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Potter’s House













The house at 334 Evergreen Avenue in East Lansing, Michigan, built in 1909, was the home of Michigan Supreme Court Justice William W. Potter until his death on July 21, 1940. Potter died in an automobile crash while driving himself to his chambers at the Court (then in the Capitol).

Learn more about the house and Justice Potter in our fall newsletter here; in his biography here; and his memorial here.

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Black Friday


The official portrait of Justice Blair Moody Jr., painted by Joseph Maniscalco

The day after Thanksgiving, traditionally known as Black Friday, was on November 26 in 1982. It was on this date that Michigan Supreme Court Justice Blair Moody Jr. passed away unexpectedly. He was only 54 years old.

The subsequent appointment by lame duck Governor William Milliken of Dorothy Comstock Riley to replace Justice Moody on the Michigan Supreme Court led to a fight and a dark time in the Court’s history. Former Chief Justice Tom Brennan, who passed away earlier this fall, wrote about it in 2011 for the Legal News. You can read part III here and part VII here.

To read more about Justice Blair Moody >>

Investiture Ceremony

Portrait Presentation

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A Starr Has Died

53-StarrThe remake of A Star is Born, starring Lady Gaga, was the number 2 box office movie last weekend. But it was on this date (November 2) fifty years ago that Justice Raymond Starr died.

The Michigan Supreme Court’s Starr was born in 1888, making him 80 years old when he died in 1968. Raymond Starr was born in Harbor Springs, attended Ferris Institute (now Ferris State University), and the University of Michigan Law School. He eventually settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he founded the Legal Aid Bureau. Starr was elected Attorney General in 1936, served two terms, and was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court by Governor Murray Van Wagoner in May 1941. President Truman later appointed Starr to the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan in 1946 and Starr served there until 1961.

Starr is also infamously known for telling future Governor and fellow Michigan Supreme Court Justice G. Mennen Williams, “when you go campaigning, remember there’s more votes in a bar than in a church.” Our own mid-term elections are just a few days away. No telling where you might see a candidate this weekend…

Read more about Justice Starr in his official biography here>

Starr’s portrait presentation is here>

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lindemerJustice Lawrence B. Lindemer was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court by Governor William Milliken on May 5, 1975, to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Thomas M. Kavanagh. He was defeated in the vacancy election the next year by Blair Moody, Jr., who served five years before dying unexpectedly while still in service to the Court.

Lindemer has had a long and prolific career, continuing to work even at age 91 as of counsel to the law firm Foster Swift Collins & Smith. He is our oldest living former justice.

Lindemer recorded an oral history in 1990 about his time on the Michigan Supreme Court that you can listen to here. The oral history at the bottom of this post was recorded for the Capital Area District Library in 2016.

Read more about Lindemer’s life and career in his biography here.

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valentineThe longest-serving justice on the Michigan Supreme Court was James VALENTINE Campbell. Part of the Big Four, Justice Campbell served on the Court for 32 years, 2 months, and 25 days until his death on March 26, 1890.

Today is the birthday of Society President Charles Rutherford and State Bar of Michigan Executive Director Janet Welch.

The last time that Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday coincided was 1945 – when the Michigan Supreme Court still had eight justices.

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In 1963, Motown’s own Martha and the Vandellas recorded a song about love that feels like a “Heatwave.” However, we are experiencing a true heatwave in Michigan right now. Recorded temperatures for the first day of Fall on Friday, September 22, were in the 90s around much of the state. According to the National Weather Service, this is approximately 20 degrees higher than normal. Many records have been broken, including one for Lansing set in 1895.

Who was on the Michigan Supreme Court in 1895? The Court of that time consisted of only five justices and was led by Chief Justice John Wesley McGrath, who had been defeated in the April election and would leave the Court on December 31, 1895. The four associate justices on the 1895 Court were Frank Hooker, Robert Montgomery, Claudius Grant, and Charles Long — these last three having been part of the Union Army during the Civil War.

Learn more about the structural evolution of the Michigan Supreme Court in our book The Michigan Supreme Court Historical Reference Guide, Second Edition.

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In just a few days, a rare total solar eclipse will be visible across North America. The path of totality will stretch from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. Observers outside this path will still see a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun’s disk.

At the Hall of Justice in Lansing we can expect to see the moon cover 80.0% of the sun. The moon will be in the sun’s path starting at 1:00pm and continue for 2hours 44minutes. The best time to see the peak of the eclipse will be 2:24pm.

The last ti1918-court-collageme a total solar eclipse crossed the nation from the Pacific to the Atlantic was June 8, 1918. On that date it crossed the U.S. from Washington State to Florida, roughly similar to the upcoming total solar eclipse and the last time totality crossed the nation.

In 1918, the Michigan Supreme Court had eight justices. Led by Chief Justice Russell Ostrander, the Court included Justices Joseph MooreFlavius Brooke, John StoneJohn Bird, Joseph SteereFranz Kuhn, and Grant Fellows. Read more about each of these justices by following the link on their name to their biography.




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Annual Luncheon: 1994

We are hard at work on the summer newsletter, which features an extensive recap of this year’s Annual Membership Luncheon. That should go to press next week, and arrive in mailboxes soon thereafter. Until then — thanks to the power of the Internet — you can read Professor John W. Reed’s speech at the third annual membership luncheon, held April 28, 1994, by clicking here.

The Society began in 1988; the first luncheon was held in 1992; and the first newsletter was published in 1997.

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June Birthdays

bdaycakeIn the history of the Michigan Supreme Court, there have been eleven justices born in the month of June and eleven justices who have died. Click on the names below to read more about each of them:

Born in June —

Died in June —


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From “American Biographical History of Eminent and Self Made Men of the State of Michigan”. 1878. Facing page 31. Western Biographical Publishing Company (Cincinnati, OH), publisher.

On this date 150 years ago, former Territorial Supreme Court Justice Henry Chipman died in Detroit at age 82. He is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit.

Henry Chipman was born on July 25, 1784, in Tinmouth, Vermont. His father, Nathaniel Chipman, was a well-known judge, U.S. Senator, and legal writer of his day, and Henry read law with him after graduating in one of the first classes from Middlebury College. While at Middlebury, Henry and his friends founded the Philomathesian Society, a debate society that argued important subjects of the era, including the slavery debate and scenarios that would arise in the event of a Civil War. For his health, Henry moved to Jamaica, and later South Carolina, where he married and ran a law practice in Waterborough from 1809 to 1824 (with a six-month exception for military service during the War of 1812).

The family moved to Detroit in 1824 because they wanted to live in a state without slavery. A committed Whig, Chipman wrote for the Morning Herald and later founded the Detroit Daily Advertiser. In 1825, Chipman was appointed chief judge of the Wayne County (Criminal) Court. President John Quincy Adams gave Chipman a recess appointment to the territorial supreme court on July 18, 1827. Because of his Whig politics, President Andrew Jackson did not re-appoint Chipman to the Court in 1832.  He returned to private practice in Detroit and served on Wayne County’s Criminal Court from 1841-1844. After he retired from law, he continued to write for newspapers.

–Compiled from the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Reference Guide, 2d edition. Purchase this book here.

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