In 1857, Abner Pratt resigned from his position as Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. He had been given the opportunity of a lifetime: a presidential appointment based in Honolulu. Tough gig…
Captain James Cook found the Hawaiian islands in 1778 (a “discovery” that did not end well for him). He named the area the “Sandwich Islands” in honor of his benefactor the Fourth Earl of Sandwich. When President James Buchanan chose Abner Pratt to serve as his consul nearly eighty years later, the islands were still being referred to as the Sandwich Islands.
Pratt’s job as consul was to assist and protect the citizens of the U.S. (remember Hawaii did not become a state until 1959), and to facilitate trade and friendship between the peoples of the two countries. A consul is distinguished from an ambassador, the latter being a representative from one head of state to another.
Pratt held the post until 1862, about ten years before the end of the Kamehameha dynasty. Upon his return to Marshall, Michigan, Pratt built a beautiful home inspired by his time on the islands. A place that came to be known as “Honolulu House.”
Today Honolulu House is the home of the Marshall Historical Society. It is open for tours from May 1st through October 31st. Please visit their website to learn more.
Today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in which he wrote:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Words to ponder and to become better by…
Read the full text here.
When the Michigan Wolverines take on the Louisville Cardinals tonight the cheering section will include many past and present justices of the Michigan Supreme Court.
First territorial justice Augustus Woodward is well-known for the instrumental role he played in designing the city of Detroit (his name is synonymous with the area’s “Main Street”); however, perhaps less well known was his role in the creation of the University of Michigan. If he had had his way, the school would have been known as Catholepistemiad or “system of universal science”. Read more here.
Alpheus Felch, who served on both the Michigan Supreme Court and as Governor of Michigan, was a Tappan Professor of Law at UM and also served on the Board of Regents toward the end of his life in the late nineteenth century. The Society is currently inquiring into the whereabouts of his portrait, which exists but was never found.
Big Four Justices James V. Campbell and Thomas M. Cooley were the first and second deans of the law department, respectively. Campbell was a Marshall Professor and Cooley was a Jay Professor.
Most recently, Justice Bridget Mary McCormack served as a dean in the University of Michigan Law School before being elected to the Court in 2012.
All of which is to say, Go Blue!
This year marks the silver anniversary of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society. Chief Justice Dorothy Comstock Riley (MSC 1982-83, 1985-1997) incorporated the Society as a nonprofit on April 19, 1988. To commemorate that special day, let’s see if we can get 25 new members by April 19th. We have two weeks… Let’s do this!
John Voelker was a mid-twentieth century justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. But he had another side. Under the alias Robert Traver he wrote several novels including Danny and the Boys, Trout Madness, Trout Magic, Laughing Whitefish, and Anatomy of a Murder. This last one was turned into an Academy Award-nominated movie that continues to be lauded as one of the finest courtroom dramas in American film.
Visit our Verdict of History section to learn more about the Art of Crafting an Opinion. Then, be sure to read the Majority Opinion which begins “I dissent”.
Justice Voelker’s portrait is hanging out in the Society’s office today, awaiting its new location in the Michigan Supreme Court Learning Center. If only the ghost of John Voelker/Robert Traver could guide these blogging fingers…
The Society’s redesigned website went live just a few short weeks ago. Since then I have tentatively been making updates and getting more confident with the technology. Isn’t it great when you push a button and the whole site doesn’t come crashing down? I think so!
This blog is one of the most exciting features of the modernized website, in my opinion. Not only because it allows me to “speak” (so to speak) directly to our members and the general public but also because it gives YOU a chance to talk back to us.
So please leave a comment and let us know what you think about the site, what you would like to see more of, and of course, any questions you might have. I will be moderating the comments and responding to them. I should warn you, however, that the civil part of civil discourse will be enforced. In other words, keep it nice and appropriate.
Thanks! ~Executive Director Carrie
The oral histories of Justice Charles Levin (MSC 1973-1996) and Justice Patricia Boyle (MSC 1983-1998) are now online via the Vincent Voice Library at Michigan State University. To access Justice Levin’s oral history, visit this link. To access Justice Boyle’s oral history, which was recorded on three separate dates, visit this link. Also online is the oral history of Deputy Clerk and Clerk of the Michigan Supreme Court Harold Hoag (MSC 1967-1982) and Erwin Simon, who served as law clerk, and later son-in-law, to Justice Henry Butzel (MSC 1929-1955).
For the first time, the Society is using email to send renewal notices to those members who are not current in their membership with the Society. Please check your email to make sure you have renewed for 2012. And remember, as a 501(c)(3), contributions made to the Society are tax-deductible! To renew, add a membership, or make an additional contribution for 2012, visit this link. Thank you!!!
The Fall issue of the Society Update is in the mail to you as of December 4th. The feature article in this issue is on the recent judicial election. It includes background information on Justice Markman, Justice Zahra, and Justice-Elect McCormack as well as announcement of the date of Justice-Elect McCormack’s investiture ceremony. A tribute to Justice Marilyn Kelly, a page on the U.S. Supreme Court, the Supreme Court Learning Center’s new Domestic Violence exhibit, and photos from the Advocates Guild Dinner round out the issue.
And, as promised, here is the link to the West Wing reunion video that went viral during the campaign. It was actually a political ad for then-candidate Bridget McCormack, whose sister acted in the show. However, the video does a magnificent job of expounding on the importance of voting in judicial elections. Leaving the nonpartisan section of the ballot uncast is, in the words of Josh Lyman, White House Deputy Chief of Staff and Chief Political Adviser to President Bartlet, “A disaster. It’s a catastrophe. It’s an unrivaled cataclysmic event.” Offered for the civic-minded and the West Wing fans among you…
To read the Michigan Constitution visit the Legislature’s website here.
The portrait of Thomas G. Kavanagh (MSC 1969-1984) was recently touched up by none other than the man who painted the portrait in 1994, Sam Knecht. Mr. Knecht, who is an artist in the realist tradition, is the chair of the Art Department at Hillsdale College. The medium used for the Kavanagh portrait is egg tempera on a wooden panel. The medium of egg tempera is older than oil painting and uses egg yolks, water, and dry pigments. According to Mr. Knecht, Justice Kavanagh’s portrait took 80 hours to complete. The Kavanagh portrait is so highly detailed that one can actually read the order he holds in his hand. Mr. Knecht’s work in egg tempera was influenced by artist Andrew Wyeth, whose best known work is Christina’s World. The portrait of Justice Kavanagh is set in the Court’s old courtroom in the Capitol. That courtroom was still in use when Justice Kavanagh joined the Court in 1969; the Court moved to its temporary quarters in the law building on March 3, 1970. The portrait of Thomas Kavanagh now hangs in the entry to the Supreme Court courtroom on the sixth floor of the Hall of Justice. It was dedicated nearly 18 years ago, on August 30, 1994.
The Michigan Supreme Court has had in its history two justices named Thomas Kavanagh. Thomas Matthew Kavanagh was elected first, in 1958. The situation was made more confusing by the fact that their terms on the state’s highest court overlapped. Thus, the two were designated by their middle initials. Thomas Giles became known as Thomas the Good and Thomas Matthew was known as Thomas the Mighty. Thomas the Mighty passed away while on the Court on April 19, 1975.