Michael Petoskey (P37386) was appointed as the Pokagon Band’s first chief judge on February 14, 2002. Chief Judge Petoskey is a Grand Traverse Band member, a licensed Michigan attorney, and a Viet Nam veteran, serving as an infantry medic. He has been a judge for various Michigan Indian tribes since 1986. Chief Judge Petoskey began his judicial career with the planning, implementation and development of Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians Tribal Court, while he was a staff attorney for Michigan Indian Legal Services. He was the chief judge for his tribe for over 16 years until his retirement from the position. Chief Judge Petoskey’s career interest has been working with newly-reaffirmed tribes to plan, implement and develop their courts from just a dream. In 2006 he retired from the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians after nine years service as chief judge after starting the court there. Chief Judge Petoskey recently retired as chief justice of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Court of Appeals, a position he has held from 1999 to 2009. In addition, he served as an associate justice of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan Court of Appeals from 2002 to 2006.
In 1992 the Michigan Bar Journal recognized Judge Petoskey as a Citizen Lawyer for his contributions in law to the tribal community. In 1997 he was named, along with eleven other attorneys, Lawyer of the Year by Michigan Lawyers Weekly, a legal newspaper. In 1999 the Grand Traverse Band Tribal Court was one of sixteen tribal programs nationwide honored as an outstanding example of tribal governance by The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. In 2000 the American Indian Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan honored Judge Petoskey and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Michael Cavanagh with the section’s annual Tecumseh Peacekeeping Award for their leadership in moving State of Michigan courts and tribal courts away from conflict and toward cooperation.