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An Historical Vignette on Michigan’s Judicial Election System - May, 2011

An Historical Vignette on Michigan’s Judicial Election System

Written transcript of a speech first given by Mark S. Hurwitz – April 28, 2011 to the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society in Kalamazoo Mi.  This speech addresses the question  of how Michigan has come to embrace its entirely unique system of non-partisan judicial elections with a partisan twist?

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An Historical Vignette on Michigan’s Judicial Election System

Society Elects New Board Members - April, 2008

Society Elects New Board Members

Matthew C. Herstein attended the University of Michigan, where his undergraduate major was history. Mr. Herstein graduated with honors from the College of Law at the University of Nebraska, where he was the recipient of numerous scholarships and awards. He was also a participant in the University of Nebraska College of Law’s Moot Court. Mr. Herstein currently practices law at Deneweth, Dugan & Parfitt, P.C., where his primary focus is construction law, surety law, and litigation. He resides in Royal Oak with his wife, Reena.

Stephen K. Valentine, Jr., is a principal of Valentine & Associates, P.C. Since 1967 he has been heavily involved in representing sales agents (both independent and in-house direct employees), brokers, and distributors. Areas of involvement include contract negotiation, employment law, litigation to recover commissions, and other distinct matters. He is an internationally recognized expert in these areas. Mr. Valentine has briefed cases and appeared in numerous courts in the United States, including the United States Supreme Court, Michigan Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Michigan and California Courts of Appeal, as well as other state and federal trial courts and other tribunals. He is a member of the State Bar of Michigan and the Florida Bar Association. He is also active in numerous private and charitable organizations and has served on the Board of Directors of several corporations, including the March of Dimes, Southeast Michigan Chapter, and was Co-Chair of the Public Committee and Chaired the Honoree Ball Committee.

Society Hosts 2008 Annual Membership Luncheon - April, 2008

Society Hosts 2008 Annual Membership Luncheon

First, I would point out my fellow Justices who have joined us today, and I would ask them to stand and be recognized: Marilyn Kelly, Maura Corrigan, Bob Young, and Steve Markman. Mike Cavanagh and Betty Weaver are unfortunately not able to be here because of other commitments.

The British author G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” Today we recall, with gratitude, the work of Dorothy and Wally Riley, and their foresight in founding the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society 20 years ago. The video that we saw during the reception reminds us of all the Society has done to preserve the Court’s history and heritage, and of all that would otherwise have been lost.

The preservation of our history is both more necessary and more challenging, given the ever-accelerating pace of events. Twenty years is only a blink of the eye, yet the last two decades have seen enormous changes. Consider that in 1988:

 

• CDs outsold vinyl for the first time ever.

• The Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan.

• There was a Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall still stood.

• A new medication, Prozac, was introduced as an anti-depressant and quickly became the market leader for treating depression.

• Also in 1988, a new drug, crack, appeared and became a concern for law enforcement.

• The first major computer virus infected computers connected to the Internet.

• Benazir Bhutto became the first woman to head an Islamic nation.

• Mike Dukakis lost the 1988 presidental election to George Herbert Walker Bush.

• The Dow Jones closed for the year at 2168.

• A movie ticket cost $3.50.

• A first-class postage stamp cost 24 cents.

• And – the average gallon of gas cost 91 cents.

Obviously, much has changed since then, both for good and for ill. Personally, I shudder to think what gas will cost another 20 years hence. And yet one challenge remains constant: making sense of, and responding to, the events that come at us with lightning speed. This is why we need, more than ever, to be students of history, particularly our own. That is why the society is so valuable; we see the current Court, its responsibilities and challenges, more clearly, more objectively, when viewed in the light of its past.

While we celebrate the society’s first 20 years, and its achievements which Wally will shortly describe, we also do well to remember the friends who are no longer with us, including our much-beloved and much-missed Dorothy. In March Terry Boyle, the beloved husband of my former colleague Justice Patricia Boyle, died of cancer; in November of last year, Jim Ryan lost his dear wife Mary. Those of us who had the pleasure of knowing these vibrant, vital human beings are finding it hard to believe that they are gone. But equally, with Mary, with Terry, Dorothy, Mary Coleman and Jim Brickley and so many others, we learn that they continue to have an enormous influence on us and to be very real presences in our lives. That is a gift and we should be grateful for it even as we mourn their loss.

Presentation of the 2008 Legal History Award - April, 2008

Presentation of the 2008 Legal History Award

Presentation of the 2008 Legal History Award

In January, the Board voted unanimously to honor Professor John Wesley Reed with the Legal History Award. The Award was created in 2002 to recognize individuals who have greatly impacted Michigan’s Legal History through support of the Society and its efforts, or through their work in the law, John qualifies on all accounts.

John’s biography on the University of Michigan Law School’s website states that in addition to his decades of service on the Michigan faculty, during which he was repeatedly honored by his students for teaching excellence, he has served as dean at the University of Colorado and, in retirement, as dean at Wayne State University School of Law. His visiting teaching appointments have included Harvard, Yale, Chicago, and NYU, among others.

But John’s outstanding bio is not the only reason that he deserves this honor. We honor him for his contribution to the Michigan legal system in general.

We honor him for his 60 plus years of educating aspiring law students. John came to the University of Michigan Law School in the fall of 1949, and as a member of the entering class of 1952, I was one of his first students in evidence.

We honor him for his commitment to ensuring that practicing attorneys receive continuing legal education that enables them to practice law more effective, and perhaps most importantly of all, we honor him for his passion for the legal profession and his constant pursuit of dignity in the practice of law.

In his 60 plus year of teaching and lawyering, John has been a prolific writer and speaker. And much of what he had written and spoken to audiences such as this has been about maintaining respect and dignity in the legal profession. We honor him for that. But you should know that had be been mute, we would still honor him for exemplifying those exact qualities throughout his professional life.

John, on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, We present you with the 2008 legal history award.

Remarks of Wallace D. Riley at 2008 Member Luncheon- April, 2008

Remarks of Wallace D. Riley

Many of you know this afternoon’s performers, A (Habeas) Chorus Line. Formed in 1992, this troupe of nine performers has entertained audiences throughout Michigan and the Midwest, and as far away as San Antonio, Texas. Eight members of the troupe are Detroit area lawyers, while the ninth, was recently retired from the position of case manager for the United State District Court.

While the prospect of lawyers singing may strike some as incongruous, A (Habeas) Chorus Line has proven to audiences that satire is nor necessarily what closes on Saturday night. From local issues to national and international events, from judges to lawyers to politicians to celebrities, our performing troupe today is an equal-opportunity lampooner.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased to present A (Habeas) Chorus Line! (Chorus Line performs)

(Chief Justice Speaks)

Thank you Chief Justice Taylor, and thanks again to all of the Justices who are here today. It is hard to believe that the Historical Society is entering its 20th year,  and as we look back over the past two decades, we are pleased and proud of the work the Society has completed and the role that it has come to play in preserving the history of the Court. I’m sure that Dorothy also would be proud of what has been done.

The Historical Society was incorporated in April of 1988. Then-Chief Justice Dorothy Comstock Riley recognized the need for an entity separate from the Court to collect, preserve, and record its history. She suggested the creation of the Society and invited me to undertake its formation. With the help of many others and the continuous approval of the justices, we have managed to flourish and I have been proud to serve as president.

Our first order of business in 1988 was to establish a nonprofit entity and select a group of attorneys, judges, and interested individuals to be its board of Directors.

Since it beginning, the Historical Society has commissioned and or dedicated 18 portraits, overseen the restoration and repair of three portraits, and maintained an inventory of the location and condition of the Court’s entire collection of oil paintings.

We have participated in the changing of three courtrooms, including the rededication of the Old Supreme Court Chambers in the Capitol, the closing of the courtroom in the G. Mennen Williams Law Building, and the dedication of the new Hall of Justice.

We have participated in the dedication of three legal milestones.

We have gathered, transcribed, and made available the oral histories of 16 former justices.

We have developed three different teaching units for high school and junior high school teachers. We have published three books, one booklet, and over 40 newsletters.

We have sponsored 10 undergraduate interns in their study of specific aspects of Michigan Supreme Court history.

We have sponsored 2 graduate students in their legal history research.

We have created a website that serves as a resource for anyone interested in the history of the Michigan Supreme Court.

And we have done all this with your support Thank you; thank you, for your commitment and your continued support of our organization and our work.

In the spirit of thanks, and there are many to be given, I’d like to specifically thank our 2007 and 2008 corporate and law firm members, each of whom in the past year has donated 1,000 dollars or more to the historical society.

  1. Appellate practice Section of the State Bar
  2. Barris Sorr Denn & Driker
  3. Clark Hill
  4. Dykema Gossett
  5. Foster Swift Collins and Smith
  6. Honnigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn
  7. Kienbaum Opperwall Hardy and Pelton
  8. Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone
  9. Plunkett and Cooney
  10. Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

While our organization could not survive without our members, we would be equally lost without the dedication and leadership of the men and women who volunteer their time to serve on our Board of Directors. Over the past 20 years, 57 individuals have served on the Board, including the two newest additions to our 24 member board, Matthew Carl Herstein and Steven K. Valentine, Jr. Would all of the members of the board, both past and present please stand and be recognized?

This brings me to the conclusion of the program with the best for last. In January, the Board voted unanimously to honor Professor John Wesley Reed with the Legal History Award. The Award was created in 2002 to recognize individuals who have greatly impacted Michigan’s Legal History through support of the Society and its efforts, or through their work in the law, John qualifies on all accounts.

Society Hosts Annual Membership Luncheon - April, 2007

Historical Society Hosts 16th Annual Membership Luncheon

On Wednesday, April 18, the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society once again hosted its Annual Membership Luncheon. The Luncheon, which was attended by a record crowd, featured remarks by Society President Wallace D. Riley, Chief Justice Clifford Taylor, and Professor Paul D. Carrington.

Mr. Riley opened the program with welcoming remarks and then reported on the Society’s recent and ongoing activities, including the completion of the oral history of former court clerk Harold Hoag, the creation of the Advocates Guild, and the work of the 2007 Coleman Intern.

Chief Justice Taylor introduced the other members of the Court, all of whom were in attendance, and offered the following remarks:

I thank Wally, Angela Bergman, and everyone else who contributes to the Society’s work. You are preserving the Court’s institutional memory, in the best sense of the term. It’s been said, famously, that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I would amend that to add that those who don’t learn from history will not repeat all that was best and most inspiring in our past.

Our Michigan Supreme Court heritage includes Justice Thomas M. Cooley, one of the five giants of the profession profiled by Professor Carrington in his book, Stewards of Democracy.

Professor Carrington’s challenging, and I think very timely theme, is that we in the bench and bar need to be reminded of the place that the judicial branch properly occupies in a democracy.

There is a moral tradition that American lawyers and judges have an ethical duty to nurture and protect the institutions of self-government, which in turn make possible all of our legal rights.

As a judge, scholar, teacher, and founding chair of the Interstate Commerce Commission, Justice Cooley exemplified this moral tradition, as Professor Carrington explains in his book. Professor Carrington also argues that this moral tradition is threatened by the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court and other high courts, the legal academy, and noted journalists tend to work from the premise that political and moral judgments can best be made by an elite – scholars, judges, and lawyers – and imposed on a passive citizenry. The result is rule by judges – A threatened subversion of the democratic process.

Certainly, that’s not how Justice Cooley understood his place in American democracy. Good stewards like Justice Cooley protect and nurture the democratic process, but they are under no illusions that they own it.

We live in a cynical and a historical age. Many view the idea of the public servant as a quaint notion that has gone the way of eight-track tapes and dial telephones. That is why it is so refreshing, and timely, to return to Justice Cooley as a model of a legal career dedicated to serving the public.

The life of Thomas Cooley raises for all of us the issues of the role of the profession, the conflict between democratic values and intellectual elitism, and the role of the legal profession in the public arena. First and last he reminds us our job is to support the democratic process and not to foist our policy preferences on our fellow citizens. I am looking forward to hearing from Professor Carrington about how we return to a professional tradition that supports rather than subverts democracy, that extremely fragile and high-maintenance creature.

Society Elects New Board Member - April, 2007

Society Welcomes New Board Member:

SCOTT S. BRINKMEYER

SCOTT S. BRINKMEYER

At the April 18 board meeting, the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society elected Scott S. Brinkmeyer as a new board member.

Mr. Brinkmeyer was graduated from DePauw University in 1972 with a B.A. and from the Saint Louis School of Law with a J.D. in 1975. He is a member of the law firm of Mika, Meyers, Beckett & Jones PLC in Grand Rapids. Since joining the firm in 1975, he has focused his law practice in various areas of litigation, dispute resolution, and arbitration. He has represented major corporations, smaller companies, and individuals in lawsuits in federal and state courts throughout Michigan.

Scott is a certified mediator in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, a certified civil neutral arbitrator on the national panel of the American Arbitration Association, and a trained and court approved mediator in various circuit courts.

Scott is a past president of the State Bar of Michigan (2003-04), and the past chair of the State Bar Representative Assembly (1997-98). He is a Fellow of the Michigan State Bar Foundation, the American Bar Association Foundation and a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International.

Mr. Brinkmeyer replaces Leonard D. Givens on the Board.

Society Elects Advocates Guild Executive Board - April, 2007

Historical Society Announces Election Of Advocates Guild Executive Board

The Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society is pleased to announce the election of an Executive Board for its newly created Advocates Guild. Mary Massaron Ross, of Plunkett & Cooney, PC, will serve as First Chair of the Board; Richard D. McLellan, of Dykema Gossett, will serve as Second Chair; Timothy Baughman, Wayne County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney; Mark Cooney, Thomas M. Cooley Law School Oakland Campus; and Rosalind Rochkind, of Garan Lucow Miller PC, will also serve on the Executive Board.

The Advocates Guild, which will begin its programs and publications in 2007, will assist in the educational and other charitable work of the Historical Society, focusing on fostering an interest in the role of advocates before the Michigan Supreme Court. All attorneys who have appeared before the Michigan Supreme Court in calendared appeals are invited to join. Annual membership dues are $150.00 – $100.00 for Historical Society membership and $50.00 for Advocates Guild membership.

Advocates Guild members will be entitled to:

• Subscription to the quarterly Historical Society newsletter, the Society Update

• Invitations to the Historical Society’s Annual Membership Luncheon and other special events

• Invitation to the Annual Advocates Guild dinner

• Subscription to the Advocates Guild newsletter