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Posted on Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Attorney charged with sexual assault no longer appointed to 15th District Court cases

By Kyle Feldscher

Ann Arbor defense attorney and former Downtown Development Authority member Nader Nassif is no longer representing clients at the 15th District Court, officials confirmed to this week.


Nader Nassif

Courtesy of WCSO

The revelation came about as questions were raised about payment of $203,000 to Nassif’s law firm approved by the Ann Arbor City Council in June for the fiscal year 2013, more than double the amount the court originally anticipated paying the firm for contracted services.

Keith Zeisloft, court administrator for the 15th District Court, said Tuesday the court stopped appointing Nassif to cases immediately after criminal charges were brought against him. Nassif is facing a single charge of third-degree criminal sexual conduct for an incident on July 31 at his apartment in the 200 block of South Fourth Avenue.

“From the moment what happened involving him, the court instantly stopped appointing him to cases,” Zeisloft said Tuesday.

Nassif is accused of sexually assaulting a woman. The criminal complaint, obtained by through a request from the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office, reports Nassif knew or had a reason to know “that the victim was mentally incapacitated and/or physically helpless.” Nassif has a preliminary exam scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Thursday at the 14A-1 District Court in Pittsfield Township.

It’s unknown if Nassif is still employed by Model Cities Legal Services, the law firm contracted with the 15th District Court to provide defense for indigent clients. A call to Model Cities was not returned Tuesday.

Nassif was a partner in Model Cities. Nassif and Brant Funkhouser were the two attorneys who were listed on the city documents approving the amendment.

The accusations against Nassif came a little more than a month after a budget amendment paying his firm $203,000 that rankled some on the Ann Arbor City Council.

On June 17, the last City Council meeting before the end of fiscal year 2013, council members approved a payment of $203,000 to Model Cities. That amount was on top of the $180,000 already agreed upon for the law firm's services during the fiscal year.

Zeisloft said Model Cities, which has worked with the court for decades, held back from billing cases until officials were sure the law firm would no longer be providing services to the clients. Certain cases that could not be reliably billed were held back, sometimes for years, and the court did not become aware of those bills until late 2012, he said.

“Model Cities would hold those cases back until they reached the point in time where they would determine we’re likely not to have to do any more work on this case,” he said.

Billing practices vary by law firm, but Zeisloft couldn’t firmly say if it’s normal practice for firms to bill once cases are totally wrapped up.

The law firm eventually turned over timesheets and invoices to the court for payment in late 2012 after court officials asked how many cases they were sitting on, Zeisloft said.

“They had a reservoir of cases they did not bill,” Zeisloft said, adding that cases such as domestic violence or drunken driving often end up with lawyers working with their clients far past their sentencing date.

“For billing purposes, we didn’t know they existed,” he said.

At the council meeting on June 17, 15th District Court Chief Judge Elizabeth Pollard Hines told council members the court had been under budget in nine of the past 11 years and returned almost $1.5 million to the city’s general fund.

However, it appears one of the reasons the court was under budget was because Model Cities was not fully billing the court, said City Council member Sabra Briere.

Briere was one of several members of the city council who took court officials to task on June 17 for their finances. At the time, much of the discussion centered around raises given to court staff, but Briere said Tuesday the Model Cities contract amendment was not well received.

“They (court officials) did not put pressure on Model Cities to bring the billing cycle current, nor they did they document the potential debt to the city and say, ‘This money is allocated by not yet spent,’” Briere said. “They could have done that, but they didn’t.”

She added, “what they did was come to us not providing an effective rationale for delay in the billing and not reserving the funds to meet the bill.”

City Council member Sally Hart Petersen directly brought up the amendment at the June 17 meeting. She said Tuesday she wasn’t aware of the history between the court and Model Cities before her time on council started in November, but the amendment to pay the law firm more than $200,000 left a bad taste in her mouth.

Petersen said council members were only made aware of the amendment on June 17. That left them little time to digest why hundreds of thousands of dollars were suddenly needed to pay a law firm that has been working with the 15th District Court for decades.

“My thinking was I better make a mental note of this because I don’t want to see this happen again,” she said, adding, “I thought it was unfortunate. It raised a flag.”

The City Council unanimously approved the amendment, with City Council member Christopher Taylor abstaining because of a potential conflict of interest.

It’s not an issue that will likely happen again — the contract approved for the fiscal year 2014 is a flat fee of $240,000 but Model Cities is still required to document the time it spends with clients to provide to city officials upon request. Zeisloft said this would keep overbilling from happening, while also saving court officials innumerable hours in cross-checking records.

It’s not clear what cases Model Cities held back on billing or exactly how long it had been working some cases that it billed to the court. is in the process of attempting to get copies of invoices sent by Model Cities to the district court during the fiscal year 2013.

An official in Mayor John Hieftje’s office directed questions on the amendment to the 15th District Court.

Briere said it’s not unusual for the City Council to have to make budget adjustments late in the fiscal year. She said the adjustments in June usually end up being about $500,000.

The process “seemed like it was manipulative instead of straightforward” and Model Cities should have been up front with their billing process, which court officials should have been aware of, Briere said.

“The whole thing was poorly managed,” she said.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


Colorado Sun

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 6:24 a.m.

Key questions: How did Nader Nassif, a 27-year-old fresh out of Cooley Law School land a plum position on the DDA board? How did his law firm land no-bid six-figure legal services contracts? What is he doing now that he is no longer representing indigents in the District Court? Why did the 15th District Court arraign him when he is intimately involved with the operations of that court as an indigent defender of accused misdemeanants? Who is the AAPD detective in charge of his investigation? Who at the County Prosecutor's office authorized the warrant for his arrest? Are questions being raised whether Nassif is being unfairly targeted as a minority? Did alcohol play a role in this alleged incident?

Kyle Feldscher

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

Colorado - Here are the answers to some of these questions. -According to officials, he was arraigned at 15th District Court because that was the only district court that had a magistrate available. -Detective Dave Monroe is the lead investigator on the case. -APA J. Samuel Holtz authorized the warrant All the other questions have yet to be answered. I'll work on finding these out for public consumption. Thanks for raising them.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 4:13 a.m.

@townspeak - If true, then to this admittedly non-attorney, it would seem to us "regular taxpayers" like a serious conflict of interest for a board member of Model Cities to be one of two attorneys providing legal services to Model Cities on a no-bid contract with the City..... particularly if one of that Model Cities board's functions was supposedly providing financial oversight re Model Cities expenditures.....


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 2:55 a.m.

What this all with nassif does expose to me is the close incestuous relationships not only encouraged but knowingly adhered to by our well intended but pathetic mayor. He appoints only supporters to his dda and city committees, he commingles the executive and judicial functions and he allows for overpaid no bid contracts for his followers. We have no sep of powers in our small town. We have an out of touch small town dreamer running a city too busy to care about systemic malfeasance from the top down. model cities is only doing what mayor and city council have asked for. I dont fault model cities. I fault our city leaders for consistently acting like anything but.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 2:25 a.m.

...and have someone explain why the last Magistrate really left, and about the employee who was harrassed so badly for months that ended up in ICU at UM hospital with a possible heart attack. He knew the employee was declining in health because of harranssment, so guess who got fired. Department of Labor ruled against City on that one. And Stephen Postema stands behind these messes.

The Eyes of Justice Team

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 2:45 a.m.

Postema's Era will soon be over.

Colorado Sun

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 2:16 a.m.

Hmmmmmm............ First we see City Prosecutor Robert West videotaped arrest for operating while impaired, then we see the City of Ann Arbor doling out $82,500.00 in settlement to Wayne Wade, an outstanding probation officer in a sex harassment suit in which District court Judge Julie Creal is accused of making unwelcome advances. We also see Washtenaw Circuit Court jury administrator Kimberly Elmer charged with embezzlement of the fund earmarked for juror fees. Now we see Nader Nassif whose law firm has six-figure no-bid contracts with the City of Ann Arbor charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct. What in blazes is going on with Ann Arbor's criminal justice system?


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 1:38 a.m.

The writing has been on the wall for years that 15th District Court is major dysfunctional. A lot of bad stuff has gone down since Bob Randolf left and Keith Zeisloft started. It's been plain as day.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 1:33 a.m.

There is never just one roach. And it's hard to tell where all the roaches may be after reading this. Has this only come to light due the indictment of Nassif? How did it escape scrutiny up until this point?


Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 11:56 p.m.

Wondering - I agree 100%. Keith Zeisloft, don't let the door hit you in the butt.


Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 11:56 p.m.

The assumption seems to have been made by Ann Arbor City Council that Model Cities was not billing as they were entitled to bill, but was providing services, and this was one of the causes for the 15th District Court operating under budget. But, no basis for that assumption was provided in the article. Perhaps it might be possible for to report back regarding the total payments made each year to Model Cities by the 15th District Court (and the number of clients/client contact hours represented by those dollars) over the decades of the relationship between Model Cities and the 15th District Court. It seems that such information must be part of the 15th District Court and City Council records that form the basis for approving such expenditures.


Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 11:40 p.m.

Who would tolerate such "vague" bookkeeping practices--personal or professional....especially when the City seems to be having so much trouble providing basic services to taxpayers? How are the 15th District Court (and Ann Arbor City Council members) able to verify that bills submitted by Model Cities are for services actually rendered....especially when (a) the law firm and the Model Cities organization do not seem to have an arms' length relationship; and (b) the bills are for services performed years ago.....? Such a situation would seem to violate everything we all understand to be basic professional administrative practice.


Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 10:30 p.m.

Keith Zeisloft lost track of hundreds of thousands of bills, he forgot to budget in $160,000.00 of court furniture, he backed up a Judge who sexually harrassed an employee and paid out $82,000 plus attorney fees, he caused high attorney fees by fighting a suit by an employee who was harrassed by a supervisor and he lost that case with the Department of Labor. Is Keith Zeisloft fit for his job as Court Administrator?


Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 10:18 p.m.

Why didn't Zeisloft or Postema Instantly stop making victims of employees by their Supervisors at 15th district court when harrassment was going on.


Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

Something just doesn't sound right about this transaction. What it is I don't know. Delayed billing for services anticipated to be rendered? I have called several local Attorneys with a solid case and tell them it involves an Ann Arbor City agency, all of the sudden it's a conflict of interest. I can't find a Lawyer within 15 miles that wants to touch this without the same excuse. IMO, that money if not yet paid, should be followed very closely. Very, very closely!


Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 9:56 p.m.

The word you're looking for is "hinky".


Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 8:42 p.m.

Taking tax $$$ out of your pockets or off the top it's all honor among theives

The Eyes of Justice Team

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 8:15 p.m.

The Mayor is " Not Feeling Well " I wonder why? Mr. Mayor and Postema have been running around City Hall asking People to make positive comments on the Mayors behalf..... Thats going to be real difficult for this story Jonny.

The Eyes of Justice Team

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 2:52 a.m.

@truth you should contact her, she will hear you out.....Not like Postema.


Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 2:50 a.m.

And maybe Mrs. Fales will then make ammends to all the past employees left in the dirt.

The Eyes of Justice Team

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 2:43 a.m.

Mrs. Fales gave it to me.......She is Honest! And should be Ann Arbors next City Attorney

Colorado Sun

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 : 2:24 a.m.

Is that Nader Nassif in your icon? can't be........... How did he get to use the bench of that certain judge? He did contribute to the Connors re-election bid. So................

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 8:11 p.m.

"The [Model Cities] contract approved for the fiscal year 2014 is a flat fee of $240,000..." but I guess they thought they were hiring two attorneys instead of one. Is the average salary for a "pro bono" type attorney $120,000 a year these days including office overhead and support staff?

Albert Howard

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 7:57 p.m.

Is there such a thing as a watered down breaking news story? I would certainly hope that this attorney is no longer appointed to 15th District Court cases. Let's try to make the preliminary exam this time.

Albert Howard

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 9:51 p.m.

@ YpsiYapper Exactly my point. I was writing enigmatically. I concur.


Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 9:28 p.m.

I don't think story is watered down. I think the information being provided to is not only vague, but is intended to be that way. The arrest of this attorney may be the tip of an iceberg when he starts talking for a reduced sentence.

The Eyes of Justice Team

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 8:22 p.m.

@ Howard did you read the headline of the story?

The Eyes of Justice Team

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 8:10 p.m.

Great Reporting Kyle!

Kyle Feldscher

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 7:59 p.m.

Care to explain why you think this story is watered down?


Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 7:15 p.m.

This isn't the first time Ann Arbor has been ripped off for trying to be politically correct.


Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

I don't know that it's actually being ripped off either. Sounds like sloppy billing procedures, but as yet there is no mention that the billing is inflated - just very late.

John of Saline

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 : 7:13 p.m.

Experience is quite a teacher, I'd guess, in being a defense attorney.