Jon R. Muth – In Memoriam (1945 – 2021)
Miller Johnson mourns the death of Jon R. Muth, a long-time member of the firm and former President of the State Bar of Michigan, who died Friday, January 29. He was 75.
“We lost part of the fabric of the firm and a member of the Miller Johnson family with Jon’s passing,” said David M. Buday, Managing Member of Miller Johnson. “To capture the entirety and enormity of Jon’s life on the written page, thousands of pages would be needed. But I don’t think that is what Jon would want. Instead, if we each stop to think about and remember Jon, the memories that we have of him will paint the best and most complete picture. We will be able to see the man who was larger than life and who had a voracious appetite for all that life had to offer. We have lost a friend and partner who is an icon, and not only at Miller Johnson, but for the entire legal community in the State of Michigan. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to Carol, Jeff, Daniel, and his grandchildren.”
Muth began practicing law in 1971. His practice was solely devoted to litigation of civil matters, especially in a variety of commercial, securities, and environmental subject areas. He possessed strong relationships with lawyers and judges throughout Michigan and devoted a significant part of his career to representation of legal matters that impact the legal profession. For the last several years of his career, Mr. Muth spent a sizeable portion of his professional time as a facilitative mediator and an arbitrator.
Muth was General Counsel of Miller Johnson from 2006-2015 and provided leadership in many roles, serving as a member of the Management Committee; Chairperson of the Litigation Section; Chairperson of the Recruitment Committee; and, Chairperson of the Professional Committee.
Muth received the State Bar of Michigan’s highest award for professional achievement and service to the profession, the Roberts P. Hudson Award in 1998, following his term as 60th President of the State Bar (1994-1995). He is the longest-serving president in State Bar history, and along with that position he held office as vice-president, treasurer, executive director, and chair of several committees. He was a Master with the American Inns of Court and was a member of the Federal Bar Association. He was a member of the American Bar Association including the litigation section and the environmental law section in addition to having been a member of the ABA’s House of Delegates. He was a member of the Grand Rapids Bar Association, served as chair of the Pro Bono Committee, and received the GRBA’s President’s Award in 2004. He was a Trustee of the Michigan State Bar Foundation.
Among many honors and achievements, Muth was named “2011 Lawyer of the Year” by Michigan Lawyers Weekly; “2012 Grand Rapids Best Lawyers Mediation Lawyer of the Year”; “Top 10” by Michigan SuperLawyers from 2007-2010; and, “Top 10 Lawyers” by Grand Rapids Magazine.
In 2002, Muth helped found the Kent County Legal Assistance Center, the first nonprofit self-help center in Michigan and among the first in the country. Today, the Legal Assistance Center addresses the challenges faced by those who represent themselves in the legal process and serves over 18,000 people each year with family, housing, consumer and other basic legal issues. Muth served as organizational chair and Trustee, helping fund the start-up in 1996 with a 23-day, cross-country “Leg Aid for Legal Aid” bicycle ride raising over $20,000 through pledges per mile. He averaged 125 miles per day for a total of 2,881 miles from San Diego, California to Charleston, South Carolina.
Outside of the legal profession, Muth volunteered his time with many organizations in west Michigan, including serving on the Board of Trustees for the Grand Rapids Art Museum; with the Provider Review Team for the Heart of West Michigan United Way; on the Board of Trustees with Natural Areas Conservancy of West Michigan; on the Board of Trustees with Kalamazoo College; as the Director of the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition; and, on Wayne State University Law School’s Committee of Visitors.
Muth received his Juris Doctor degree cum laude in 1971 from Wayne State University, which elected him to the Order of the Coif, and his undergraduate degree from Kalamazoo College in 1967, which bestowed upon him their Distinguished Service Award in 1991.
Muth is survived by his wife, Carol; two sons and their wives, Jeff and Courtney and Daniel and Meredith, and five grandchildren. Memorial services are pending.