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October 2021


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Tag: Joe Hayes

Parker: U.S. Attorney Joe Hayes, A Contributor to the Rule of Law (1940-2013)

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office. He is the author of the book “Carving Out the Rule of Law: The History of the United States Attorney’s Office in Eastern Michigan 1815–2008″.

Roy Hayes

By Ross Parker

Roy C. (Joe) Hayes, the 45th United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan (1986-89), died earlier this month.  Although his contributions extended to several other venues, it is this service that stands out for those of us who were privileged to work with and for him in the federal system.

Considering the epochal changes that occurred to the federal criminal justice system during his term, Joe’s common sense and leadership provided a steady hand at the Office tiller. Plus he was one of the nicest guys you could work for. His personal and professional history made a significant contribution to the rule of law in Michigan, in both the state and federal systems.

He was born on June 19, 1940 in Detroit, and he grew up in the city, where his father operated an advertising and public relations business.  At an early age, he was given the nickname “Joe,” and it stuck throughout his life among his friends and co-workers. He was graduated from the University of Notre Dame High School in 1958, and with his strong Irish and Roman Catholic background, he naturally chose to attend the University of Notre Dame, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1962.  He then went to law school at the University of Detroit, graduating in 1965.

Joe was selected in 1966 to be the Editor of the Detroit Lawyer, the primary publication of the Detroit Bar Association.  During this same time, he served as public relations counsel of the State Bar of Michigan and of the Detroit Bar Association.  In 1967, a tumultuous time for the city, he became an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. 

He was soon assigned to a heavy schedule of trying major felony cases in one of the busiest criminal courts in the nation.  He developed an expertise in trying murder, arson and fraud cases.  In 1969 he left the office to be Assistant Director of the Crime Control Project for the American Bar Association in Chicago.  The experience of working under the direction of famed trial lawyers Leon Jaworski and Edward Bennett Williams left a strong impression on him.

From 1970 until 1975, Joe Hayes headed the Wayne County Organized Crime Task Force in Detroit.  As the director of the operation, he supervised a task force of prosecutors and law enforcement officers who investigated major corruption. His most important case of was the 10th Precinct Police Corruption trial, which involved one of the longest trials in Michigan history.  The nine-month trial involved the first use of metal detectors in a Michigan courtroom.  The case resulted in the conviction of fourteen police officers and six drug traffickers.

Ross Parker

In January 1976, he left the task force to accept the appointment as Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney.  In 1978 he formed the law firm of Hayes and Beatly in Charlevoix and, for seven years, engaged in a diverse legal practice, which he left in 1986 to become United States Attorney.

Few USAs have managed the changes and challenges Joe Hayes faced in his term. The biggest of these was probably the Sentencing Reform Act which caused one of the most important changes in the federal criminal justice system in the twentieth century.  Under the prior “indeterminate” sentencing system, there were almost no limitations on the range of sentences a judge could impose for a particular offense committed by a particular defendant.  The result was a wide disparity of sentences for similarly situated defendants.  The other complaint about this system was that defendants were eligible for parole after serving only one-third of their sentence.  That fact plus a generous good time system made the actual time served by an offender impossible to predict until his or her release on parole.

The Sentencing Guidelines system tried to avoid disparity, uncertainty and unfairness by requiring judges to impose sentences within a narrow range.  The Sentencing Commission developed a time grid based on the category of the offense and the criminal record of the offender. 

The defendant would serve “real time” sentences, minus the prescribed good time allowance. Parole was replaced by a mandatory period of supervised release tacked on after an inmate left prison. Although it had several important benefits, the system was incredibly complicated and many practitioners predicted disastrous chaos. Plus mandatory minimums could be indiscriminately harsh. AUSAs faced criticism for the new system on a daily basis. Joe’s patience and encouragement got us through a challenging time of adjustment.


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