Early Life and Education
Dana Nessel is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Wayne State University Law School. She is the managing partner of Nessel & Kessel Law, located in Detroit. She has nearly 25 years of legal experience, covering a vast array of disciplines.
Dana began her legal career as an Assistant Prosecutor in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. For over a decade, Dana was assigned to a number of elite units within the office and handled some of Wayne County’s most difficult cases.
In the Child and Family Abuse Bureau, Dana received forensic training in child interview techniques and procedures, where she vertically prosecuted child sexual and physical abuse cases, including internet crimes, child homicides, and major offenses involving child witnesses. Dana specialized in “shaken baby” cases involving severe traumatic brain injuries. Dana also prosecuted homicides, felony assaults, criminal sexual conduct cases, gang-related crimes, and incidents of aggravated stalking and arsons.
Dana received assignments to the Auto Theft Unit, where she vertically prosecuted major auto theft cases, including chop shops, retagging, vehicle cloning, VIN alterations, identity theft, and prosecutions under the RICO criminal enterprise statute. Dana also was picked for a joint task force with auto insurance companies and the Michigan Secretary of State for law and ordinance construction and the investigation of “scrapping” cases.
In 2005, Dana left the Prosecutor’s Office to start a business by opening her own legal firm. She has become renowned as a staunch defender of constitutional rights. In her criminal practice, Dana vigorously defends the rights of indigent defendants on hundreds of criminal cases, from petty theft to first degree murder. She also handles civil rights actions for plaintiffs against police departments and government agencies who have committed transgressions against community residents. Dana has petitioned courts across Michigan on behalf of dozens of victims of domestic violence who sought Personal Projection Orders (PPOs) against their abusers.
Dana is also recognized as one of the premier litigators of LGBTQ issues in Michigan. In 2010, she brought the matter of Harmon v. Davis, in which a Michigan court, for the first time, held that a non-biological parent in a same-sex couple could establish custodial rights to the couple’s children. Dana also successfully petitioned for the first second-parent adoptions for same-sex couples in Oakland and Wayne Counties. She has defended and acquired exonerations for scores of defendants wrongly targeted for prosecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and has represented various clients terminated from employment based upon those classifications.
In 2012, she spearheaded the precedent-setting case, DeBoer v. Snyder, which challenged the bans on adoption and marriage for same-sex couples in Michigan. DeBoer was later consolidated with its affiliated U.S. Sixth Circuit cases into Obergefell v. Hodges in the United States Supreme Court. This landmark case legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
Dana lives in southeast Michigan with her wife, Alanna Maguire, their twin sons, Alex and Zach, along with various cats.