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Victoria A. Roberts

Victoria A. Roberts

General Biography
Practice Areas
Business Commercial
Civil Rights
Class Action and Mass Tort
Personal Injury Torts
Product Liability
Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities
Background and Education

Victoria Ann Roberts, Retired Judge, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, joins JAMS in Detroit after 25 years of distinguished judicial service. Prior to her long tenure on the federal bench, Judge Roberts represented the United States, the state of Michigan, the Detroit Building Authority, the Economic Development Corporation for the City of Detroit, the American Motors Company, and individual plaintiffs and defendants in private industry.

Former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade praised Judge Roberts for being a “dedicated, thoughtful, meticulous judge who takes seriously her duty to administer equal justice under the law.”

Throughout her legal career, Judge Roberts has blazed a trail for native Detroiters, women, African Americans, lawyers, judges and members of the public at large. She pioneered new initiatives in the federal courts and her community. From 2010 to 2012, she co-chaired a committee that examined ways to improve the racial makeup of federal juries. When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down court proceedings in 2020, she was a key advocate in moving the court to virtual proceedings. During her tenure as a federal judge, Judge Roberts taught at the University of Michigan Law School.

Renowned among her peers as fair and even-handed, Judge Roberts never fails to recognize the human element in legal disputes. She characterized her time on the bench as an opportunity to serve the public in an impactful way and to make decisions that influence every aspect of life and public policy. She was the moving force on her bench to create a pro se prisoner mediation program and pro se clinic.

In private practice and as a government attorney, Judge Roberts resolved many cases through mediation, including:

Representative Matters Handled Prior to Judicial Service

  • United States and Roy Joseph Conover, et al. v. Parkwoods Apartments, et al. (1995): In private practice, achieved national attention for record settlement of $475,000 in housing discrimination matter; matter brought about changes in industry practice
  • Jane Doe v. Carlos Lauchu, M.D. (1992): As an advocate in mediation, achieved $1.4 million settlement for a female psychiatric patient whose condition worsened after inappropriate therapy resulted in improper sexual conduct between plaintiff and her male psychiatrist
  • Cady Eisenberg v. United States of America (1985): As an advocate for the United States in a complex medical malpractice suit, achieved mediated settlement for failure to diagnose lung cancer

Representative Matters Handled on the Bench


  • In re: City of Detroit (Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy) (2013): Primarily responsible for negotiating collective bargaining agreements between the city, its public safety unions and AFSCME, the largest union representing city employees; in one year, negotiated over 45 labor contracts
  • United States v. City of Detroit (Detroit water and sewer case) (Mediated settlements): Mediated collective bargaining issues in 2015 on behalf of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department as the City of Detroit continued to bring closure to bankruptcy-related issues


  • As a judicial mediator, settled multimillion-dollar automotive suppliers matter involving allegations of misappropriation of trade secrets

Civil Rights

  • Tanya Marchwinski, et al., v. Nannette M. Bowler, et al. (1999): Striking down a Michigan law requiring suspicionless drug testing for welfare recipients, ruling that the state failed to prove that the testing was in response to a public safety issue
  • Arab American Civil Rights League, et al. Donald Trump 399 F. Supp. 3d 717 (2017): Presided over one of the first lawsuits filed in response to Executive Order 13769, titled“Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” labeled the “Muslim ban” by President Trump and commonly known as such, or referred to as the “Trump travel ban”; on Feb. 3, 2017, Roberts ordered the U.S. government to halt enforcement of Trump’s 90-day restriction on travel by people from seven Muslim-minority countries if they are lawful, permanent residents of the United States; she also ordered the Trump administration to turn over a memorandum by adviser Rudy Giuliani, allegedly written to make the travel order appear that it was not specifically aimed at Muslims, by May 19, 2017

Class Action/Mass Tort

  • Snow, et al. v. ATOFINA Chemical, Inc. (2001): Environmental tort class action lawsuit that developed when ATOFINA released chlorine and methyl mercaptan during an explosion, causing a one-day emergency evacuation of 2,000 residents in the cities of Wyandotte, Grosse Isle and Riverview, Michigan; matter settled for $1.2 million prior to verdict
  • NILI 2011, LLC, et al. v. City of Warren (2015): As a judicial mediator, settled class action against City of Warren alleging due process violations and that the city failed to properly administer its Property Maintenance Ordinance; settled for $990,000

Labor and Employment

  • Hi-Lex Controls v. Blue Cross Blue Shield (2013) (upheld on appeal): A Detroit-area auto supplier, Hi-Lex Controls, accused Blue Cross of Michigan of charging hidden fees and inflating costs with charges that weren’t properly disclosed; in 2013, Roberts found that Blue Cross was “self-dealing” and violating labor law for years; resulted in return of millions of dollars to automobile suppliers
  • Wadlowski v. Consumers Energy Company (2019): As a judicial mediator, settled disability discrimination case against major utility company for $175,000
  • Allen Green, III v. FCA US L.L.C. (2019): As a judicial mediator, settled disability discrimination matter against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for $140,000
  • United States v. Flink Neurology Centre, P.C., et al. (2022): As a judicial mediator, settled matter between the government and medical center for failure to provide auxiliary services under Title III (public accommodation) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); achieved $150,000 settlement and other, non-monetary relief

Securities and Financial Fraud

  • Simon Property Group v. Taubman Centers (2008): Matter involved defendant’s attempt to block a hostile takeover by plaintiff; the question presented involved construction of the Michigan Control Share Acquisition Act; the court issued an injunction holding that defendant had not obtained the consent of disinterested shareholders when it established a shareholder group to block the plaintiff’s offer, allowing the takeover to proceed; the decision was appealed to the Sixth Circuit; while pending appeal, the Michigan Legislature enacted new legislation that resulted in the withdrawal of the tender offer
  • Gordon v. Royal Palm Real Estate Investment Fund I, LLP (2009): A receiver appointed on behalf of a convicted Ponzi-schemer sought recovery of funds invested in an allegedly fraudulent investment scheme; case settled for $23.5 million

Other Notable Rulings

  • US v. Timothy O’Reilly, et al. (2010): Only the third federal death penalty case tried since 1938 went before Roberts in 2010; while the defendant was found guilty of all death-eligible crimes charged, Roberts imposed a sentence of life without the possibility of parole following a jury determination that Mr. O’Reilly should not receive the death penalty
  • Doe, MC-1 v. University of Michigan (2020): Presiding judge in a case alleging a 30-year history of sexual assault and abuse by a doctor once employed a university’s health service; made key rulings that resulted in a facilitated settlement through an outside mediator of $490 million for the benefit of 1,000 victims
  • United States of America v. David Stone, et al. (2012): Roberts was the presiding judge in a case against nine members of the self-styled Hutaree militia, who were charged with seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to kill law enforcement officers and conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction; the group was infiltrated by the FBI, which planted an informant and agent in 2008; in March 2012, Roberts granted acquittal on all charges against five of the Hutaree militia group, as well as on the most serious charges against the remaining two, finding that the government’s (largely circumstantial) evidence had not met its burden of proof
  • US v. Aleksander Maksimenko, et al. (2005): Roberts presided over the prosecution of eight members of an international conspiracy to traffic Eastern European women into the United States for financial and sexual exploitation; all defendants pled guilty, receiving sentences ranging from two years of probation to 14 years in prison
  • Poletown Council v. City of Detroit, 410 Mich. 616 (Mich. 1981), 304 N.W.2d 455: As an advocate on behalf of the City of Detroit, established Michigan precedent related to the common law “instrumentality of commerce” exception to government takings of private property; on appeal, the Michigan Supreme Court paved the way for redevelopment in Detroit by allowing the city to condemn private property in favor of a General Motors plant

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

  • Creator, Pro Se Legal Assistance Clinic, Detroit Mercy School of Law, 2017: This clinic is housed in the federal courthouse in Michigan and operates in conjunction with Detroit Mercy School of Law.
  • Creator, Early Mediation Program for Pro Se Prisoner Civil Rights Cases, 2018: This clinic is housed in the federal courthouse in Michigan and operates in conjunction with Detroit Mercy School of Law.
  • Founder, Judicial Extern Program (JEP), in cooperation with the Wolverine Bar Association, 2000: This program has placed more than 300 African American law students in summer clerkships with federal judges.
  • Member of the Board, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, 1987–1991, 1995–1996
  • Chairwoman of the Board, Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit, 1986–1989
  • Former Board Member, State Bar of Michigan Foundation
  • Member; Pro Bono, Jury, Information Technology and Magistrate Judges Committees; United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, 1998–2023
  • Chairperson, Fellows of the Michigan State Bar Foundation, 2022-2023
  • Member, Board of Directors, St. Leo’s Soup Kitchen, 2019–2023
  • President, State Bar of Michigan, 1996–1997
  • President, Wolverine Bar Association, 1986–1987

Selected Awards and Speaking Engagements


  • Legacy Award, American Civil Liberties Union, 2023
  • Lifetime Judicial Achievement Award, American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), 2023
  • Namesake, Victoria A. Roberts Scholarship, Wolverine Bar Association, f. 2020
  • Woman of the Year, Michigan Lawyers Weekly, 2013
  • Dennis W. Archer Public Service Award, Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Foundation, 2012
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws, Northeastern University School of Law, 2004
  • Robert P. Hudson Award, State Bar of Michigan, 2001
  • Champion of Justice Award, State Bar of Michigan, 1999
  • Lawyer of the Year, Michigan Lawyers Weekly, 1997

Speaking Engagements

  • International lectures on collaborating/cooperating witnesses in Nairobi, Kenya, 2009; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2016
  • Faculty Member, ASEAN Judicial Colloquium on Civil and Criminal Intellectual Property Infringement Cases, Bangkok, Thailand, 2018
  • Publishing Sponsor (as Wolverine Bar Association President), Black Lawyers, Law Practice and Bar Associations: 1844-1970 (Littlejohn, Edward), commonly known as the “Red Book,” an authoritative chronicle of the struggles of black lawyers in Michigan, 1987; the WBA contributed all Red Book profits to its foundation for the benefit of scholarships for BIPOC students

Background and Education

  • United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit), 1998–2023
  • Faculty, University of Michigan Law School, 2008–2014
  • Principal, Law Office of Victoria A. Roberts, specializing in personal injury and arbitration matters, 1998
  • Attorney in Private Practice, 1988–1998, eventually serving as Managing Partner for Goodman, Eden, Millender & Bedrosian, the first racially integrated law firm in the United States
  • General Counsel, Transition Team, Detroit Mayor-Elect Dennis Archer, 1993–1994
  • Assistant United States Attorney, Eastern District of Michigan, 1985–1988
  • Senior Litigation Attorney, American Motors Corporation, 1983–1985
  • Attorney and Principal, Lewis, White & Clay, 1977–1983
  • Teaching Fellow, Legal Research and Writing, Michigan State Detroit College of Law, 1977–1978
  • Research Attorney, Michigan State Court of Appeals, 1976–1977
  • Juris Doctor, Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, 1976
  • Bachelor of the Arts, Journalism and Sociology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1973
  • Valedictorian, St. Martin de Porres High School, Detroit, 1969


This page is for general information purposes.  JAMS makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness.  Interested persons should conduct their own research regarding information on this website before deciding to use JAMS, including investigation and research of JAMS neutrals. See More

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