Daniel J. Wright, a former Michigan Lawyer of the Year who accomplished the “Michigan Miracle” when he saved the state $178 million in 2003 and became the namesake of the state’s Daniel J. Wright Lifetime Achievement Award, died July 31 in Lansing, MI after a long illness. He was 63.
Wright pulled off the “Michigan Miracle” when he led the state’s efforts to upgrade Michigan’s outdated child support payment system by federally mandated deadlines. As a Special Assistant to then Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Maura Corrigan, he met with officials from every state circuit court and relevant agency to solve the previous system’s failure to track child support payments and punish those responsible for missed payments. When he met the deadlines, Wright saved the state $142 million in federal fines and earned the state a $36 million refund for fines it had already paid as a federal incentive to meet the deadlines. Federal officials acknowledged at the time that it took a “miracle” for the state to meet the deadlines.
Former Chief Justice Corrigan, now director of the Michigan Department of Human Services, said Wright was the reason the “Miracle” occurred. “He was a tremendous diplomat and a person of his word,” Corrigan said. “He had a lot of convincing to do to bring all of the counties in line. That was the reason the Michigan Miracle happened.”
For his work to perform the “miracle” and overall dedication to the betterment of children and families throughout Michigan, the state created the Daniel J. Wright Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. The award recognizes an outstanding advocate for Michigan’s children and families. Wright received his award from Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder during a ceremony in Lansing last November. Corrigan said Wright told her that the award and the ceremony made for the “happiest day of my life.”
Michigan Lawyers Weekly named Wright “Lawyer of the Year” for his work to implement the program. In his career with the Supreme Court, he has been head of the Friend of the Court Bureau, an administrative division connected to the court, and directed the court’s Child Welfare Services Division.
He is survived by his wife, Lynne; a daughter, Margaret; a son, Eamonn; a brother, J. Patrick (Debby); three sisters, Maureen, Kathleen (Michael) Conway and Eileen (Ronald) Dimick; nieces and nephews Kara Conway, Maureen Conway, Ellie Dimick, Julie Dimick, Mary (William) Scott, Mary “Molly” Wright, JJ Conway and Patrick Wright.
Visitation for Mr. Wright will be Monday, August 6 from 4-8 pm at Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel, 325 W. Washtenaw St., Lansing, MI. Deacon John Fitch will conduct a memorial rosary at 7 pm.
Visitation will also be from 10-11 am Tuesday, August 7 at St. Casimir Catholic Church, 815 Sparrow Ave, Lansing, MI. Fr. William Lugger will celebrate a memorial mass immediately follow at 11 am.