Obituary: Judge Jonathan Tukel, A Devotion to Justice


Judge Jonathan Tukel
Judge Jonathan Tukel

As Rabbi Aaron Starr of Congregation Shaarey Zedek said at the funeral, Judge Tukel followed the Jewish precept that “Justice, justice you shall pursue.”

Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Jonathan Tukel died on Sept. 17, 2021, at age 60. Judge Tukel, an Orchard Lake resident, had a distinguished career as a lawyer, federal prosecutor, judge and adjunct law professor.

As Rabbi Aaron Starr of Congregation Shaarey Zedek said at the funeral, Judge Tukel followed the Jewish precept that “Justice, justice you shall pursue.”

“He used his incredible gifts for justice, compassion, truth and faith and put his family above all else,” Rabbi Starr said.

Chief Judge Christopher Murray of the Michigan Court of Appeals, said, “Judge Tukel’s devotion to the rule of law and the Constitution was surpassed only by his love and dedication to his family, friends and the University of Michigan, where he was an adjunct professor.

“His laugh, sense of humor and never-ending curiosity about the law will be missed by all at the Court of Appeals.”

At his funeral, family members spoke of his commitment to being with his close extended family — enjoying summers at Camp Michigania near Boyne City, U-M football weekends and seders. 

They appreciated his humility, deep sense of purpose and commitment to core values, but also his jokes and warmth that brought happiness to family occasions.

Judge Tukel was described as a proud Jew who treasured his Jewish culture and supported Israel, and as a defender of the underdog. Despite a difficult battle with multiple myeloma, a deadly cancer, he focused on his professional goals and family and was grateful for the rich life that he achieved.

Judge Tukel grew up in Oak Park and earned a bachelor’s degree and later a law degree magna cum laude from the University of Michigan. He began his legal career with the Detroit-based Honigman law firm, focusing on antitrust, labor and employment discrimination cases, as well as white-collar criminal defense.

Vast Public Service

He subsequently served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Department of Justice, prosecuting cases involving narcotics, money laundering, tax evasion and public corruption.

Rabbi Starr noted, “In his professional career, Judge Jon Tukel pursued justice with his entire being.”

As chief of the National Security Unit, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tukel and his colleagues investigated and prosecuted international and domestic terrorism cases. He was involved in two particularly well-known terrorism cases — the Underwear Bomber who tried to blow up an airplane over Detroit in 2009, and an immigrant who tried to fraudulently obtain U.S. citizenship by concealing a terrorist past. In 2017, he achieved a lifelong dream by being appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to the Michigan Court of Appeals, 2nd District.

In 2012, Judge Tukel was honored for his accomplishments, including the prosecution of the Underwear Bomber. He received a “Leader in the Law” award from the Michigan Lawyers Weekly as well as the Attorney General Award from the Department of Justice for “Excellence in Furthering the Interest in U.S. National Security” and the United States Attorney’s Award from the United States Attorney’s Office. 

Judge Tukel shared his knowledge as an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan Law School. In addition, he lectured at the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI Academy and at the Public Prosecution Service of Canada while serving at the Department of Justice. He also chaired the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board Hearing Panel.

Rabbi Starr said, “We will always remember Judge Jon Tukel as a man who used his incredible gifts to devote his life to justice, to compassion, to faith and, most of all, to his family — above all else.”

Judge Jonathan Tukel is survived by his wife, Sandra Tukel; sons, Steven Tukel, Henry Tukel and Andrew Tukel; mother-in-law, Reva Kuhel; brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, Barry Kuhel, Dr. William and Alexandra Kuhel, and Dr. Alan and Beth Kuhel; sister and brother-in-law, Susan Tukel and Michael Balloch; brother and sister-in-law, Daniel Tukel and Shelly Milstein; nephews and niece, Albert Kuhel, Philip Kuhel, Ryan Kuhel and his fiancee, Alyssa Weakley, Talia Kuhel, and Adam Tukel-Finegood. He is also survived by many loving relatives, colleagues and friends. 

Judge Tukel was the devoted son of the late Sherwin and the late Emily Tukel, and the loving son-in-law of the late Dr. Eli H. Kuhel.

Interment was at Clover Hill Park Cemetery. Contributions may be made to the Frankel Jewish Academy, 6600 West Maple Road, West Bloomfield, MI 48322,; or Dresner Family Clinic, Karmanos Cancer Institute, 4100 John R, Detroit, MI 48201, Arrangements by the Ira Kaufman Chapel. 

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