PRESENTATION OF THE PORTRAIT OF THE HONORABLE CLIFFORD W. TAYLOR
SEPTEMBER 14, 2011
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERT P. YOUNG, JR.: Well, welcome. It’s my privilege on behalf of my colleagues to welcome each and every one of you here this afternoon to receive the portrait of our former colleague, my good friend, Chief Justice CLIFFORD W. TAYLOR, who for many years sat in this very courtroom and for the end of his term presided here. For those of you who have never been to a portrait unveiling, it is the moral equivalent of a wake without a body. And we are all happy to have Cliff with us again. We are happy to see the presentment of the artist’s arts rather than the embalmers’.
I have been placed on a great deal of restraint. You can’t possibly know having been on the receiving end of his barbed and rapier wit how much restraint it takes for me with an audience present and him in the well of the Court not to return fire. But we are pleased to have you back here, and we will all enjoy seeing just how well Patricia Burnett worked up your portrait to disguise the depredations of age.
Now this proceeding is not only being memorialized in a future volume of the Michigan Reports, it’s being recorded on MGTV, Michigan Government TV, so again, I’m admonishing all of you—I obviously haven’t been quite as punctilious about this—but we let you know that this is a public occasion. The roast will be later.
The first of our speakers today is none other than our own Wallace D. Riley, who is the president of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, to tell you about that wonderful organization.
MR. WALLACE D. RILEY: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice. Mr. Chief Justice, associate justices, Justice TAYLOR, distinguished judges in the audience, Taylor family and friends. On behalf of the board of directors of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society and all of its members, I want to thank the Court for the opportunity to appear and participate in today’s special session, which will, in fact, be a part of the Michigan Reports.
Many of you here today are familiar with the work of the society because you are its members. But for those of you in the audience who are not familiar, allow me to say that the society was organized in 1988 to preserve documents, records, and memorabilia of the Michigan Supreme Court and to promote education and awareness of the historical significance of our Court. One of the most important ongoing functions is the maintenance of the Court’s historical portrait collection. The society is the caretaker for 87 portraits, all relating to the Court. This number includes individual portraits of the majority of the justices who have sat on this Court.
The history of how this collection came to be bears some retelling. The society began its activities 23 years ago by making a search for and bringing together all of the historic paintings. Many of the portraits of early justices were, in fact, almost nonexistent. For all purposes, they had been shoved into closets, packed away in dusty storage areas. Some of them were quite badly damaged and nearly unrecognizable. The portrait of NATHANIEL BACON, for example, has been shredded in several dozen places. And one thought was that the society should find these portraits and professionally restore them, and categorize them and catalog them with the Congress of the United States, the Library of Congress. You can view some of the portraits by simply going out in the hallways in this building; they’re hanging here. You can view all of them and the details about the images and the people in the portraits by going to our website: www.micourthistory.org. Even today, we continue to work with art conservationists to protect and care for these historical treasures. Each year, we inventory the collection to inspect the portraits for damage, and we use the funds raised from our members by dues to restore the portraits to their original luster.
However, our being here today brings to mind another important function of the society, and that is to make presentations of newly painted portraits to the Court. Since 1988, the society has been privileged to participate and to bring to the Court 17 such portraits in special sessions of the Court. Today the likeness of Justice TAYLOR, the 100th justice to serve on the Court, will join the likenesses of G. MENNEN WILLIAMS, ROBERT GRIFFIN, JAMES BRICKLEY, MARY COLEMAN, BLAIR MOODY, JR., JOHN FITZGERALD, CHARLES LEVIN, PATRICIA BOYLE, JAMES RYAN, THOMAS GILES KAVANAGH, and so many, many more. They illustrate in a profound way the history of the Michigan Supreme Court.
Finally, and may it please the Court, I choose to offer an observation more personal. You may have noticed that in the list of names of justices, the name of DOROTHY COMSTOCK RILEY was omitted. Her portrait hangs just outside this courtroom. It was presented in 1997, shortly after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and chose to resign from the Court. Governor [John] Engler appointed Judge CLIFFORD TAYLOR to her remaining two-year term. For the record, you should know that she took great comfort in his selection of her successor. Nine years earlier in 1988, when she was serving as chief justice, she founded the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society to record and preserve Court history. Today we close another memorable chapter in that history with the presentation of the portrait of the Honorable CLIFFORD W. TAYLOR.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: Thank you. Now we begin the more serious part of the personal business of recognizing and recalling the chief justice, and the first in that pantheon of speakers is our U.S. Secretary of Energy and former Senator, the Honorable Spencer Abraham.
MR. SPENCER ABRAHAM: May it please the Court. Justices, Mr. Chief Justice, friends.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: You’ve been in Court before.
MR. ABRAHAM: Actually, no. Uh, no. [Laughter.]
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: You’re doing well.
MR. ABRAHAM: I always thought I would be dragged here, but not for something as positive as this. But in any event, it’s good to be here today.
For me this is a somewhat ironic situation in that this event is taking place on September 14th, and that just happens to be the birthday of my mother, who many of you knew—she was a friend of a lot of people in this room, and of course was a great political activist here in Michigan. And it was actually my mother who first met Cliff TAYLOR. And I remember as a college student who loved politics her coming home one day saying, “I just met this new young lawyer who’s gotten active in the local Republican Party, and I think the two of you would really get along, you gotta meet him,” and she was right.
For 40 years our friendship has endured. It has endured many interesting and challenging experiences together. Political victories and defeats, perhaps a few too many of the latter. Cliff endured—in 1974, when he had me manage his first race for public office—a great political public relations idea I had in which he spent an entire day being a working man, working upon a garbage truck in Ingham County, Michigan, on the goal of getting great publicity as a guy who’s a man of the people—except the press never showed up.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: I’ll bet the garbage did.
MR. ABRAHAM: That was one of my greater achievements in politics, but he endured it.
And I’ve endured about 40 years of the sorts of comments and taunts that the Chief Justice referenced a few moments ago—most in good nature, but the disturbingly accurate observations about me that Cliff was so apt to bring up, probably the most poignant of which, and correct I might add, was when he pointed out that the only elections he ever won were the ones that took place when I was safely ensconced in Washington. But through the wins and losses, through births and deaths, through geographic separation, our friendship has endured, and I consider it one of the really great gifts which my mother bestowed upon me.
Today I’d like to talk about Cliff’s career and his life on several levels—as a public man, as a private one, and as a friend. First, there is Justice CLIFFORD TAYLOR, who headed our Court and served with great distinction in this judicial system. I know that much will be said about what Cliff accomplished here and in his judicial career by future speakers today, so I will leave it to his colleagues to comment on those achievements. Instead, what I’d like to do is to just briefly discuss what I consider the broader impact that Justice TAYLOR has had on the law and on the jurisprudence of our times.
When we began our friendship way back in 1971, we weren’t just interested in becoming involved politically—I mean that was maybe the fun part of it, but it wasn’t the motive that got us interested and engaged. And more particularly, what we were motivated by was a desire to have an impact on the legal discourse in our country. It was a topic we talked a lot about. He had just arrived in this community as a prosecutor working for Prosecutor [Raymond L.] Scodeller, I think at the time, and I was about to head off to law school myself. Now, it’s hard to imagine two guys sitting in a restaurant in Lansing, Michigan, having this absurd notion that they could in some way have an impact on such a really large and important set of issues as the jurisprudence of their country. And yet, amazingly, in several ways we did.
When I went to law school at Harvard in 1975, I was fortunate enough to identify a group of other similar, similar students in terms of political philosophy and legal philosophy. And collectively we thought it might be a good idea to launch a publication in which we would present more traditional and conservative opinions of the law as a new type of law review. We launched that publication in 1977, and it remains today one of the most widely read publications in the legal community: the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. And it’s actually thanks to Cliff’s efforts, who helped us to raise the initial seed capital to get the publication launched, and who actually served as our first advisor to that publication, that we were able to get it started. And today, as I say, it has a subscriber list of over 10,000 nationwide, even larger now—one of the largest distributed law reviews in America—and we thank you, Cliff, for having made that contribution. And that contribution actually then led shortly thereafter to the involvement of students at other law schools who found the journal an interesting forum and felt that they had an opportunity perhaps in their schools to do similar things, which ultimately in 1982 grew into the Federalist Society. And so from a sort of kernel of an idea here in Lansing in 1971, there emerged, really, a great legacy in terms of what was achieved. Since then and in a variety of contexts, Cliff’s countless appearances at seminars, at fora and conferences all over the country for three decades, debating and discussing not just the legal issues of the day but the broader direction of the law in our society and the proper role of the judiciary under our separation-of-powers system I think has had a really profound influence in many quarters. And it is that impact that I think really is what we should recognize here today.
As I said, I’ll leave it to Cliff’s colleagues to discuss his specific achievements here in this courtroom and in our judicial system, but I think I can speak with some authority to the fact that his broader contributions have been extremely significant and that he is viewed upon a national level as having been one of the most relevant contributors of conservative intellectual leadership on issues relating to the law in our time. And, Cliff, for that I think you’re owed a much broader debt from many of us.
Then there’s also the second person, Cliff TAYLOR the private man, the one that a smaller number of us know. This is the man with the incredible sense of humor—mostly directed at people like the current chief justice and a few other, select, fortunate individuals. This is also the loving husband who is married to one of the most outstanding people I know, Lucille Taylor.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: The smarter of the two.
MR. ABRAHAM: Correction. In fact, as we commend Cliff for his contributions to our state today, I think it’s really important that we acknowledge that there are very few people who have done more for Michigan as a public servant in their own right than Lucille Taylor. I remember when I was first getting to know Cliff and Lucille in the early 1970s, and constantly thinking to myself, How did he get her to marry him? And even 40 years later, Lucille, I am still thinking that very same thing. There’s also the devoted father of Michael and John, whom he loves so dearly and who in your absence, guys, he discusses in the most intimate and positive ways and to whom he is totally devoted. He’s also a man of unflinching loyalty to his friends and the things he believes in. And he is an incorruptible man, whose integrity is and has always been unchallengeable in my opinion.
And finally, there is Cliff TAYLOR my friend. This is the man who became a mentor and a friend to me, as I was reaching maturity, and who helped guide me on a path that ultimately led to my own opportunities to serve in public service. So, Cliff, my friend, I thank you for all of that—and to you and Lucille for the many great things you’ve done for me and my family over the years.
Soon we will see Cliff’s portrait. He is fortunate that the artist—the wonderful Patricia Hill Burnett, who’s here today—has known him for many years. Because of that, I know that she has captured far more than the image of Justice TAYLOR. She has captured his texture—the various many layers that I just talked about. As some of you know, as a former cabinet member I too actually had my portrait done, as is the custom in Washington—this was a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, in my case I had not previously met the artist before we began, so unlike this case, he didn’t know me personally. This approach actually has its advantages because I was able to convince him that rather than capturing me as he was meeting me, he should, in fact, portray me in the way I looked the day I took office. That was six years before, and he had no idea what that looked like. It allowed me to describe myself to him. So I described my earlier self—thinner, squarer jawed, no gray hair, etc.—and he did a fantastic job. In fact, half the room thought he had brought the wrong portrait to unveil. But what I gained in terms of cosmetic enhancement, I lost in terms perhaps a little bit of substance.
But that will not be the case here today, because today we will see the portrait of Cliff TAYLOR, a portrait that will capture the substance of a great man—a strong yet passionate man, intelligent yet understanding, and faithful always to his God, his state, and his country. Cliff, congratulations.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: And now I am pleased to call to the podium my former colleague, the current director of the Department of Human Services, who is fondly known as the Director Whirling Dervish, the Honorable MAURA D. CORRIGAN. And you are admonished to observe the length of time humans can go without relief.
THE HONORABLE MAURA D. CORRIGAN: May it please the Court. Mr. Chief Justice, justices of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice TAYLOR, and family and friends of Cliff TAYLOR, a moment of personal privilege to say how wonderful all you justices look. I’ve never sat on that side before, and I miss you.
Thank you for the chance to share my admiration and love for my friend, Cliff TAYLOR, on this very special day in the history of the Michigan Supreme Court. Cliff, it doesn’t seem possible that this day has arrived. It’s been almost 20 years. It was a couple of weeks in early March of 1992 when then Governor Engler appointed Cliff and me to the Michigan Court of Appeals. And I thank you, Governor, for changing the course of my life and of Cliff’s life by those appointments.
Cliff and I spent the next 16 years as colleagues on the Court of Appeals and on the Supreme Court. Early on in our career as judges, I was sitting next to Cliff one day at a judicial training seminar. And the goal of the training seminar was that we would learn to become better judges by exploring our personality traits. And I’m sitting next to Cliff and I look over at Cliff’s paper to see what he’s written. He wrote down the word to describe himself: dutiful. And I thought to myself that was really an odd response for Cliff. I mean, why didn’t he write down “witty” or “analytical” or “intellectual”? No, he wrote down “dutiful.” And I recognized though, Cliff, that that was really an excellent description of yourself—20 years later. You were steadfast in your work as a judge and a justice. Despite the frequent attacks that were lobbed your way—the relentless attacks lobbed your way—you persevered. You always understood the primacy of the oath that we took, and you honored that oath to support our Constitution and laws.
Over the 20 years that Cliff and I have been friends, I came to appreciate the costs and the rewards of duty—both at work and at home. As many of you know, my late husband, Joe Grano, suffered for 13 years from a chronic, debilitating, and ultimately fatal illness. And that was a difficult journey for my family. One evening about 15 years ago, my then college-age daughter, Megan, had just broken up with her then boyfriend. And that night she and I were having a heart-to-heart discussion. It’s the sort of discussion that you always remember with your children—some stick in your head. And Megan asked me outright that night, “Mom, why do you stay with Dad?” I told her what I learned: that for me, the most important thing in life was keeping my promises, and that I know that if our roles were reversed, that my husband would have done the same thing for me.
Well, these observations about fidelity and commitment are characteristic of Cliff TAYLOR, I think, and how he conducts himself. He believes that keeping promises is paramount above all, and he has lived out his promise to the people of Michigan to the very best of his ability. He used his abundant gifts of mind and heart to decide every case in accordance with our Constitution and our laws, and he was brave and faithful when political expediency would have always been the easier course.
I witnessed on a daily basis that Cliff TAYLOR has a firmly grounded and finely honed notion of what is good. He and I, of course, disagreed many times over the years about how cases should be decided—the cases that came before our Court—but we shared a common commitment to fidelity, to the principles enshrined in our Constitution, the very best framework for governance ever invented in the history of mankind. How privileged we all were, Cliff, to think together for all those years.
CLIFFORD WOODWORTH TAYLOR has forever left his mark on the Michigan Supreme Court. We will always call the years of your tenure “the Taylor Court.” Your personal life is equally filled with integrity and purpose. Your marriage of more than 42 years to Lucille stands as testament to the rewards of commitment. I know there’s obstacles when two highly gifted people are in a marriage, but you would never know that by watching Cliff and Lucille.
So Cliff, I congratulate you, and I congratulate the people of Michigan and Governor Engler because you allowed this legacy to be created. And as we unveil this portrait—the beautiful portrait by our wonderful and beautiful friend, Patricia Hill Burnett, of our Supreme Court’s 100th justice—I say to you Cliff, thank you for keeping your promises and for doing it for all of us. You have made us very proud.
May God bless you, may God bless the people of Michigan, and God bless America. Thank you, Cliff.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: And it’s my pleasure now to call to the podium, General BILL SCHUETTE, Michigan’s Attorney General. It’s your duty—sorry, I couldn’t help it.
ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL SCHUETTE: May it please the Court. Justices, it’s so nice to be in your company. Cliff, what a special day this is for you and your family—Lucille, you’re over there—and family members and so many friends.
It’s an honor for me to be here and a privilege and an honor to be at this portrait presentation on this special day for CLIFFORD W. TAYLOR. And to be in the company of so many judges, federal and state, General Kelley, seeing Maura and Spence and Wally, Bernie, and Rocky, Governor Engler who’s batting cleanup this afternoon, and then your comments, Cliff. It’s a special day indeed, and may I say that for some in the state of Michigan—and let me define that as some few misinformed, uninformed folks—have been anxious to hang him for years. And now this day has finally come. We’re hanging Cliff TAYLOR. But it is a special day for all of us here and your friends, which are many.
Now we’ve touched on—and I’m sure Governor Engler will touch on it as well—but so many, when you think about Cliff TAYLOR, we use words like “intellect,” “writing skill,” “adherence to the rule of law,” your decisions—and I’ve liked all your decisions, except the few times you’ve overruled me. But that aside, you could add “literate,” “likeable,” “well informed,” so many words—“witty,” “erudite,” all of those—but here’s my takeaway in terms of your impact, your impact on the judiciary. When you think about it, in this Hall of Justice there are 86, 86 portraits. You will be the 87th. Some of these portraits actually are nicely done, some maybe not, but these are all honorable individuals deserving to occupy space in the Hall of Justice.
But I’ve always felt that public service in the truest sense of the word and the finest sense of the word is not about going through the motions. Public service is not about enjoying the ride. Worse yet, it’s not about consuming oxygen or just occupying an office—that’s not what public service should be. And Cliff, to your credit, Cliff, you never have gone merrily along. You never consumed oxygen when you served and you didn’t just occupy space. On the contrary, you understood so importantly about the dignity of this office. You understood the importance of language. The words mattered. And you understood, maybe most of all, that in a climate where some revisionists wished to alter statutes for their own political means and purposes, that the judiciary, and the Supreme Court most of all, plays critical importance in upholding and protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States and of the great state of Michigan.
So Cliff, the space, the space that your portrait will occupy in this building, in the Michigan Hall of Justice, is of the highest distinction. And your portrait, because of what you did, elevates the stature of the Hall of Justice and all those who occupy space in the future to the highest levels. Thank you and congratulations.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: It is now my pleasure to welcome Dean Emeritus Bernard Dobranski, professor of law at Ave Maria Law School.
DEAN BERNARD DOBRANSKI: May it please the Court. Mr. Chief Justice, associate justices, including Associate Justice BRIAN ZAHRA, who I had the pleasure of having as a student—
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: Was it a pleasure?
DEAN DOBRANSKI: Judges, friends, Lucille. It’s a privilege and honor to be asked to speak at this program honoring the former Chief Justice, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to offer my reflections on his remarkable career. The state of Michigan has been blessed with a great tradition of Supreme Court justices—THOMAS COOLEY, of course, and his colleagues, ISAAC CHRISTIANCY, JAMES CAMPBELL, and BENJAMIN GRAVES, the original Gang of Four; JOHN DETHMERS, who should have been on the Supreme Court of the United States instead of William Brennan; G. MENNEN “Soapy” WILLIAMS, a legendary Michigan governor who further distinguished himself, first as a justice and then chief justice of this Court. As an aside, I note that another distinguished justice of this Court, Justice MICHAEL CAVANAGH, who, of course, still serves, had the good fortune to serve with Soapy WILLIAMS. And finally, former Chief Justice MAURA CORRIGAN, whom we’ve just heard from a few minutes ago.
The man we honor today, former Chief Justice CLIFFORD TAYLOR, not only belongs within this pantheon of judicial greats, but surely is ranked as one of the greatest. While on the Court, Chief Justice TAYLOR was a profoundly learned, incredibly articulate, and fierce defender of the view that judges must interpret the law—whether they agree with it or not—and not make the law. It is wrong, as he forcefully and capably asserted, for judges, at any time, to twist and shape the law to conform to their personal views or to what they perceive to be the prevailing political winds.
But I’m not here to speak about his tenure as a justice, no matter how distinguished it was. Rather, I want to talk about Chief Justice TAYLOR from a different perspective, one most of you aren’t familiar with, from the perspective of a legal educator, more specifically, from two perspectives. The first is as a law school dean. As a dean, I travel extensively, not only in the state of Michigan but also throughout the country, with numerous interactions with other deans, law school professors, judges—including those from other supreme courts—and lawyers. Throughout Justice TAYLOR’s tenure on this Court, I was repeatedly asked about the Michigan Supreme Court and how it had emerged—even in the minds of those who disagreed with the thrust of its jurisprudence, and those were mainly the law deans and professors—but has emerged as the most dynamic, innovative in the best sense of the word, and intellectually coherent supreme court in the 50 states. Perhaps the most common observation—again, even from those who disagreed with the Court’s direction—is that it was, under Justice TAYLOR’s leadership and because of the wisdom of Governor John Engler, the best and most distinguished state supreme court in the country.
The second perspective, and the more personal one, is that as a law professor colleague of now Professor CLIFFORD TAYLOR. Shortly after he stepped down from the Court, he asked me if there was a class or two he might teach at Ave Maria School of Law. The answer, of course, was yes, and my colleagues and I warmly welcomed him and also his wife, Lucille, to our faculty. Not surprisingly, his performance in the classroom and as a colleague was from the very beginning outstanding. His classes sparkle with excitement, they’re intellectually demanding, and they are always sprinkled with his well-known wit—barbed or not, mostly barbed. On the other hand, they still weren’t nearly as good as Lucille’s classes.
As I was preparing to come here today for today’s event, I ran into one of my faculty colleagues, and after I told him why I was coming, he spontaneously described Cliff as the model for the ideal law professor—I think that’s the phrase—extremely bright, profoundly knowledgeable in the law, and deeply respected and admired by his students and his faculty colleagues. I can’t think of a higher praise for a law professor. It’s certainly one I can’t improve upon, and I share it completely.
I’ve known Cliff, as many of you have, as a friend, as a lawyer, as a jurist, and as a law professor for over 20 years. What has always impressed me most about him is not only his obvious intelligence and great knowledge of the law, but more importantly his sense of humor, his moral integrity, his forceful will for what is right and just, and his abundant courage—a virtue which Aristotle claimed is the greatest one. And all of these were done, I might add, with grace and with elegance. So I thank you for inviting me here today, and I thank you, Cliff, for what you’ve done for the jurisprudence of this great state, our country, and for what you are now doing for our law school. Thank you very much.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: And now, it’s my pleasure to welcome to the podium Clarence Pozza, Jr., a principal at Miller Canfield.
MR. CLARENCE POZZA, JR.: Mr. Chief Justice, associate justices, Mrs. Taylor—Lucille—honored judges, and guests. May it please the Court.
I stand in front of you touched and honored by Cliff’s invite today to speak to you on this very special day—the presentation of his portrait. I am humbled to be here to address this Court and guests in this magnificent Hall of Justice where issues are argued and debated at the highest level with stability and a Supreme Court that is among the most respected in the United States. The Hall of Justice that Justice TAYLOR, Governor Engler, and so many of you worked so hard to build and create. A Hall of Justice that if it were situated in difficult parts of the world would perhaps be a way that we could resolve differences and issues without violence, but through argument over law, human rights, and principles.
I feel in many ways like a freshman lawyer arguing or standing before the Court for the first time. But as I prepared these simple remarks, I kept thinking about Cliff TAYLOR, who is a beloved friend and whom I have known since the 1970s. Cliff and I go way back. We trace ties to our beloved alma mater, mutual friends, political activities, and the law. And over all of these years, Cliff has been more than a beloved friend. He’s a beloved friend whom I have admired in every way possible. His integrity, his honesty, his intellectual abilities, his ability, and as noted so often today, his wit and charm. A friend that I or others could talk to on any problem or issue where guidance was needed and Cliff would be there to provide help and guidance in a warm, human way and always found a light even in the most difficult problems.
Last year, I’m very delighted to say, our relationship was created—actually, added a new dimension. Cliff joined all of us at Miller Canfield, and we now practice law together and are professional colleagues. We are blessed to have Cliff with us—all 500 of us at Miller Canfield in our offices here in Michigan, in China, Mexico, Poland, and the many states of the United States—we are blessed to have you here with us. We have been blessed also—I mean Cliff is part of a tradition—I think tradition is the right word; I’m not sure though—that has allowed us to be blessed by many others. Justice MARKMAN came to Miller Canfield after he was United States Attorney and before he became a justice. Senator ROBERT GRIFFIN joined us after he left the Senate and before he became a justice. Justice CONRAD MALLETT started with Miller Canfield and then came back to us after he left the Supreme Court. Senator and Secretary Abraham was with us before he was elected to the Senate. United States District Court Chief Judge Gerald Rosen was with us. And so we have been blessed by having so many wonderful, wonderful folks who have contributed so much to public life in our state and our nation to be with us at Miller Canfield.
Cliff, however, is enriching us now in so many ways. Every day he helps us, not only with clients but on firm issues with his wisdom, his intellect, his historical perspective. But he really contributes where the legal issue, the challenge, is particularly thorny and difficult and where those of us practicing can’t see a light. Cliff finds a path and finds a light, even in the most difficult situations, all the while in an intense situation with wit and charm. And for that, we are so blessed at Miller Canfield to have him as part of our team now.
To Lucille, I would be remiss if I did not thank you for sharing this very special man and this very beloved friend with us. We’d like a little more of his time if we can get it from you and the law school. Justice TAYLOR, congratulations on the presentation of your portrait and all that you have done for the people of the state of Michigan and for our country. Cliff, thank you for being such a dear friend for so long. It’s just been great, and I look forward to so many more years. Thank you.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: And it’s now my pleasure to welcome to the podium Honorable John M. Engler, former Governor of Michigan.
MR. JOHN M. ENGLER: Mr. Chief Justice, justices of the Court, Chief Justice Cliff TAYLOR, my great general counsel, Lucille Taylor, members of the Michigan judiciary, lawyers, distinguished former members of the Engler administration, people of Michigan.
What a privilege it is to be back. I am delighted to be back in this building, to have a program where the heading isn’t “fill in the blank versus Engler.” It’s nice to be here to celebrate with Wally Riley, and I certainly want to join Wally with so many people who admire the work of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society and the great work that you’ve done. Really, it’s really been a labor of love, but it’s also a labor that I think is very important because I think remembering history—it matters. And what you’ve done for the judicial branch and for this esteemed body is really important. In the view of many of the directors—you know, we won’t always have [former Attorney General] Frank Kelley to provide living history for us. You are creating a way for commemorating all of this, and it’s just terrific.
It’s also a real privilege to be in this beautiful building because DOROTHY RILEY, Jim BRICKLEY, so many others—Cliff TAYLOR, members of this Court, MAURA CORRIGAN, there were many—Mike CAVANAGH was a part of this—in sort of standing together over the years to actually bring this dream into a reality, to have this beautiful structure completed to close in the capitol complex, to be able to look out the front window, look down through the mall and see the capitol. It’s a special building, and I think that we have a Court that is worthy of such a grand building and worthy of all of these portraits that will hang here and commemorate the history of the Court.
Today we gather to honor our 100th justice, a justice that I was privileged to appoint, and as Wally mentioned so kindly in his remarks, to fill the, well tiny shoes, the very large footprints of Justice DOROTHY COMSTOCK RILEY, who was truly one of our outstanding legal minds and great leaders of the judicial branch. And I thought, you know, when you think back to that time and Dorothy had indicated that she was going to step down from the Court, it was the first selection that I was to make to the Supreme Court—the first of what later became three appointments to the Court—and to what goes into that selection of a justice or a judge. As a governor, I ended up being privileged to appoint literally hundreds of judges at the trial court level, and the appellate level, and the Supreme Court.
I had a public service career that began—as Spence talked about his 40-year friendship with CLIFFORD TAYLOR—I actually have a career that goes back, you know, that far plus a little bit now, but it started as a state representative serving in the minority and then ended some 20 years later—the legislative portion at least—as we drew up the majority party in the Senate. Those 20 years gave me a ringside seat in the legislative branch and a deep appreciation for the powers and the roles in each branch of our government, constitutionally assigned. I certainly remember on occasion being frustrated at times by decisions that were taken in both the executive and the judicial branches. You know, when the Legislature gets to be unhappy with the executive, they’ve got a lot of tools. They’ve got other new legislation that they can write and pass. You could have a veto override. You’ve got the appointment process. You’ve got a lot of tools. You’ve even got the budget, if it comes to that. But when you’re disagreeing with a judicial decision, what’s the recourse? What do you do?
And so, by the time I became Governor, I actually had a few definite views about the judicial branch, about how our Constitution assigned the responsibilities and what qualities I thought were essential in being a good judge or justice. And certainly at the top of my list, given the years of experience in the Legislature and subsequently a number of years of experience in the executive branch, is that judges are not legislators. Senator SCHUETTE was a legislator, but he left that behind and became Judge SCHUETTE. Now he’s over in the executive branch; he’s kind of hit the cycle here. But in each of those branches, he had specific responsibilities that were his to perform and others that were properly, I’ve always felt, were the branch he left behind.
Judges certainly are not in charge of the executive branch, justices as well. Justice CORRIGAN now is in charge of a big part of the executive branch, and she had to leave the Court to do it. It would not have been appropriate to do it from here. And I congratulate her for that. Justice ZAHRA is especially happy about that—very excited about your new role. Judges are to—and Rocky mentioned this, but judges really are to—or Bernie mentioned this—they are to interpret the law not make the law—I’ve always felt that—and they’re not to be a second-chance legislative body. I’ve always felt strongly it wasn’t about trying to win the Legislature, if you couldn’t win there, then you come here.
Politics are pretty much part of every bit of American life these days, it seems. We had elections—special elections—in congressional districts in Nevada and New York yesterday. A few weeks ago, we had recall elections in Wisconsin. You know, not very many months away in 2012 there’ll be presidential, federal elections, state legislative elections here, and there will be, yes, judicial elections in states like Michigan—there’ll continue to be judicial elections. And those kinds of campaigns at every level and for different types of office, they do involve issues and debates. Most campaigns are done in an honorable way, others perhaps less so, but once the campaigns are over, the campaigns ought to be over. We’ve seen in legislative branches and even in the executive branch, sometimes the campaigns become almost permanent. But where that can’t be so is in the judiciary because that’s where the arbiters are. That’s where the independent judicial branch has to be and it seems to me that’s key for a court, it’s key for somebody who wants to serve on the court.
And so it came to me in not only the appointment of Justice TAYLOR, but in other appointments that I was privileged to make, to look at these qualities and to think about this with a sense of philosophy about what, what might recommend someone, what might really qualify them. And I think, it’s been mentioned today, that Cliff TAYLOR is a man of great integrity, and I think we need in our judicial offices across this country at every level men and women of great integrity. I think that’s very important. I believe strongly that such men and women—part of integrity is a great and deep appreciation for the rule of law. It is absolutely basic. Legislative bodies ebb and flow with the times, with the influences—there are many—and some of the influences are felt by some to be more desirable than others, but that’s what the political process, the partisan process, is. It’s rough and tumble at times. You do win and you do lose. But I think the referee responsibilities, if you will, of the independent judiciary is to call the balls and strikes fairly, not to rewrite the rule book. I think there is something else that’s part of Cliff TAYLOR in particular that it would not have been necessarily easy to know in advance, but I came to appreciate this, and it was mentioned again by Bernie Dobranski, his comments about his leadership in the law.
But there’s another aspect of that and that’s the leadership in the Michigan judicial system itself. And this Court is to be commended for what it has done and for what it’s currently doing, Chief Justice YOUNG—a unanimous court speaking out on some of these issues in a way that I think is most helpful to the debate in the state over acute budget problems and trying to look at judicial efficiency, judicial management. Again, I think that the Michigan Supreme Court has been a leader in taking on tough issues over a period of time. Cliff TAYLOR as chief justice did that. Your Court today is doing it as well. And then I think also there’s another responsibility that is there. And I think, again, this Court has made steps, and Justice TAYLOR certainly as chief justice was a leader, and it continues to be a work in progress, but it’s something that’s important to every lawyer in the room and that’s the legal profession and its health. The health of the legal profession itself or professionalism and the leadership there, because I think just as governments sometime look for lots of ways to be able to fund their operations, a surplus of lawyers may result in some lawyers cutting corners to try to fund their operations, and I think the Supreme Court is ultimately the body that has to take on the responsibility of upholding the integrity of the legal profession itself. I think Justice TAYLOR on so many of these important leadership tests stood up, was counted, and performed in a remarkable fashion, and his portrait now will hang here forever reminding us of him.
I had many things to say, but Spence Abraham cut most of them out on the plane—said, You I really can’t go there, this is a formal session and we’ve written down words that will be memorialized forever—so they’re gone. I do want to, though, as we think about this and what this sort of significant passage rite, rite of passage, if you will, as the portrait is hung—I mean, sort of the last official Taylor act this Court will deal with. In those reviews that were mentioned about Clifford and Lucille’s teaching, I happen to have been privy to at least one student’s review. It was reported to me, and I believe the source to be impeccable on this, that one of the students in CLIFFORD TAYLOR’s class—Lucille had only superlatives said about her, and, you know, the suggestions that she be cloned immediately to have her quality of instruction be in every classroom in the law school—but for Clifford, the reviews were solid for sure—good—but one student, in sort of complimenting him on the class observed that, “Gosh, he’s really old.” I guess today we acknowledge he is finally of age, he really is old as we hang his portrait.
Clifford, congratulations on a stellar legal career in the private sector and an outstanding contribution to Michigan judicial history with your public service on the Court of Appeals and on the Supreme Court. And I’m just proud to call you and Lucille and your family dear friends, and I could not be more excited to be able to be in Michigan, to be in this Hall of Justice, to know that your portrait forever will hang here to memorialize what I think has been one of the most outstanding judicial careers that our state has witnessed. Congratulations. Thank you.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: When you have a face like mine or Cliff’s, it is inevitable that you’d want to turn to one of the 10 distinguished portrait artists in the country of the Council of Leading American Painters. And so it was that Cliff selected Patricia Hill Burnett to do his portrait. And we call upon you now to do the honors.
MS. BURNETT: Well, I have to say that of course my most important motto in life is, Never say no unless they ask you if you’ve had enough. So I’m thrilled at the age of 91 to be invited to Lansing for this portrait dedication of Justice CLIFFORD TAYLOR. I just couldn’t refuse coming here.
With all this wisdom sitting before me, I still want to share some of the wisdom I accumulated in 91 years. Here’s some of my lifelines, a series of mottos that I’ve invented or collected over the years. For one thing, they’ve given me a balance in life, more times than I hate to tell you that I needed. But first of all, trust your instincts. They’re your right brain talking. Don’t dwell on regrets. Don’t cry—oh, this is for women—don’t cry over anything that money can buy. Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names. And you keep your friends close and your enemies closer. And if you don’t have any enemies, you haven’t lived a very wide life, should I say. And my last one is, rise above it all.
So I want to leave you with one profound truth that transcends wealth, poverty, religion, and politics. Mark Twain said, It all comes down to this: no matter how famous you are, no matter how many honors you achieve, money you earn, one thing and one thing alone will determine how many people come to your funeral, and that’s the weather. That’s it.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: Now you have to do the unveiling, now. You don’t want to do the unveiling?
MS. BURNETT: Oh, yes.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: Well, you had a great set of remarks.
MS. BURNETT: Could someone give me some help?
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: Can you help her?
[Ms. Burnett unveils the portrait to applause.]
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: Don’t get ahead of me, Clifford. Don’t get ahead of me now.
As I indicated, Patricia is a very talented artist, able to take what God gave Cliff and improve on it a bit, I should think. Now when Cliff, Clifford, Chief Justice TAYLOR, usually rises to speak, it’s after the tomatoes and the brickbats have ceased, to rise in rebuttal. But today, it appears that the body is here at the wake and has only good things to say. Chief Justice CLIFFORD TAYLOR. [Applause.] Excuse me, Clifford, Clifford, excuse me. It appears that you had good weather today.
THE HONORABLE CLIFFORD W. TAYLOR: Well, as at any wake, the honoree gets a bye, and they don’t expect him to say anything too much. I’m going to honor that today.
Frank Kelley, who at one point had the good fortune to run against me for Attorney General—the only thing I recall that Frank ever said that was thoughtful and contemplative to me was, “Cliff, never be the only man standing between a crowd and an open bar.” And I’m partly in that position now.
Patricia is so charming. I had never had a portrait done before, of course, and so she had painted a wonderful picture of John’s triplets, and so I asked her if she would do this. In the course of that, we got to know each other, and all of the charm and pleasantness that you saw today is the normal fare of Patricia Hill Burnett. I still recall her telling me at the time she showed me this wonderful painting, “Do you know what the three worst words for a portraitist are at work?” I said, “What?” “Who is that?”
Now this painting has not been in real isolation, this has been sitting in a hallway in our house and has been the subject of any number of irreverent comments. We were having a neighborhood party one evening, and one of the little boys from the neighborhood wandered in and his mother said, “Do you know who that is?” He said, “I think it’s Bill Clinton.” I’ve never told Patricia that, that would really have undone her. My youngest son, John, had the best comment about it, which was, “You know, Dad, this is what you looked like when we asked for the family car.”
Well—you know, one of the unheralded benefits of serving on this Court is that you get to have a dress rehearsal for your funeral—only it’s slightly better because if the eulogists get too frisky, you’ve got your remaining years to get even. And I don’t have too much to get even for. There’s a real talent for fiction that is on display here, and I appreciate it. I will say one thing. I’m somewhat unsettled about the fact that no one managed to recall my heroic naval career. But that would have taken more talent than these folks have; it’s not easy to weave a tapestry of heroism out of a career spent in the Caribbean.
Now, I’d like to thank the Court for taking time to go through this today and for the pleasant things that everyone said here today. And I’m, of course, anticipating that Steve MARKMAN will perform well in a few moments, so I appreciate what you’re going to say, too, Steve, although I do wish you’d stop writing.
I want to thank the Supreme Court Historical Society. Wally and I and Dorothy and Lucille were friends for years and years. What Wally and Dorothy did with the Historical Society is really to, in many respects, instill a sense of patrimony into our state and this great Court. And for this, Wally, you are to be greatly thanked.
I want to also thank Colleen Pero—my sidekick through hundreds of political capers and this one today—who has been the organizer at our end of this, and she really has been her usual self, which is, simply stated, the world’s most capable person.
I’d like to also thank Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone—the law firm that I am with—and they have been very generous with me. You know, one of the things that I’m asked to do in this post is to sort of give people an idea about what might move this group. And generally, it’s full of very long and elaborate words, but at the risk of giving up a trade secret, let me just sort of give you the idea of it. If you’ve got a case before this Court and it involves a statute, or a constitutional provision, or a contract, or a bill of lading, you parse it like a tedious grammarian—and then get a couple unions to file amicus on your side, and you’ll have a unanimous court.
I want to thank Bernie Dobranski, who came here to represent the law school, and is also our longtime friend. Thank you, Bernie, I’ve enjoyed the time at the law school. I’ve enjoyed teaching. I haven’t enjoyed it as much as Lucille has because she’s been getting these reviews that are more encouraging.
Maura, thank you for being here. You’re, as always, a great and loyal friend, and I appreciate all your kindnesses, and I look back on the years we spent together. Maura used to always say to me—I never quite knew what this meant—but she’d always say to me, “You know, Cliff, we’re going to live down the hall from each other in an old folks’ home someday.” And I always thought, Actually that would be fun, and I wonder why.
BILL SCHUETTE, you currently serve, of course, as our Attorney General—doing a wonderful job—Bill has been my friend in the world of politics for a long, long time. Thank you for coming, Bill, and I appreciate your kind and wonderful thoughts.
Spencer behaved himself today, and this was really a source of some consternation to me. He sent me an e-mail suggesting three topics that he might be discussing. That took care of a couple of evenings of sleep, but I had every confidence in the end that Spencer would be kind and gentle, and he was, and thank you very much, sir.
John Engler has been the friend of Lucille and me for 40 years. He’s a wonderful guy, and I’m greatly honored to have had your appointment to this Court and the Court of Appeals, and I’m pleased that you think that I have carried out that responsibility well.
Finally, I’d like to thank Lucille and my children and my family for being here and for all the help and support that they have been with me over the years.
I’ve enjoyed my time as a judge. Actually, I’ve enjoyed my life a lot; I’ve enjoyed almost everything I’ve done in my life. I’ve never had the sad circumstance of getting up and dragging to work in the morning and not liking what I was going to do. And of all the things I did, I found the Supreme Court the most intellectually rewarding, and many, many of you were very instrumental in that, either by redirecting me, criticizing me, or by filing briefs that were on target and very thoughtful and helpful.
And finally, to my former colleagues—after all these years, four of you still survive—and I must say that as I look back on that time, candidly, I’m still dismayed that some of you couldn’t figure out the wisdom of the positions that I was advancing. But I look back on the fact that all of us did our best to serve—in the phrase of the old Michigan song—the Goddess of the Inland Seas. Thank you.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: Now we’ve seen it, it appears that we have to accept it. Justice MARKMAN, having gotten the short straw, is going to do that duty now. Justice MARKMAN.
JUSTICE STEPHEN J. MARKMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice. I am strategically positioned on this program where I now get to speak and Justice TAYLOR gets no further chance to speak, and I appreciate that position.
It is an honor on behalf of the Court—the Michigan Supreme Court—to accept this portrait of Justice CLIFFORD TAYLOR. And, no, it was not a 4 to 3 vote to accept the portrait. Patricia Hill Burnett has produced an outstanding portrait and it will grace our Hall of Justice for as long as our Hall of Justice graces our capitol city and our state. And I congratulate Ms. Burnett on behalf of the Court for her artistry, and I congratulate Justice TAYLOR for having sat still long enough to allow Ms. Burnett to perform this artistry.
There’s really very little that I can add to the many accolades that have been directed toward Cliff TAYLOR this afternoon. But I thought hard about this, and I believe it’s probably worth mentioning that he dresses very well and he’s generally a safe driver. You know, I thought about it, and I feel that these are very worthy attributes and they shouldn’t be overlooked in the midst of all the other laudatory things that we’ve heard about Cliff TAYLOR today.
The legacy of any justice of this Court is inevitably reflected best, I believe, in this series of books, the Michigan Reports, in which our orders and opinions are permanently memorialized. The exercise of judgment on the part of the justice, the judicial principles, the craftsmanship, the persuasiveness of analysis, and the commitment to the great propositions of our constitutional system—the equal rule of law and the separation of powers—these are all on display in these volumes. And Justice TAYLOR’s legacy speaks for itself and, of course, can be judged by any person who chooses to take these volumes off the shelf and peruse them.
What, however, can’t be so simply assessed are the deliberative processes by which Cliff TAYLOR came to reach his positions and to give meaning to the law. And as his colleague on this Court for a decade and as his friend for a quarter of a century before that, these deliberative processes will always most indelibly mark his work as a justice for me. And most of all in this regard, I recall his remarkable and genuine open-mindedness to opposing positions and arguments, his willingness to adjust and even abandon established positions on the basis of discussion and back-and-forth debate, and certainly his intellectual curiosity and his interest in discussing and rediscussing our most difficult cases. There is never a moment at which Cliff TAYLOR was not prepared for as long as necessary to discuss how a case should fairly and properly be resolved. He was, of course, never willing to compromise as to his first principles—these were simply part of his DNA—but he was always prepared to accept that he might either be viewing a case or his principles from the wrong perspective, and he enjoyed nothing more than being persuaded by and persuading others through the give-and-take of legal argument. And there was no justice who was more resolute in recognizing that ours is a court of law and that its legal rules could not be properly articulated without careful consideration of their impact upon tomorrow’s cases. I once described Cliff as the king of hypotheticals, wherein by the Socratic process of asking a series of questions about hypothetical future cases, each involving slightly different fact patterns, he encouraged me and his other colleagues to consider the impact of today’s opinions and today’s legal rules upon cases that might be filed tomorrow or the day after.
To me Cliff TAYLOR was the epitome of a judge fully and deeply engaged in his work, fully and deeply engaged in all that he did on cases great and small. And he brought to the Court a unique blend of practical experience drawn from his 20 years of general practice in a small law firm in this community, combined with an extraordinarily sophisticated and consistent commitment to a judicial philosophy that had clearly animated, as Senator Abraham mentioned, his interest in judicial service and that he believed was required by our constitutional heritage. Cliff’s insights, both those drawn from his experiences at Denfield, Timmer, and Taylor, and those drawn from his studies and reflections concerning the nature of the judiciary, have been remarkably influential and often dispositive in resolving an uncountable number of cases in his more than 11 years on this Court.
I must also briefly mention Cliff TAYLOR’s specific legacy as chief justice of this Court for four years. He was the author of the procedure by which this Court now hears a greater number of oral arguments from the parties each term, in which more parties get to speak directly to the Court in their cases. At his initiative, the Court embarked upon the most ambitious and comprehensive jury reform proposal in the country, recently enacting these into law. He exercised unusual leadership in his recognition of the increasingly limited budgetary resources that were available to the courts of this state. And he worked to accommodate these new fiscal realities without impairing the core mission of the judiciary. Working with Wally Riley and the court historical society, he established the Advocate Society in an effort to enhance the caliber of appellate advocacy before this Court. He introduced our Community Connections Program by which the Court now on a regular basis each term hears oral arguments in communities across the state—outside of Lansing—and combines these arguments with related educational activities in the local school districts. And perhaps most importantly on a day-by-day basis, Cliff TAYLOR supplied the leadership—honest and always incorruptible—and brought the maturity to this Court allowing it, I believe, to become the very best court that it could be, and in many ways, I believe, a very courageous court.
You know there’s a time capsule that rests in our main lobby, and most of you I think have passed it when you came into this building. When it’s finally opened on October 8, 2102, only 91 years from now—and I’m very much looking forward to that occasion—I believe that the passage of time will have confirmed that Cliff TAYLOR was both a special justice and a special chief justice, an historically important and memorable justice, and I believe that the passage of time will have equally confirmed that Ms. Burnett’s portrait is one for the ages. Thank you very much.
CHIEF JUSTICE YOUNG: Well, Mr. Chief Justice TAYLOR, this has been a wonderful occasion for all of us to remember you and to reflect on your legacy, not only to this body but to the state of Michigan. I’m glad you had a good day. Thank you all very much.