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).
Archive for Research
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.
In its Fathers Day Sampler, the State Bar of Michigan Blog featured the only father-son combo to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court, James and Benjamin Witherell. The father, James Witherell, was the third territorial justice and served from 1808-1828. Son Benjamin served in 1857. Read more about James and Benjamin in their biographies here on our website.
The portrait of former Chief Justice Conrad L. Mallett, Jr. was presented to the Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday, April 25, in a special session of the Court. To watch online, visit the Virtual Court on the State Bar of Michigan’s website. Mallett was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court by Governor James Blanchard in 1990. He was subsequently re-elected in 1992 and 1994. He was elected Chief Justice in 1997 and was the first African American Chief Justice on the Michigan Supreme Court. Mallett left the Court in 1999. The portrait of Mallett was painted by Washington, D.C. artist Simmie Knox. Mr. Knox’s other notable portrait commissions include the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Damon Keith, former President Bill Clinton, Muhammed Ali, and Bill Cosby.
There are only a few days left in the month of March, however, celebrating the historic accomplishments of women can continue all year. Visit the Women and the Law section of our website to learn about Michigan women who’ve blazed a trail in the legal field. Then be sure to visit our membership page to renew or begin a membership that will help us fund a permanent exhibit featuring the early women of the Court.
Additionally, our friends at the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame recently opened a new exhibit entitled Women Who Dared to Lead, which features photos and biographies of several important women in the law, including our first woman justice Mary Stallings Coleman, Society founder Dorothy Comstock Riley, and former Justices Patricia Boyle and Elizabeth Weaver. The exhibit runs into next February and can be viewed during regular visiting hours for the museum, which is located at 213 W. Malcom X Street, Lansing 48933.
Shown in this photo are the exhibit label for Justices Coleman and Boyle, and a campaign sign from Justice Boyle’s re-election campaign. Read more about Patricia Boyle’s impressive legal career in her Hall of Fame biography.
As Americans, we will celebrate Presidents Day on Monday, February 20th. The holiday honors the legacies of all U.S. Presidents and coincides with the birthdays of George Washington (Feb 22) and Abraham Lincoln (Feb 12). A glance at the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Reference Guide shows that February is a busy month for the birthdays of historic Michigan Supreme Court justices. There are 11 birthdays in this short month. In fact, the only month that has the same number of historic Michigan Supreme Court justice birthdays is August.
This month we celebrate the lives of the following Michigan Supreme Court justices:
Feb 8 Franz C. Kuhn and John S. McDonald; Feb 17 John W. Champlin; Feb 19 Ross Wilkins; Feb 20 Otis Smith; Feb 21 George H. Durand; Feb 23 G. Mennen Williams; Feb 24 Howard Wiest; Feb 25 James V. Campbell; Feb 27 Blair Moody, Jr.; Feb 28 Samuel Douglass
Read more about these historic figures, see their official portraits, and even listen to oral history interviews by following the links. You will find that this impressive list includes a former Governor, the first African American justice, and a member of the Big Four.