Western Michigan University Political Science Professor Mark Hurwitz was on WMUK today talking about Michigan’s system for nominating judges. You can listen to the interview here. He begins talking about how the system evolved in Michigan at 12:45. You can also read the speech he gave to the membership at the 2011 Annual Luncheon here or download the article that was published in Judicature here. Professor Hurwitz received a grant from the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society to study this topic.

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BigFourSMLeft to right are Justices James V. Campbell, Benjamin Graves (standing), Thomas M. Cooley (center), and Isaac P. Christiancy 1868-1875.

The portrait of the Big Four was painted a century after the justices began their service together. It was commissioned by Lincoln Park attorney Frank G. Mixter and his family and donated to the State Bar of Michigan. In 2005 the State Bar presented the portrait to the Michigan Supreme Court in a special session. You can read all about it here.

Interestingly, then-Chief Justice Clifford Taylor spoke about The People on relation of Daniel S. Twitchell v. Amos C. Blodgett, which was also the topic of this year’s Annual Luncheon. Read his remarks to learn a bit more about the case.

And as we start a new week, be encouraged by these words from Justice Michael F. Cavanagh, whose service to the people of our state on the Michigan Supreme Court rivals that of Big Four Justice James V. Campbell.

Sometimes we let ourselves off the hook a bit as we think about those who have done very well in life. We like to imagine that they had some special gift that we lack. But there is a very striking element in the remarks that were made upon the deaths of each of the Big Four. As speaker after speaker rose to offer extravagant praise, many still made a very specific point of saying these men were not geniuses, that they were not unusually brilliant or gifted men. They were four hard-working fellows brought together by circumstance and history and asked to help a fledgling state begin to form its laws and traditions. They became heroes by doing the ordinary parts of their job with integrity and with energy.

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Civil War

Are you getting excited for the Society’s Annual Luncheon in just over a week?! It’s not too late to purchase a ticket or buy a table–but almost! Register here.


To get you in the right frame of mind, our newest issue of the Society Update is chock-full of Civil War history. From the iconic image representing the start of the war, Currier & Ives Bombardment of Fort Sumter, through to the portraits of Civil War Justices, this issue is dedicated to that war which turned brother against brother.

Let us conclude with President Abraham Lincoln’s words from the Gettysburg Address:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Hope to see YOU next Thursday!

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One hundred twenty-five years ago today Howard Wiest (MSC 1921-1943) married Cora Newman of Pontiac, Michigan.

The couple settled in Lansing but also maintained property in Williamston, Michigan, about 20 miles from the Capitol. Justice Wiest entertained his associates here, playing softball and horseshoes, shucking corn, and lowering the American flag at sundown. The memory is not unlike that of summer camp.

This photo, recently found by the Court Clerk and given to the Society, is not labeled. However, it looks like there were MANY justices in attendance. Wiest is in the center right, wearing a bow tie, jacket unbuttoned, and hat at his side. Trying to figure out the rest of those who were in attendance will be my winter puzzle.

Shagbark still stands–although without connection to the Court–at 2905 Rowley Road.

shagbark-justices Click on the photo to enlarge it.

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Veterans Day

Today, November 11th, is celebrated as Veterans Day. It coincides with the anniversary of the end of World War I.

Three Michigan Supreme Court justices who fought in World War I were Harry Toy, wounded three times and gassed once; Thomas McAllister who volunteered for the French Foreign Legion and organized a volunteer ambulance unit; and Harry Kelly who amputated his own leg in the Battle of Chateau-Thierry.

We honor all those who have served in the Armed Forces. God Bless America!

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Until November 7, 1972, a woman had never served on the Michigan Supreme Court. That changed with the election of Mary Stallings Coleman, the 85th justice. As a young child, Coleman had lived in the home of another pioneering woman: Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. Hear Justice Coleman discuss this, and so much more about her life, in an oral history recorded for the Society in 1991.

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One of the perks of membership in the Society’s Advocates Guild is exclusive invitation to a dinner that coincides with the opening session of the Court’s new term in October. Attendees receive a keepsake from Michigan’s own, Pewabic Pottery. Etched on the face of the tile is the silhouette of the Hall of Justice, and each year the color of the tile changes. The first year was blue, subsequent years have been green and gold.

What color will this year’s tile betile-collage? That is a mystery!

Invitations will be mailed soon to all current, dues-paying Advocates Guild members. If you are interested in joining, now is the time.

*A limited number of previous year’s tiles are available for purchase by Advocates who wish to add to their collection.

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Rollin PersonIn 1915 Justice Aaron McAlvay died suddenly, leaving a vacancy on the Michigan Supreme Court. Governor Woodbridge Ferris (the only Democratic governor between 1893 and 1933) appointed Rollin Person to the spot a week later on July 16, 1915. Person, an attorney and former judge, was defeated in the 1916 general election; his term ended on December 31, 1916, and he was replaced by Justice Grant Fellows.

While Justice Person’s time on the Court was brief, he has endured because of his daily habit of writing a diary. Entries include information about his family and friends, his work on the Court, the weather, and even the score of the UM vs. MAC (now MSU) football game. May history prevail again this Fall!

The diary entries are part of the Society’s High School Lesson Plans  and were studied by students in the Exploring Careers in the Law summer program this week. To learn more about Exploring Careers in the Law, including what they have planned for tomorrow, read the article in the Legal News.

Had Person lived a century later, one can only imagine that he might have been writing a blog instead.

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