The Grand Rapids-based law firm Warner Norcross + Judd LLP has spent more than a decade as the U.S. counsel for Canada and the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority as it went through the arduous procurement process to build the Gordie Howe International Bridge.
Role: Team lead for U.S. counsel to Canada
Personal information: Wife, Christine Horner; five children: Gina Schmidt, Ally Horner, Katie Galan, Grant Horner, Sophia Galan
Academic degrees: Bachelor’s degree and a law degree from the University of Michigan
Role: Number two team leader for U.S. counsel to Canada
Personal information: Wife, Jennifer Goode; two children, Catharine and Olivia
Academic degrees: Bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University, law degree from Wayne State University
Community involvement: Board of directors at St. Ann’s Home, member of the budget and finance committee at Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
Attorneys Tim Horner and Charlie Goode helped lead the team of attorneys that structured the agreement between Canada, Michigan and the U.S. government for the $4.4 billion project that remains under construction.
Horner and Goode began working about 12 years ago on the project, regarded as one of the largest infrastructure projects of its kind in North America.
The sheer complexity of the international bridge project made it a unique deal for Horner, who served as team lead. Horner has been practicing transactional law at Warner Norcross + Judd since 1992. The job of coordinating multiple government organizations from both countries added to the deal’s complexity, Horner said.
“Maybe the greatest challenge, in my view, was trying to understand and harmonize the needs and the positions of all of the various stakeholders on both sides of the border,” he said, noting the immense legal challenges.
The bridge project spans four main components: the six-lane, 1.5-mile span that also features a dedicated path for pedestrians and cyclists; a 130-acre Canadian port of entry with toll collection and inspection facilities; a 167-acre U.S. port of entry; and Michigan interchanges, including four new road bridges, five pedestrian bridges, a reconfiguration of ramps on I-75 and service drives.
Goode, who joined the firm in 2001 and practices corporate and securities law, was second in command on the Gordie Howe Bridge team and researched myriad legal issues around the international endeavor. In particular, he worked to build a legal framework around the project in Michigan and with Canada’s formal process for public-private partnerships. Goode also played a key role in negotiating the crossing agreement between Canada and Michigan.
The crossing agreement established the framework of parameters the project would work within, including how the bridge would be built and most significantly that Canada would pay for it.
“From when Gov. (Rick) Snyder was elected, and I think it was in his first State of the State speech, he backed the bridge,” Goode said. “From there, the gas pedal was really pushed down on moving the transaction forward.”
The crossing agreement took about a year to negotiate and draft, Goode said. The next step was implementing an international authority to govern the bridge, and then the lengthy procurement process for the bridge itself, made more complex by Canada’s laws around public-private partnerships.
As part of the project, the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority — the firm’s client — went through a request for qualifications for consortiums of companies to build the bridge, ultimately selecting a group of mostly Canadian companies called Bridging North America.
“I was the lead on negotiating and drafting from a U.S. law standpoint, and taking part in all the discussions around the various iterations and versions of the project agreement, and schedules to the project agreement, which numbered in the thousands of pages,” Goode said.
Since Bridging North America was chosen, the project moved into implementation and construction management.
Goode said the project was an “M&A transaction on steroids” in that it was complex and moved very quickly. It required the understanding of each side’s needs, the understanding of his client’s needs and the management of a team of attorneys.
“All those experiences help me bring best transactional practices into my representation of Canada,” he said.
The team’s transactional expertise also came into play in representing Canada during more than 900 deals for property acquired voluntarily or through the condemnation process. The deals also faced litigation, including state and federal lawsuits that challenged site selection, among other aspects.
The successful launch of the bridge project serves to represent the firm’s team effort and how Warner Norcross + Judd does business, Goode said. More than 60 attorneys overall were involved in the process.
“It really represents the entire team of Warner attorneys and staff here that have worked tireless hours on this project for many, many years,” Goode said.
The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority will operate and maintain the project, which is a result of negotiations by Goode, Horner and the rest of the team.
“It’s been an absolute honor to represent the government of Canada and the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority for over a decade on this project,” Horner said. “It’s been a phenomenal project and I truly enjoyed it.”