of the City of Detroit, the City’s chief legal officer. He was appointed to the position by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and unanimously confirmed by the Detroit City Council. In this capacity he assumed the role of Director of the City’s 70-attorney Law Department, lead counsel to the Mayor, City Council, City Clerk, Police and Fire Departments, and all City departments, boards, commissions and agencies. In this role he also served as the City’s chief criminal prosecutor, and as a Commissioner of the Detroit Election Commission and Trustee of the City’s Police and Fire Pension Board.
Among his accomplishments as Corporation Counsel were:
- Reducing litigation payouts by nearly 50%, from a historic average of $30 million per year to $16 million in 2016
- Led and won the case ending 11 years of Department of Justice oversight of the Detroit Police Department, saving the City $86,000 per month and establishing the DPD as a constitutional policing agency
- Managed the City’s legal process through the 2014 Chapter 9 bankruptcy proceedings
- Recouped $20 million from bankruptcy consultants for overbilling
- Created the Commercial Blight Unit to hold property owners accountable for compliance with City standards. This unit collected over $601,650 in judgments from non-compliant property owners, and never lost a case
- Created the Income Tax Unit to ensure citizens and businesses in the City pay their fair share for City services which collected over $5.3 million and never lost a case
- Created Project Clean Slate, a pioneering program in which 100 volunteer lawyers and 100 volunteer law students provide free legal representation in non-violent criminal expungements in exchange for the applicant agreeing to sign up for the City’s job readiness program. The participating lawyers and law students in this project never lost a case
- Worked with the Duggan Administration and the City Council to write and implement the City’s first medical marihuana ordinances which took effect March 1, 2016; and he oversaw regulation and compliance with the ordinances, alongside the Police Department and the Buildings Safety Engineering and Environmental Department, and defended the ordinances in court. The Law Department lost none of these cases
When he announced that he was stepping down from his position at City Hall to accept the position as Managing Partner of The Miller Law Firm Detroit, Mayor Duggan thanked Hollowell for his service and praised his accomplishments: “Under Butch Hollowell’s leadership, not only has the city saved millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements that can be used for critical city services, his vigorous efforts to address the issues of commercial blight, illegal graffiti and illegal dumping have greatly improved the quality of life in Detroit’s neighborhoods. It’s no surprise The Miller Law Firm recognized Butch’s outstanding abilities as a lawyer and administrator and recruited him to their team.” City Council President Brenda Jones added, “I appreciate Butch Hollowell’s service to the Detroit City Council. He represented us in key legislation, cut the flow of lawsuit payouts in half and worked to ensure the best interests of the city were protected. Under Butch’s leadership, excellent legal advice was provided to City Council and we wish him well in this new chapter of his life.”
Attorney Hollowell presently serves on the Board of the Directors of the City of Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority, as a Mayoral appointee. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the City of Detroit Public Lighting Authority by joint appointment of the Mayor and the City Council.
Hollowell was appointed General Counsel for the 2018 Gretchen Whitmer for Michigan Governor primary campaign, and that same year served on Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s Transition Team. Hollowell served as Insurance Consumer Advocate for the State of Michigan by appointment of Governor Jennifer Granholm, now U.S. Secretary of Energy. He was appointed to Vice President Al Gore’s litigation team in Miami (pro hac vice), under Kendall Coffey, during the 2000 Presidential Recount. He was elected the first African American Chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, was a Member of the Democratic National Committee, and was elected to the Rules Committee of the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
In 1995 and again in 2018, Hollowell was appointed General Chairman of the Detroit Branch NAACP Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner, the largest sit-down dinner in the world, and the largest annual fundraiser for civil rights in the United States. He is a rare 2-time Chairman of this iconic event. Hollowell has served on the National NAACP Legal Committee by appointment of the Association’s Chair.
Hollowell is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan and the courts of the State of Michigan. He is a member of the State Bar of Michigan and the American Bar Association.
Hollowell was born at Tripler Army Hospital in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, speaks Spanish, is a competitive tennis player, has traveled widely, and plays acoustic guitar. He has two children: Melvin III and Desiree, and three grandchildren: Jack, Allie, and Jordan. He lives in downtown Detroit.
Some of Attorney Hollowell’s representative clients include GFL USA, Inc., Bedrock, Somerset Collection Mall, Mirage Resorts, Yanfeng U.S.A., Edward C. Levy & Co, Strong Steel Products, First Independence Bank, nonprofit entities such as the NAACP and the Skillman Foundation, major real estate developers Carson Equities, City Club Apartments/Jonathan Holtzman, Firm Real Estate, M J Bennett-Norm Pappas Financial, and the Roxbury Group, clients in the cannabis industry, as well as public clients such as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, various Members of the Detroit City Council, Members of the Michigan House and Senate, the City of Flint, the City of Detroit General Retirement System Pension Board, and other elected officials, candidates, and voting rights nonprofit entities in election law matters.
Awards & Recognition
Hollowell is a “Fellow” of the Michigan State Bar Foundation, a recognition reserved for the top five percent of Michigan lawyers. He was selected by Michigan Lawyers Weekly as a “Leader in the Law,” one of the most select and prestigious recognitions in the State’s legal profession. Hollowell was named a “Leading Lawyer” in 2019 and 2020, and as a “Super Lawyer” in 2020, and 2021, which are coveted peer review professional recognitions. He received the Wolverine Bar Association’s “President’s Award,” the Association’s highest honor, and is rated “AV Preeminent” by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest possible rating for attorneys in the United States and Canada. He is a Life Member of the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
- Albion College, BA, 1981
- University of Virginia School of Law, JD, 1984
Hollowell received his Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1984 where he was President of the Black Law Students Association. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Albion College in 1981 where he was elected commencement speaker. He is a graduate of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy, Class of 1977.