Melvin Butch Hollowell
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 affairs, municipal and administrative law, election law, corporate transactions, and cannabis law.
In private practice, Hollowell was retained by The Miller Law Firm to handle a significant federal class action matter: Davidson v. Henkel of America, Inc., (2:12-cv-14103-LPZ-DRG) involving the loss of retirement pay sustained by the class through defendant’s failure to take advantage of available favorable tax treatment for applicable company retirees in its deferred compensation plan. Hollowell prevailed in the matter winning a 100% recovery for the class. Some representative clients include Bedrock, the Detroit General Retirement System Pension Board, HMI Industries, Strong Steel Products, Mirage Resorts (Steve Wynn), Firm Real Estate, First Independence Bank, Receiver for Circuit Courts in complex real estate work-outs, and many clients in the cannabis licensing application process at the local and State levels, and many elected officials and candidates for public office in election law and campaign finance matters in State and Federal Court.
Hollowell was elected as 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 is a recipient of the 2019 “Leading Lawyer” Award, a national peer review recognition. He received the Wolverine Bar Association’s “President’s Award,” the Association’s highest honor. Hollowell is rated “AV Preeminent” by Martindale-Hubbell, the “Highest possible rating in both legal ability and ethical standards, through a strenuous Peer Review Rating process which evaluates lawyers 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. Hollowell has served on the National NAACP Legal Committee by appointment of the Association’s Chair. He is a recipient of the “Exemplary Service” award, presented by his colleagues in the City of Detroit’s Office of the Corporation Counsel. At the end of his four-year tenure as Corporation Counsel, the Detroit City Council presented Hollowell with its highest recognition, the “Testimonial Resolution.”
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, unanimously confirmed by the Detroit City Council, and sworn-in to office in January 2014. During this transformative period in the life of the City, he assumed the role of Director of the City’s 70-attorney Law Department and was 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.
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. This unit has 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.”
During his tenure at the City, he served as a board member of the City’s Downtown Development Authority, as a Mayoral appointee, where he chaired the DDA’s 4.1(c) sub-committee overseeing the approval of contacts exceeding $500,000. He served as a Commissioner of the Detroit Election Commission and as a Trustee of the City’s Police and Fire Pension Board.
Hollowell was previously a Shareholder at Butzel Long, P.C. and at Allen Brothers PLLC. He was also General Counsel of the Detroit Branch NAACP, where he litigated voting rights, redistricting, and equal access to education matters in the federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court (Schuette v. Cantrell, 572 U.S. __; 134 S. Ct. 1623 (2014); Docket No. 12–682).
Hollowell was appointed General Counsel for the Gretchen Whitmer for Michigan Governor campaign, and served on Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s Transition Team. Hollowell served as Insurance Consumer Advocate for the State of Michigan by appointment of the Governor. 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 the first African American Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, served on the Democratic National Committee, and was elected to the Rules Committee of the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
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 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 by his fellow classmates. He is a graduate of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy, Class of 1977.
Hollowell is active in the community. Presently he serves on the Board of Directors of the Detroit Downtown Development Authority, by appointment of the Mayor. And he serves on the Board of the Detroit Public Lighting Authority, by joint appointment of the Mayor and Detroit City Council. Previously he has served on the boards of the Detroit Branch NAACP, Cass Community Social Services, the Wolverine Bar Association, Marygrove College, Albion College, Wayne State University Medical School, Detroit Music Hall, the Nature Conservancy – Michigan Chapter, and the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy. In 2018 Mr. 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 single largest fundraiser for civil rights in the United States.
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.