June 7, 1961
CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN R. DETHMERS: We have convened for observance of the presentation of the portrait bust of a long-time member of this Court, Justice HENRY M. BUTZEL. For that purpose, the Court will now recognize and hear from Mr. Erwin S. Simon, who is the son-in-law of Justice BUTZEL.
MR. ERWIN S. SIMON: May it please the Court. HENRY M. BUTZEL celebrated his 90th birthday 2 weeks ago, on May 24th. Since he was admitted to the bar of this State, in 1892, he has served his fellow citizens as a noted attorney, civic leader, and philanthropist. From 1929 to 1955 he was a member of this Court, and the decisions he wrote will always express his humanitarian philosophy and his deep sense of justice. His retirement from the bench at the age of 84 did not end his public activities for he has returned to an important position in Detroit community affairs and to the active practice of the law with the firm he founded 69 years ago. On numerous occasions newspapers, journals, and speakers have recognized the many contributions of Justice BUTZEL to our profession and to the community at large.
But it is most fitting that, in addition, this courtroom contain a tangible commemoration of the 26 years he served here. It was with this in mind that Mrs. Simon, his daughter, and I, his former law clerk and now his associate in the practice of law, commissioned Walter Midener, of the Society of Arts and Crafts in Detroit, to sculpture a bronze bust of Justice BUTZEL. This we now present to you in honor of his 90th birthday. Mr. Midener.
(Unveiling of the portrait bust by Mr. Midener.)
CHIEF JUSTICE DETHMERS: Mr. Ronald M. Ryan, of Battle Creek, member of the Calhoun County Bar and Vice President of the Michigan State Bar, will speak on behalf of the State Bar.
MR. RONALD M. RYAN: Chief Justice DETHMERS, members of the Supreme Court, Mr. Justice BUTZEL and members of Justice BUTZEL’ S family. I am speaking on behalf of Mr. Ernest Wunsch, President of the State Bar, who unfortunately could not be here today. The Michigan State Bar certainly is very pleased to participate in this particular event and to express to you, Justice BUTZEL, greetings of approximately 9,000 lawyers of the State Bar of Michigan on your 90th birthday.
The State Bar is particularly pleased to join in this event because Justice BUTZEL has long experience in bar association work before he became a member of the Bench. At one time he was president of the Detroit Bar Association. He was one of the founders of the Legal Aid Bureau, and he had a great deal to do with the passing of necessary legislation which provided for a presiding judge on the bench in Detroit. Justice BUTZEL always believed that a bar association, representing the lawyers of the State, should work constructively to improve the administration of justice, and he helped in furthering always the objectives of the bar association. Justice BUTZEL was ever mindful of the role of the practicing lawyer, toward whom he had a sympathetic feeling, knowing the problems that confront him in the daily practice of the law. We salute the members of the family of Justice BUTZEL, particularly his son-in-law and daughter for this very fine bust that they have presented to the Court today. We know that it will always be the image of a man who was a great lawyer, a humanitarian, and an excellent judge. We extend to you, Justice BUTZEL, our greetings, and we know that you will always have the great satisfaction of work well done over a very long period of years. May you continue to be blessed with good health and good spirit.
CHIEF JUSTICE DETHMERS: Mr. Justice BUTZEL and members of the Butzel family, members of the Bar, ladies and gentlemen. It is a distinct pleasure for this Court to preside over this occasion. The greatest monument to the lifework of a lawyer with the devotion to the law of Justice HENRY M. BUTZEL is, of course, to be found in the 97 volumes of the Michigan Reports, commencing with volume 247 and running through volume 344, which contain the many opinions written by Justice BUTZEL and the many others in which he participated. It is with joy, however, on behalf of the Court and the State of Michigan that I accept the presentation of this most handsome bust. The best part about it is, Mr. Justice BUTZEL, that it looks like you, and it will be, in addition to the opinions to be found in those 97 volumes, a more readily visible reminder to all of us—the members of this Court and of the Bar and of the public as they come into this courtroom–a reminder of your great contributions through many years to the legal profession and to the development of the law and of legal philosophy, the growth of the law in this State, and, as well, your many contributions to the cause of improving the administration of justice. Also, to the members of this Court, as we sit on this bench and view this handsome portrait bust, it will bring to us who sat here with you many happy memories of our pleasant associations with you if this room. Justice BUTZEL, we deem it a happy circumstance which permits this occasion to occur so shortly following your 90 th birthday. We say to you out of deep affection, admiration, and respect that you have our sincere best wishes for many more years of life and health and strength and happiness and useful service to your fellow man. And now, Justice BUTZEL, the Court would be delighted to have the favor of remarks from you at this time.
JUSTICE HENRY M. BUTZEL: Members of the Court–Friends: I don’t know what to say because being 90 is a new experience for me. I was summering on Cape Cod in 1929 when Governor Green asked me whether I would accept an appointment to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice FELLOWS. I hesitated because it meant such a change in my way of life. I also knew of the heavy burden of cases carried by the Court and that several judges had recently died in office. But after consulting with Mrs. Butzel, I decided to take it for 1 year, which was the length of the unexpired term of Justice FELLOWS. I was like the man who came to dinner–I came for 1 year and I stayed for 26½ and I had a happy life. Before coming to Lansing and while still on Cape Cod, I went over to see my near neighbor, Justice Brandeis of the United States Supreme Court. I wanted to consult with him because he had gone directly from the law practice to the Court. He told me to sell securities, such as bank stocks, which might be of a litigious character, and he recommended that I have a research clerk. I followed his advice to my great benefit. Over the years I had a number of research clerks, many of whom are now members of the largest law forms in Detroit, and one of them married the boss’s daughter, and I have been very happy about it. He is the originator of the idea of presentation of this bronze bust, and I am thanking him in public for it. Judge WIEST, when he was on the bench, was once asked by a lawyer who arose to make an argument, “How much time do I have, Judge?” He said, “You have got an hour, but you don’t have to take it”. You haven’t limited me in time, but I know you have a busy schedule ahead of you and I can express my views in one or two words—I thank you.
CHIEF JUSTICE DETHMERS: Thank you, Justice BUTZEL. The words expressed in the ceremony this morning were all taken by tape recording and will be spread, of course, on the records of this Court and appear in one of the published reports of the opinions of this Court, and a copy, Mr. Justice BUTZEL, will also be sent to you for your pleasure and that of your family. It was a real pleasure to hear from you. In view of the fact that we have, as you have suggested, a busy schedule this week and there are so many lawyers here waiting to make their arguments, we can only reiterate what Justice BUTZEL said, that while there is an hour available for each side no counsel will be compelled to take it. This concludes the ceremony.