Looking Back on 2021’s Most Significant Court Cases and News Stories, from Racial Justice to Oxford Shooting

As we head into a new year, former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade breaks down some of the most significant court cases and news stories from 2021.

There have been several high-profile trials and legal challenges this year that have dealt with everything from racial justice and abortion rights to how we treat minors and their parents in court.

“I thought that [the conviction of Derek Chauvin] was incredibly important to show that police officers can be held accountable.” –Barbara McQuade, University of Michigan Law

As we head into a new year, Detroit Today takes a look back on some of the most significant court cases and news stories from 2021.

Listen: U-M law professor and former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade reacts to the year in law.


Barbara McQuade is a law professor at the University of Michigan and former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She’s also the co-host of the #SistersInLaw podcast.

On the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, McQuade says this was one of the most significant legal stories of the year.

“I thought that conviction was incredibly important to show that police officers can be held accountable,” she says.

McQuade, a former federal prosecutor, also reacts to the charges brought by Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald related to last month’s mass shooting as Oxford High School. She says the decision to charge the accused shooter, a 15-year-old sophomore at Oxford High School, as an adult was a “tough call” because of the science about how young brains develop. But she says, “I think in a case like this, where the crime was so horrific, that I probably would have made the same call here.”

Related: Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald Calls for Tougher Gun Laws After Oxford

When it comes to McDonald’s decision to charge his parents James and Jennifer Crumbley with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter, McQuade says although that move is rare for a prosecutor, she says it makes sense in order to deter other parents from allowing minors in their care to have access to a firearm.

“That is another reason that you hold people accountable is in hopes of other people are watching,” she says. “And it is going to make them think twice about their own decisions.”

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