January 23, 2013
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: Welcome. Good afternoon. And welcome to this investiture of Justice Bridget Mary McCormack. I want to make a special welcome to her family and friends. And I understand that in addition to Justice McCormack’s husband Steven Croley and their children, Jack, Anna, Matt, and Harry, we have with us her mother Norah McCormack and stepfather Gordon Boals as well as her brother William and other family members, and I welcome you all. And because in my experience teenaged children and brothers are more willing to throw someone under the bus, I invite the children and the brother to my chambers afterwards so I can learn more about my newest colleague.
Now an investiture ceremony is, of course, a joyful event in a new judge’s life and for her family and friends. It’s a lot like a wake when the honoree is lauded, but where the honoree actually gets to hear the praise. And, indeed, if necessary, make a rebuttal. I for one have been entirely beguiled by our newest colleague. She is endlessly bright, obviously in love with the law, and engaged. So I am grateful to the voters of Michigan for sending her to us. These investiture ceremonies provide an opportunity to take pride in the new judge’s achievements, to look forward to what she will accomplish, and for the new jurist to acknowledge with gratitude the love and support of others who helped her reach this goal. But it’s also an event in this Court’s life and a profoundly serious one. As we mark the beginning of a new justice’s tenure, it is a time for reaffirming our own fidelity to the rule of law and our commitment to serve the people of Michigan. When Justice McCormack raises her right hand to take the oath of office, all of us bear witness to her oath. But we also reflect on its meaning for us, particularly those of us who are judges. We do not often make public promises; these are rare events. When we do take oaths and vows, it is when we are committing to something higher than ourselves—a profession, a marriage, the defense of our country, the Constitution. This is a grand moment for Justice McCormack, but it is also an opportunity for the rest of us who wear black robes to ponder and reaffirm our own commitment to the rule of law that makes our system of ordered liberty possible. So to begin the ceremony, let us stand to reaffirm our fidelity to our country. Harry Croley and Matthew McCormack will lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: And now I call on Wallace Riley, the President of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society. Wally’s wife Dorothy Comstock Riley, of happy memory, was a Justice and Chief Justice of this Court and founded the Historical Society with Wally. Wally is a veteran of many a Supreme Court investiture and we’re pleased to have him serve as the master of ceremonies for the remainder of our program.
MR. RILEY: Thank you. Mr. Chief Justice, Associate Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court, judges and lawyers, friends and family of Justice McCormack, and ladies and gentlemen. While the weather outside is frightful, the Hall of Justice is plain delightful. So on behalf of the officers and directors of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society I want to thank you, thank all of you, this large crowd, for attending today in the Hall of Justice. And our thanks too to the Court for inviting the Society once again to participate in the investiture of Justice Bridget Mary McCormack.
It’s with great pleasure now to introduce to you Dean Evan Caminker who has been the Dean of the University of Michigan Law School since 2003 and who, having served his sentence as dean with great distinction, will soon be free to return to his calling as a great law professor. Dean Caminker.
DEAN CAMINKER: Thank you very much. Mr. Chief Justice, fellow distinguished members of the Supreme Court, members of the judiciary, fellow lawyers, family, and friends. I am Evan Caminker, the Dean of the University of Michigan Law School, and it’s a great pleasure to join all of you today to celebrate the investiture of Bridget McCormack—I’m sorry—Bridget Mary McCormack. I have spent most of my career studying judicial decision making and I have a great appreciation for the role of this Court in our federal system. The Court articulates our state and nation’s most basic legal principles and provides concrete shape to the laws of the land. Bridget, you are joining an august institution with much important work to do. Now jurists on this and other high courts are typically very smart and very self-confident. Such judges may not be easily persuaded to change their views. But Bridget, if you’re about to join a group of decision makers who always thinks they’re right, wants to win every argument even when the stakes are small, I can’t imagine a better training ground than 15 years of faculty meetings. Now, seriously, I actually do believe that Bridget’s experience as a law school professor has prepared her well for a smooth transition from commencement robes to judicial robes. For the past ten years, Bridget has been the Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs, supervising the entire Michigan Law Clinical Program in which the students engage in hands-on lawyering. She’s demonstrated her prowess as an unparalled lawyer, teacher, and leader. Successful clinical teaching requires an understanding of legal theory and a mastery of legal doctrine. It demands exquisite lawyering skills including sensitive and careful reading of statutes and judicial precedents. It requires a keen understanding of how the law works on the ground and how decisions affect the everyday lives of citizens. According to Bridget’s students, successful clinical practice also entails endlessly driving a minivan around the entire state. One student described her as a nonstop mom and a carpooling pro. She will certainly bring some very unique skills to this bench. She will also bring a sophisticated understanding of some of the most fundamental values of our legal system. Bridget used to teach a course called Access to Justice. She demonstrated that people with limited financial and other resources frequently lack meaningful input into the political decisions that affect their lives. As a result, sometimes an open courthouse door with a welcoming judge is the only way to ensure that all of our fellow citizens can truly have a voice in self-governance. And over the past few years Bridget has helped develop a new Innocence Clinic to identify and free citizens who have been wrongly convicted and imprisoned, not because their trial was somehow defective, but because they are factually innocent of the crime. Even government leaders, who are fervently tough on crime, must decry errors that leave innocent people behind bars and the actual perpetrators still roaming the streets. I think we can all admire Bridget’s lifelong contributions to preserving the most fundamental values of our judicial system. Indeed, her values strike me as similar to those of Thomas Cooley who was a justice of this Court long ago and a founding member of the Michigan Law faculty. Justice Cooley opined
We fail to appreciate the dignity of the academic profession, if we look for it either in profundity of learning or forensic triumph. The profession’s reason for being must be found in the effective aid it renders justice and in the sense that it gives of public security through its steady support of public order.
I have no doubt that Bridget will do her share to promote justice and preserve order in this state. Finally, we all want to celebrate the many wonderful personal attributes that Bridget will bring to the bench. She is both brilliant and commonsensical. She can persuade and is open to being persuaded. She has a wicked sense of humor too often wielded at my expense. Her new colleagues, consider yourselves warned. She is unceasingly fair-minded in the way she treats both people and ideas. She sets very high standards for herself and has an unbelievable work ethic. A student once described her as the Energizer Bunny with an extra battery pack. She has the strength of character necessary to follow the law, even when doing so is unpopular. And, finally, a student once described her as “the coolest professor at the law school,”—I know I’m going to regret repeating this—“she’s even cooler than her husband Steve.” This is a bittersweet day for the University of Michigan Law School; the faculty loses a fabulous teacher, lawyer, and leader. And today is bittersweet for me personally as well. I lose a wonderful counselor and a good friend with whom I’ve worked closely for over ten years. I should add that Bridget’s husband, Steve, was also my first Associate Dean for Academic Affairs before he ran off and started doing some other government thing. Indeed, Steve was the person most directly responsible for recruiting me to join the Michigan faculty. So I feel quite personally connected to their family and I miss their daily presence in the Michigan Law Quadrangle. But while the bitter will bite, the sweet is oh, so sweet. Let me once again quote one of Bridget’s students. “This new endeavor is a loss for the law school and all of Bridget’s clients, but a huge gain for those seeking to be judged within a truly just system of law.” Bridget, I am very excited for you and I am very proud of you. Good luck, Godspeed, and, of course, Go Blue.
MR. RILEY: I’m looking over the crowd because I’m trying to figure out if there is anybody out there who has known Justice Michael Cavanagh longer than me and I doubt it.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: I do too.
MR. RILEY: Well, I want to call on Justice Cavanagh now who is in his 31st year as a Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. When he completes his current term, which will be next year, he will be tied with Big-Four Justice James V. Campbell as the longest serving justice of the Michigan Supreme Court—quite a record—a record not easily achieved—and certainly not likely to be broken. So Justice Michael, will you say a few words to the crowd?
JUSTICE CAVANAGH: Thank you Wally. May it please the Court and Justice McCormack. I’m very grateful for this opportunity to formally welcome Justice McCormack as the 108th justice to serve this Court. I now have had the privilege of serving with 23 of those justices. Each has brought a distinct background and talent that unquestionably changed the chemistry of this collegial body. And I’m confident that Justice McCormack’s wisdom, her energy, her experience, and her passion will do the same. And I’m sure they will enable her, and hopefully each of us, to strive to avoid that mechanical indifference alluded to by the famous British author G.K. Chesterton when he wrote
The horrible thing about all legal officials, even the best, about all judges, magistrates, barristers, detectives, and policemen, is not they are wicked (some of them are good), not that they are stupid (several of them are quite intelligent), it is simply that they have got used to it. Strangely they do not see the prisoner in the dock; all they see is the usual man in the usual place. They do not see the awful court of judgment; they see only their own workshop.
I think each of us needs to be ever mindful lest we fall victim to that indifference. And, echoing the Dean, in naming Justice McCormack as associate dean for clinical affairs, Dean Jeffrey Lehman said “Professor McCormack is an extraordinarily gifted teacher who has earned the admiration and respect of students and colleagues alike. She has a subtle and powerful mind, an astonishing work ethic, and an infectious commitment to her craft.” I think everybody here can agree today that this Court is indeed fortunate to have her join us. So Bridget, I’ll conclude by wishing you an old Irish toast that says, “May the worst of the days ahead of you be better than the best of the days behind you.” Welcome.
MR. RILEY: Before I introduce the next speaker, I want to make a little observation. If you look at the row of judges in front, actually they are two rows, you will see that half of them are women. And you might think oh, isn’t that a little surprising, but it isn’t surprising because Justice Riley, Justice Weaver, Justice Boyle, and Justice Kelly, were four out of seven—the first majority women Court in Michigan and the second in the country. So women judges and justices are now with us for the good and for the better and for the future. I now want to call on and next let you hear from Justice Mary Beth Kelly, the 106th justice of the Michigan Supreme Court and the eighth woman to serve on that Court. Justice Kelly.
JUSTICE MARY BETH KELLY: Thank you Mr. Riley. Mr. Chief Justice, Justice McCormack, my fellow justices, judges of the Court of Appeals, Bridget’s family, friends all. I want to thank Justice McCormack for the opportunity to talk at her investiture. I met Justice McCormack what does seem like forever ago, one afternoon in Ann Arbor and I’ve had the good fortune to be her friend since. I’m so happy to welcome her as the ninth woman justice on the Supreme Court. I was asked over and over again during the campaign and since, what is she like—what is Justice McCormack like—what is Bridget like. And over and over again I really come on one word to describe Bridget. She’s so authentic. People will agree and people have said, yes, there’s no pretext, there’s no pretense with Bridget. Even with this investiture, she shared shortly after the election, “I would like an investiture if people just didn’t have to say things about me.” And it really comes down to, Bridget really defines, she personifies humility. And the virtue of humility is something that in a justice is a good thing. We on the Supreme Court—I think all of us would agree that we want to embody humility, but Bridget really does. There’s nothing about her, there’s nothing about her life, that could ever be described as bragging. Even it was years before I came to know that her brother and sister, who she often fondly talked about, were in show business, for example, and I asked her once, “What is that like?” The fondest memory which she delighted in, for example, was, “Well, when Will appears as a guest star on Mary’s show and I can watch them on television, they banter back and forth just like it was growing up,” she would say. “And I can see on television just the way they were growing up.” And it’s that delight in her family that really carries through with everything that Bridget does. She does have the scholarship, all the accomplishment in the law; she’s brought that to the Court. We as a Court—in these three short weeks that she’s shared with us—we are so different. Her wit—she’s so incredibly intelligent that that wit comes through. She, as the Chief Justice has said, beguiles us and everyone gets that we as a Court are so much better off with her. Let me just share one example of this humility. I recall a couple of years ago receiving a text from Bridget about a little film that she and Steve were putting together, as she called it, and inviting me to a viewing. Now it sounded like a home movie that they were making—truly—and I thought I was being invited to her home in Douglas to watch a home movie that she and Steve were making—that’s what she made it sound like. For those of you without ties to the Saugatuck/Douglas area, of course, this was “Everyday People,” a motion picture shown at the Saugatuck Center for the Performing Arts—the 2011 movie—the Michigan documentary movie of the year which Bridget produced and Steven directed. And this speaks to not just her humility, but the fact that she’s so accomplished in areas not just in the law but outside the law as well. And she brings this excellence to everything she does. The way that she raises her children, she holds them to high standards. They are accomplished athletes, musicians, scholars, but you only know that if you ask just the right question—because she’s not going to brag, that humility comes through in everything she does. So we as a Court are so honored, we’re so blessed, to have Bridget with all the scholarship, with all the excellence, but also with that humility, with that authenticity. Everyone on the Court made me promise that I would say we are all so happy to have her. We as a Court are better off with her. And so Bridget, we welcome you with open arms, with open hearts, as the ninth woman justice, the 108th justice of the Court, we’re so thrilled to have you.
MR. RILEY: Madam Justice, if you’re going to do a movie about the Court, I hope you’ll save me a couple of tickets. You know it’s not often that Hollywood comes to Michigan and certainly not today when the temperature hovers near zero. But I’m pleased to present to you now to speak Mr. William McCormack who was described to me as the much younger brother of our new justice and certainly no “frenemy” of this state. He doesn’t write opinions like his sister, he simply writes award winning screenplays. You’re on.
MR. McCORMACK: Thank you Mr. Riley. May it please the Court. My name is William McCormack and I’m representing the family of Bridget McCormack. You may ask yourself why someone who lives in Los Angeles, California and writes romantic comedies for a living is qualified to speak here today. The answer is, he’s not. Objection!—sorry, I’ve always wanted to do that. Other than my beloved mother, I have known Justice McCormack longer than anyone here today because I am her little brother. And in a lot of ways I know her better than anyone and she asked me to speak and now you can’t stop me. Bridget had a super power when we were young. She never once argued or lost her composure. This is not to say that there were never disagreements, but she was always able to settle disputes rationally, logically, compassionately, and she did it by listening. How did a young girl instinctively know how to do this? My sister Mary, our middle sibling, and I just settled an argument last week by wrestling. I’m 39—she won—again. She’s very strong. I idolized Bridget when I was little; she was like a superhero to me. The prettiest and smartest girl in our neighborhood. And even as a little kid, I knew she had an innate instinct for right and wrong—mine was less sharp. But I knew that I could rely on Bridget. She was a lamplight in the dark and I aligned myself with her, everyone did. She was a leader and I knew I wanted to be on her team. When the world felt like the Legion of Doom, I knew that I was working for the Hall of Justice. She made the world a better place for her brother and I’ve watched her make the world a better place for her clients, her students, and her children. And she has done it the old-fashioned way, through hard work, consistency, humility, and a sharp sense of decency. While I was taking break dancing classes at the YMCA, Bridget was mastering Latin. I knew she would go on to do great things in life, that she would work for justice and equality and fairness because it is in her nature—she had to,—it was her destiny. Bridget, you have made our family very proud. More importantly, you will make Michigan a better and more just place to live. I know you will seize the opportunity the people have given you. You will not disappoint them. This alleged superpower she had as a kid, it turns out, is the most human power of all, the ability to listen to people with opinions different than yours—to really listen and respect and honor them. And maybe now it is harder than ever to hear people with the cacophony of Twitter and Facebook and the onslaught of media and technology. The world is imperfect and it always will be, but we can try to make it better. There is senseless horrific gun violence that has become common and the whole world screams for an answer. In some places, they still legislate love and tell you you can’t marry someone of the same sex allowing fear and ignorance and archaism to win. Republicans and Democrats continue to spar and a lot of days it seems that party alliances are more important than the pressing everyday problems of ordinary people. There is a lot of work to be done. The state of Michigan, let me tell you, you have a new sister and her name is Bridget Mary McCormack. And I can assure you with all my heart and all my confidence you are in good hands. She will fight for your rights without causing more fights. She will listen and you will be heard. Thank you.
MR. RILEY: And now direct from the White House, it’s my honor to introduce to you Deputy White House Counsel and Deputy Assistant to President Obama, Steven Croley, or as he will soon be known here in Michigan, Justice McCormack’s husband.
MR. CROLEY: Already known as. Thank you Mr. Riley for that and thank all of you here for attending today and thanks to those who supported Bridget along the way. I’d also like to thank our kids, Anna, Jack, Harry, and Matt, for this was a family project and they worked hard to make this day possible. They also made some sacrifices over the past year. As Bridget was often at evening events and I work out of town during the week, there were many times they had to fend for themselves. But they survived, and they showed great poise as campaigners in their own right. Very shortly after the election we went for a family walk. Periodically, Bridget and I enlist our kids to go for a walk with us. And the kids look forward to it just about as much as they look forward to cleaning their rooms. But we insist, and we asked them “what was the biggest thing you learned during the whole campaign season?” They had followed the national election closely too, and for months our house had felt like a 24 hour civic seminar. So we wondered what lesson stood out most for them. We were struck by the unanimity and speed of their answer. They said the most important thing they learned was, as they put it, “how to mooch a ride home off of other people.” So thanks, kids, for learning to mooch a ride home and for your hard work. I was moved by Will’s remarks, but I’ve had a slightly different experience. I have known Bridget to be capable of being argumentative at times, though rarely. And an expression she often uses in those moments is “for the record.” She uses that turn of phrase and sometimes it comes out as “just for the record.” And so when I hear “for the record,” I brace myself because I know some kind of gotcha or zinger is coming. Well, we’re on the record today. For those of you who don’t know this ceremony is an officially recorded session this Court and it occurred to me that I’ll probably never have this chance again to address my spouse literally in a recorded judicial proceeding.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: Hopefully.
MR. CROLEY: So I wanted to say Bridget, for the record, I love you. Now many claim that two-lawyer marriages are not ideal and I understand that perspective. For an attorney it might be nice to come home and talk about anything else besides the law, but I feel differently. I like coming home and talking about legal issues with my spouse “behind the scenes” as you might say. And you certainly get a view of someone’s professional character that way, and it is from that personal perspective that I want to express why I think Bridget will make an exceptional Supreme Court justice. There are many reasons; I’ll mention two. First, Bridget will make a great justice because of her work ethic and tenacity. As any lawyer knows much of law is grunt work, and mastering all of the sometimes tedious detail is the difference between competent and exceptional advocacy. Litigation is 90 percent preparation. Trials require planning for contingencies that never materialize. Oral argument requires preparing answers to many questions that are never asked. Innumerable times I have seen Bridget prepare late into the night or all night to make sure no issue of a case or an argument was forgotten or under-analyzed. She is and always has been a tireless professional. And a quick study—she doesn’t just recycle yesterday’s lessons. Onto the next topic, onto the next challenge, that is Bridget’s attitude whether that requires mastering arts and science or some new municipal code. Great judges too, of course, are those who master the details of the case. Mr. Chief Justice, if you are looking for somebody to take on a tough new assignment and who thrives on hard work, you have such a new colleague in Bridget. Second, Bridget will make a great justice precisely because her career path did not lead inevitably here. The Legal Aid Society is not the fast-track to the high court bench. In fact, she never took any easy path. Instead, she always fought for what is right even when it was not popular, even at professional risk or when the rewards were low. Some of you are aware of the many innocence cases she has successfully litigated. And when you win an innocence case there can be a certain amount of glory that comes with that at the very end. The cases are covered in the press, lawyers groups give you awards, they hold dinners in your honor, and I’m very proud of Bridget for all the recent recognition she has received. Although lately it’s this award and that award, and it’s starting to get annoying. But more striking and far more impressive is her habit of taking on such cases in the very first place, for when a lawyer agrees to advocate for an underdog, you can’t be sure you’ll win. The rational expectation is that you won’t win—that’s what makes an underdog an underdog—they usually lose. Yet in talking to Bridget about whether to take this case or that case or seek justice for one client or another, she has always been motivated to do what is right, not what is likely successful or that for which she will get credit. Many times—too many times to count—I have heard her talk about how she might well not prevail, but that a would-be client deserved a chance because they had been disserved by the legal system somehow. Often she has taken cases knowing full well that she will be criticized for even accepting them. But she has moral courage, and that is why she will make a great justice. For we expect our judiciary to do what is right even when doing so is not popular, even when it is controversial or will lead to criticism – that is what judges are supposed to do. Of course, no one is entitled to sit on the Michigan Supreme Court. No one deserves such a privilege. Our courts are sacred institutions and their importance transcends those who serve on them. But Mr. Chief Justice and Associate Justices, I would submit to the Court that Bridget’s energy, intelligence, persistence, her courage and her fusion with a strong sense of justice are the qualities that will make her an invaluable colleague. I would submit to you and to all of Michigan’s citizens that they are very fortunate to have her as this Court’s newest member. Thank you.
MR. RILEY: Mr. Chief Justice, are you ready for the robing?
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: I am. You’re in the Hall of Justice, come join the Justice League. Probably only the kids understand the reference. Would you raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear that you will support the Constitution of the United States—
JUSTICE McCORMACK: I solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States—
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: and the Constitution of this state –
JUSTICE McCORMACK: and the Constitution of this state –
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: and that you will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of Michigan Supreme Court Justice—
JUSTICE McCORMACK: and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of Michigan Supreme Court Justice—
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: according to the best of your ability.
JUSTICE McCORMACK: according to the best of my ability.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: So help you God.
JUSTICE McCORMACK: So help me God.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: Congratulations.
JUDGE SHERIGAN: Justice McCormack. It is with great honor that the Women Lawyers Association presents you with this banner in acknowledgment of the great honor the Michigan residents have bestowed upon you. Congratulations.
JUSTICE McCORMACK: Thank you.
MR. RILEY: The presentation of the banner was by Honorable Angela Sherigan on behalf of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: Rebuttal.
MR. RILEY: Your turn.
JUSTICE McCORMACK: Is it my turn? I always say that low expectations are the key to life and I think I’ve just completely messed this up. Thank you very much Mr. Riley, and thank you to the Historical Society for hosting such a nice event. Thank you to my new colleague and new friend Justice Cavanagh, my old colleague and old friend Dean Evan Caminker, my new colleague but old friend Justice Kelly, for taking to the podium on my behalf. And to Will, Steve, Anna, Jack, Matt, and Harry for all of your participation here today. I’m incredibly moved by this whole ceremony. And I also want to thank the Chief Justice, Justice Zahra, and Justice Markman for the incredibly warm welcome you have all shown me since I arrived a few weeks ago. I don’t want to ruin your reputations so I won’t go on and on. It’s difficult to express just how honored I am, and how fortunate and grateful I feel today. I am so thankful for the support you have all shown me, my family, my friends, and the many new and lasting friends I have made along the way. I am grateful for your moral support, your hard work, and most of all for the confidence you have placed in me. I will do everything I can to not let you down: I will serve the taxpayers of our state by doing my work quickly and efficiently. I will serve the litigants before this Court by considering their arguments slowly and carefully.
Quite honestly, I never dreamed of being a judge, let alone a justice on the State’s highest court. And I never aspired to it either. For years, I enjoyed the practice of law from the other side of the bench, and got great professional and personal satisfaction from advocating for justice for my individual clients, and teaching law students about the power and responsibility that comes with a law degree. For I believe in the power of law, and in the legal system that distinguishes our country from so many other places. After all, a legal document gave birth to our country, written by men who understood, perhaps more than any before or since, that fairness and justice require certain basic legal rules. In my practice as an attorney, I tried to ensure that the legal system’s rules were applied to advance the cause of justice. Of course, anyone familiar with the legal system knows that perfect justice is not achieved in every case. But what is distinct about our system is that, where attorneys do their jobs, and judges do theirs, there justice might be achieved. This observation is one I emphasized for all my students I have taught over the years as well. The opportunity to advance the cause of justice from the bench instead of the well is an honor. I fully recognize that this transition requires a different mindset, a fundamental mental shift on my part, from advocate to arbiter. For a judge must be an advocate not for any party to a case, but for evenhandedness, an advocate for the rule of law itself. That is why we say that justice is blind. Yet blind only to the parties before the court, not to the importance of the role courts play in our system of government, and certainly not indifferent to the consequences of our decisions. But we are not legislators. And the robes we wear do not magically turn us into wise men and women. We are, rather, stewards of the law, whose job it is to administer the law created by our citizens and their elected representatives neutrally.
Much can be said, and much has been written, about this topic and the importance of a judge’s philosophy and how the rule of law should inform a judge’s deliberation. Far, far too little has been said, however, about an equally important aspect of judicial decision-making, and one I would like to address here. And that is the importance of collegiality and the role of collective decision-making. For the volumes of commentary about judicial philosophy take the judge as an autonomous thinker, as an individual decision-maker who reasons—all by himself or herself—about how to apply the principles of law to the facts of a given case. This image of the judge as an autonomous decision-maker makes perfect sense for judges who, like most, preside in their courtrooms alone. But the Michigan Supreme Court is, of course, a collegial body. We make our decisions collectively. And like other small collective bodies, the work-product of the Michigan Supreme Court is greater than the sum of the individual contributions of its members. Even when cases generate different opinions from its members, the judgments of the Court are the judgments of no single justice acting alone, and our written opinions reflect, and should reflect, our collective responses to the cases before us. Much like juries or corporate boards or scientific review panels, when our body is working as it should, our decisions will reflect our collective judgments. And so I would like to emphasize my approach to this aspect of judicial decision-making—about my beliefs not about how I, but about how we, approach our work. My new colleagues, my judicial philosophy in this regard will guide me as follows. I will always take your perspectives and reactions to heart. I look forward to your legal insights, and to all the ways you will improve my own reasoning. I promise to be a good listener, to the litigants who appear before us, but no less to you as well. I will approach every case, and every conference with you, with an open mind. I will consider your legal analyses with the seriousness they deserve. And I will not view the written opinions I author as mine alone. No doubt, there will be times we see issues differently. Of course, I am not pretending we will always reason our way to consensus, nor should we. What I am saying is that even when inevitably we disagree, I will not be disagreeable. And most of all, I look forward to the analytical give and take that sound decision-making by a high court requires. For the framers also understood this point. They saw fit to establish a multimember Supreme Court, not a supreme court of one. I look forward, then, to reasoning collectively, to rendering the very best decisions this body as a body can, so that we might vindicate the confidence the people of the state of Michigan have placed in all of us. Each of you has shown me exactly this kind of collegiality already, in three short weeks, and I thank you for that.
Once again, I am honored by the support of everybody in this room. My deepest thanks to all of you for being here today. I will always be mindful of the fact that I was elected on the nonpartisan section of the ballot. And I will do all I can to earn your confidence through the work we do tomorrow. Thank you.
MR. RILEY: Well, you’ve just heard from the new kid on the block—inspiring speech, inspiring words—and I think she’s right. They’re lucky to have her. And, more importantly, thank goodness that she likes to speak on the record. You’ve got your marching orders. Now, before the Court adjourns, I want to invite you all after the adjournment and the Court closes to join in the foyer for a reception in honor of our newest Justice—Justice McCormack. Thank you. And thank you all for coming.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: Well, that concludes the proceeding today. I thank you all for coming and I hope this day marks the beginning of a long and happy and fruitful tenure on the Court for our newest justice. This has been so much fun I bet we’re going to do it again soon. We’re adjourned.