MARCH 30, 1995
CHIEF JUSTICE BRICKLEY: Be seated, please. We welcome all of you to this very special session of the Supreme Court, a day we’ve been looking forward to for a long time.
Let me begin our program by calling on Wallace D. Riley, former State Bar President, and former President of the Michigan Bar, and the President of the Supreme Court Historical Society.
WALLACE D. RILEY: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, Associate Justices, Judge James L. Ryan—there are two Judge Ryans here today—members of the bar, Ryan family and friends. I’m confident that today’s proceedings will in fact please the Court, and again on behalf of the Board of Directors, and all of the members of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, we thank you for the opportunity to be able to appear and to participate in this special session of the Court.
I would beg the Court’s indulgence to permit me to introduce to you the members of the Board of Directors of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society who are in Court today for the presentation of the RYAN PORTRAIT, would you stand gentlemen? Thank you.
I’d also like to introduce to the Court and to the audience as well, the painter of the RYAN portrait, Mr. Joseph Maniscalco, and his wife Barbara. That truly is a vote of confidence before the senior judges.
The members of this Court, of course, are familiar with the existence and the works of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, because you’re all members of the society, including your newest colleague, Justice WEAVER. For those who are in attendance who are not familiar, allow me to say the society was organized as a Michigan nonprofit corporation in 1988. Its purpose was to preserve documents, records, and memorabilia, relating to the Michigan Supreme Court and to promote public education and awareness of the historical significance of the Court. As you know, there is a Bureau of History within the Office of the Michigan Department of State, and there’s also a Michigan Historical Commission, but it seemed to us that there was no real focus on things historically relating to the judicial branch of government. So there was a need for the society to fill that vacuum.
We began our activities in the society by collecting oral histories of former living, Michigan Supreme Court justices, about a dozen of them, including the Honorable JAMES L. RYAN. While the special sessions of this Court held on ceremonial occasions such as this, are recorded and reported in the opening pages of the volumes of the Michigan Reports, those reports were not indexed. So the society produced an index, bound as a copy of the Michigan Reports, which we give to every member of the society, so that they will have a complete and functioning set of the Supreme Court Reports. Annually, as you know, we hold our annual meeting luncheon at some location around the state; we’ve been in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Southfield, and this year we’ll be in Lansing. This Court, of course, is invited to those luncheon meetings with our members, and you all graciously attend.
Finally, as to our activities, we facilitate the painting and presentation of portraits of former justices, as a way of recording and preserving the history of the Court. The history of the Court, more than any other branch of government, is the history of the justices who sit on that Court. Each time the Court changes, each time a justice changes, the Court changes. So, accordingly, it’s important that we have not only a record of who sat, and what they wrote, but that we also have a visual impression of that justice, and so we’ll continue to promote the painting, and presentation of the portraits as we have done with former justices, G. MENNEN WILLIAMS, TALBOT SMITH, THOMAS GILES KAVANAGH, JOHN FITZGERALD, and now Justice JAMES L. RYAN.
There are several hundred lawyers and nonlawyers, who are members of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society. The Board of Directors is composed of twenty-one of those members including some former justices, one of whom is 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge, Judge JAMES L. RYAN. Because this session is therefore not only for one of yours, former justice, but also for one of ours, a Director of the Society, we are particularly pleased to be here and to observe together with you, yet another milestone in the history of the Michigan Supreme Court.
CHIEF JUSTICE BRICKLEY: Thank you very much Mr. Riley, and now it’s my pleasure to introduce for remarks a man who brings a great distinction, who has brought great distinction to this Court, to himself, and his various endeavors in the law, a former Chief Justice, but more important than all, a life-long friend of Jim Ryan, Tom Brennan.
HONORABLE THOMAS E. BRENNAN: Mr. Chief Justice, and justices, may it please the Court. Being a member of a very exclusive club of former chief justices, and I see a couple of them behind the bench now, I think that we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize the presence of another former Chief Justice of our Court, THOMAS GILES KAVANAGH. Justice KAVANAGH, would you stand please? I don’t know whether Chief Justice JOHN FITZGERALD is here or not, but I don’t want to miss any Chiefs. This is, Mr. Chief Justice, an occasion, an event, indeed a happening, a very happy happening it is to be sure. For today, through the generous efforts of a grateful profession, we present to this Honorable Court a handsome portrait of one of its most illustrious, former members, the Honorable JAMES L. RYAN. But if these ceremonies celebrate a bit of joyous business for the Court, they also serve a critical function in preserving the history of the Court, and educating the public, present and future, about this important institution of our government. What we say here, as Wally Riley has pointed out, will be printed in the Michigan Reports. These ceremonies will become a permanent record, a part of a long, and continuing story of Michigan’s highest appellate tribunal.
I ask the Court’s indulgence then, if what I am about to say is heavily burdened with dates, and numbers, and proper nouns. Much as I would prefer to wax poetic about our honoree, to describe his sterling character, acclaim his contributions to our jurisprudence, and to ruminate about his personal charm, intelligence, and wit, this is not, thanks be to God, Judge Ryan’s funeral. It is only his hanging.
James Leo Ryan was born in Detroit on November 19, 1932, the only son of Leo and Irene Ryan. He and his younger sister Joan were educated in the parochial schools. Judge Ryan attended Detroit Catholic Central High School, where he enjoyed the guidance, discipline, and encouragement of the Basilian Fathers.
In the autumn of 1950 he entered the University of Detroit, and after three years of Jesuit-inspired philosophy, literature, science, and history, spiced with an Irish disposition to gregarious good times, he entered the University’s School of Law, located on Jefferson Avenue in downtown Detroit.
In 1956 he was awarded his law degree, LL.B. or Bachelor of Laws, as was the custom in the days before the designation “Juris Doctor” became the norm.
Our honoree was married to Mary Elizabeth Rogers on October 12, 1957, and promptly whisked his bride away to the idyllic shores of the Pacific Ocean where their honeymoon cottage was supplied by the United States Navy at Camp Pendleton, California. He served as an officer in the Judge Advocate General Corps on active duty until 1960, and continued his military service as a certified military judge in the Naval Reserve until his retirement with the rank of Captain in 1992.
On his return to civilian life in 1960, Judge Ryan became associated with a small law firm in the First National Building in downtown Detroit. I am sure, Mr. Chief Justice, that those halcyon days of budding law practices and burgeoning political careers are well and fondly remembered on both sides of the bench this afternoon. I take a very special pride and satisfaction in recalling that you and I, Mr. Chief Justice, shared those humble offices with our honoree. In due course, WALDRON, BRENNAN, MAHER, BRICKLEY, RYAN, GRIBBS, et al., eventually succumbed to the centrifugal force of political campaigns and election to public office.
Justice RYAN was elected Justice of the Peace in Redford Township in 1963, later became President of the Wayne County Justices of the Peace Association, and a member of the Supreme Court’s Committee on Minor Court Reorganization. In 1966 he was elected to the Third Judicial Circuit of Michigan where he continued to demonstrate his leadership as Chairman of the Court’s Committee on Rules, and as a member of the Probation and Friend of the Court Committee. Again, the Supreme Court employed his services as a member of its Committee on the Rules of Evidence.
Judge Ryan was appointed Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court by Governor William G. Milliken in 1975. He was elected in 1976, and reelected in 1978, and served on this bench for ten years until his selection by President Ronald Reagan as Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 1985.
In his ten years on this Court, Justice RYAN authored 133 opinions, beginning with People v Wilson, 397 Mich 76 (1976), and ending with Leizerman v First Flight Freight Service, 424 Mich 463 (1985).
His colleagues knew Justice RYAN to be a hard working, efficient, productive jurist, who could always be counted on to pull his share of the judicial load. But he did more than decide cases and write opinions. Taking to heart the constitutional mandate, which places the Supreme Court at the head of a unified Court of Justice, he advanced the idea of creating an educational arm of the Court whose mission would be to assist judges in developing and maintaining the highest possible level of judicial competence, and thus, was born the Michigan Judicial Institute, a premiere organization providing continuing judicial education. Justice RYAN supervised the work of the institute until his resignation in 1985. In addition, his colleagues chose him to supervise the reorganization of the trial courts in Wayne County, a work he successfully carried out in 1981 and 1982.
Throughout his long and illustrious career, Judge Ryan has had a keen interest in education. He served on the Board of Trustees of Marygrove College in the early 1970s, and for nearly fifteen years was a member of the Board of Directors of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He taught “Evidence” at Cooley, and at the University of Detroit. A renowned expert on the law of evidence, he continues to lecture at the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada, as he has for more than twenty-five years. A frequent guest speaker at national, regional, and state judicial conferences, the judge was a member of the faculty of the American Academy of Judicial Education from 1972 to 1984. Not surprisingly, Federal Court of Appeals Judge Ryan, remains as active in judicial education and court management as was Michigan Supreme Court Justice RYAN. Mr. Chief Justice, we honor today a man who has made a singular contribution to the prestige and standing of this Court, and whose presence here in oil and canvas will confirm in a tangible way the lasting presence of his work in these chambers.
Beyond his professional accomplishments, history will no doubt record that Judge James L. Ryan was a devote Roman Catholic, a dedicated father, a doting grandfather, a devoted husband, and a dear friend. We will hear more of that, I’m sure, from the two distinguished public servants who will follow me to this lectern.
But there is one final biographical tidbit I would leave with the Court this afternoon, Mr. Chief Justice, because I believe it speaks volumes about the essence of the man we honor here. Judge Ryan, earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Detroit in 1992, more than a third of a century after his graduation from the law school. For more than three years he attended night classes exploring the depths of philosophy, history, economics, and literature, reading his textbooks, doing his homework, writing term papers, and sitting for examinations. All of this during the full-flowering of his judicial career. All of this in addition to the monumental burdens of the second highest judicial office in the United States. All of this for no other reason than his love of learning, the quest for knowledge. Judge Ryan is a great teacher because he is a great student. He is a man who speaks with authority, because he listens with humility. His portrait, Mr. Chief Justice, and justices of the Court, will remind all of us that truth and justice are inextricably interwoven, and that this chamber must ever be a place of learning if it is to be a palace of the law. Thank you.
CHIEF JUSTICE BRICKLEY: Thank you very much, Justice BRENNAN.
We often say that probably our children know us best. So now we’re going to find out. Let me now introduce another Judge Ryan; we would have had room for him on the door, on the sign on the door when we all started out, but here he is, the Honorable Daniel P. Ryan, Judge of the Michigan 17th Judicial District Court.
HONORABLE DANIEL P. RYAN: Thank you, Chief Justice BRICKLEY, members of the Supreme Court, fellow members of the judiciary, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, friends and family. As Justice RYAN’S oldest son, and having survived the various alternative parental experiments in the 1960s, it is truly a privilege to have this opportunity to address the Court, our family and friends, on the occasion of the presentation of my father’s portrait to the Supreme Court.
On behalf of the family I would like to thank all those individuals who have been involved in Coordinating today’s events. Your efforts are greatly appreciated, and will be remembered. Since it has been widely advertised in legal publications that the hanging of a former justice of the Michigan Supreme Court would take place today, the family was quite anxious to see who would be in attendance. I’m not quite certain whether or not we should be encouraged by the numbers present today. My father reminded me yesterday that this was not his hanging, but merely the presentation of his portrait. Regardless, we are here today to honor an individual who was devoted to his family, and has a deep commitment to public service and the law.
I’ve been asked to speak on behalf of the family. In researching past portrait presentations to the Michigan Supreme Court or in the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society records, the families’ represented role has been quite limited. As a firm adherent to the principle of stare decisis, I shall not deviate. In various ways, my father has been a role model for all his children. As a fellow member of the judiciary, I am personally indebted to my father. His enthusiasm, devotion, and love of the law are contagious.
My father and Judge John Dillon were elected Justices of the Peace in Redford on April 4, 1963. My father has been a member of the judiciary, and the family has been involved in election, reelection, and retention efforts as long as I can remember. As an aside, Mike Devine told me that during the first election when I was only fourteen months old, that they had to staple my diapers to the floor at the house on Denby, because I insisted on having input into signed construction. There are many campaign stories that I could share with you, and there are the not so wonderful. We have spent many hours together as a family putting up signs, stuffing envelopes, passing out literature, waiting up late for election returns, typical family bonding activities.
The most memorable campaign trip was a week-long trip through the Upper Peninsula during one of my father’s Supreme Court elections. The six of us spent a week together in Phil Marco’s recreational vehicle. We’re all lucky that we survived. The family will always be indebted to Nell Kuhnmuench who scheduled that eventful trip.
My father has been a great role model for me, and on August 4, 1994, I was extremely fortunate to be appointed by Governor Engler to the same seat that my father held as Justice of the Peace thirty-one years and four months earlier. The only problem that I’ve encountered with being appointed to a judicial position that my father has held is that he wants to sit in my chair whenever he comes to visit. My appointment has also created a state and federal problem in the household, and I’m still waiting for a writ of superintending control from the Michigan Supreme Court.
Some people have asked whether I’ll be a judge just like my father, and I hope and I pray everyday that I will demonstrate the same intellect, commitment, enthusiasm, devotion, and love of the law that he has demonstrated as a member of the judiciary over the years.
In addition to his high regard in the legal community, my father is a devoted husband to my mother, father, and grandfather. He has demonstrated the same commitment, enthusiasm, devotion, and love that he has for the law, as he has done for his family.
One of his rules was that he would never bring work home. He would work late or he would go in early, but he would never bring work home. When he came home he was ours. He would give complete attention to his family. Jim, Colleen, Kathleen, and I remember that he would attend many practices, and come to our games, and our meets.
Although we would feign embarrassment at the time, it was important for us to see that he cared. My father taught us all that our faith, family, and job are all important things in life, but faith in God, family, fellowmen, and country are the most important in that order.
Behind every successful man is an equally successful woman. My father may have been the judge, and the head of the household, but my mother was the soul. My mother was the glue that held this family together. All of my father’s success and accomplishment must be jointly attributed to my mother. That’s before my brother illuminates joint and several liability. At this time, I would like the Court to recognize Mary Elizabeth Ryan.
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce the rest of the family. Despite the fact that my father believes that every good thing that comes to pass must come from him, I would like to submit evidence to the contrary. I’d like to introduce my wife, Mary Catherine, and I’d like to also introduce our four children, Katie, Daniel, Michael, and Justin.
My father has taught us the importance of being a public servant as opposed to simply being a public official. My father’s deep commitment to public service has also had an influence on my brother Jim. Jim was recently elected State Representative for the 16th District, and I’d ask the Court to recognize my brother, State Representative Jim Ryan. Having a sibling, who is a State Representative, who is also on the House Judiciary Committee, makes for some interesting table conversation such as, why did you vote against SOCC, and where is my three percent? As further evidence that all good things need not come directly from my father, I’d like to introduce Jim’s wife Terry. Terry is a golf professional for the City of Southfield, and they have one son, Sean. At this time I’d ask the Court to recognize Terry Anthony.
My sister Colleen Hanson has demonstrated the same devotion and commitment to family that our parents have instilled in all of us. While raising a beautiful family, Colleen works part time in a hospital near her home in Pinckney. Colleen is present today with her husband, Doug, and their two children, Megan and Matt. I’d ask the Court to please recognize Colleen, Doug, Megan, and Matt Hanson.
Last, but not least, is my youngest sister, Kathleen. Having been afflicted with a legal virus, Kathleen is currently completing her second year at the University of Detroit Mercy Law School. I’d ask this Court to please recognize my sister Kathleen.
As you can see, Justice BRICKLEY, and members of the Court, my father’s devotion to family, to the law, and his commitment to public service has infected the Ryan family. His motivation and quest for excellence are contagious. It should not surprise anyone that we are a close, tightly knit group. My father is thoroughly and deeply loved and admired by each and every member of his family. Besides being a father, he is our very best friend.
I’ve had an opportunity to see the portrait before its official unveiling, and I would ask that each of you look closely at the portrait, and you will see a man who shares a deep commitment and devotion to his family and to the law. A hanging can be disconcerting for a lad of Irish descent, even if it is only your portrait that is being hung, and I would like to close with some appropriate words of wisdom from my grandfather, who was from Ireland, Patrick Rogers, God rest his soul, who used to say, “You get used to hanging if you hang long enough.” Thank you.
CHIEF JUSTICE BRICKLEY: Thank you very much, your Honor. A “chip off the old block,” I must say. Now, let’s hear from your brother, the Honorable James Ryan, the one who’s going to get us all the money we need for all the needs of the Court. You’re a hit before you ever hit the podium.
HONORABLE JAMES R. RYAN: Mr. Chief Justice, Associate Justices, Mom and Dad, family and friends. It is an honor to speak before the Court today, and it is with great pride that I have the opportunity to recognize my father’s contribution to the Michigan legal community with the presentation of his portrait to this Court.
I have to apologize before I continue, because Dan might have overlapped on some of the things that I have to say, but I’m going to continue even though he has done that, and I might say some things that he might have already said.
Since Dan has already spoken on behalf of our family, I will speak on behalf of my colleagues in the state Legislature. I can say that I’m confident that not only would the Legislature approve a supplemental appropriation, but it would whole-heartedly support, as well as attend, any future hanging of judges in Lansing.
Every parent dreams and hopes for a better life for their children. We try and teach our children what is right and how they can achieve success and happiness. Today, we recognize my father’s achievements, and his success and service to the bench with the hanging of his portrait in the halls of the Michigan Supreme Court. For me, it is more than just that. For this son, it is proof of what my father taught me, that with family, faith, and honor, anyone can obtain success and happiness. In our family we have been taught the importance of faith and to put our trust in God. Dad, you are the motivator and guide in our family, but it’s my mom, Mary Ryan, who is our family’s heart. Without her spirit neither my father nor his children would have accomplished what we have.
I can recall how important it was to my dad to come sit down as a family for dinner. It was a time to be together without interruption to discuss the day’s events and share and enjoy each others company. About fifteen years ago, we were all sitting around the table having dinner, and because my sisters were, like all teenage girls, always on the phone, my dad would ask that the phone be taken off the hook. Well, on this particular night we forgot to take the phone off the hook.
Prior to that evening, things had become tense in the Ryan household due to a vacancy on the Michigan Supreme Court. My dad was filled with anxiety of waiting what he would hope would be an appointment to the Court. Then the phone rang. Naturally, Kathleen jumped up. Well, dad said softly, “Whatever it is tell them that you will call them back.” So she did. Kathleen came back, sat down, and we finished dinner. Near the end of the dinner someone asked, “By the way Kathleen, who was on the phone?” Kathleen said, “Oh yeah, dad, call Governor Milliken when you get a chance.”
What could he say to a teenage daughter who had done just as he had asked?
Faith, family, and honor; I’ve learned from my dad what it means to have honor. Unavoidably, my father’s thirty plus years of public service was bound to rub off on me. Last year I was elected to the Michigan Legislature, and due to my relationship with my father I bring with me the belief, and the knowledge that public service is a noble profession, that it is an honor to serve the people, and most importantly is a privilege, only to be gained through public trust, and maintained with integrity of service. He also taught me that there is no need to apologize for serving as an elective representative as long as you serve for the whole of the people, and stand on what you believe is right. To my father, thank you, and congratulations. This portrait will serve as a reminder to us and hopefully others as well, of your immense personal contributions to the Court, and to the people of Michigan. Thank you.
CHIEF JUSTICE BRICKLEY: Thank you, Representative Ryan. And now we’re going to hear from the daughters Ryan—Colleen and Kathleen. I say hear from them; we’re going to ask them to come up if they will, and to unveil the portrait, and see what we find there.
KATHLEEN A. RYAN: Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Court, ladies and gentlemen. I’m very pleased to have a part in this program today honoring my dad. As I’ve told many people in the past, and I’ll say it again today, whether my dad is acting as judge, or father, or friend, he has been and still is one of the greatest inspirations in my life, and I know of no one more deserving than he on this day of honor. I’d like to take this moment to tell him how very proud I am of his accomplishments, and, most of all, how very lucky and grateful I am that you’re my dad.
My sister Colleen and I were asked to come here today to introduce the artist, and also to present the portrait to the Court and tell a little bit about the artist, and my sister asked me to speak on behalf of the both of us. As I’m afraid it is painfully obvious, this is my first experience in addressing any court, minus a few traffic violation hearings, to say nothing of Michigan’s highest court, but as they mentioned earlier, I’m now finishing my second year at the University of Detroit Law School, and I hope that someday I will have the privilege to address you again on behalf of a client.
And with that, the artist who painted my father’s portrait, as mentioned earlier, is Joseph Maniscalco, and I will introduce you to him in a moment, but first I’d like to tell you a little bit about him. Joseph Maniscalco was born in Tampa, Florida. Soon thereafter, he moved to New York City, where he studied in the famous Art Student’s League. In 1953, he moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he worked as a free-lance artist for some of the largest art studios.
Since 1968, he has maintained a studio at the Scarab Club in Detroit, and has devoted himself exclusively to fine arts and portraiture. He has twice served as President of the Scarab Club, and spent many years on its Board of Directors.
Mr. Maniscalco has had numerous one-man shows in which he has exhibited portraits and paintings in private and public collections. His subjects have included figures from universities, corporate and banking institutions, hospitals, government, sports, families, and women and children of all ages. Recent commissions have included portraits of Chief Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court, in particular, DOROTHY COMSTOCK RILEY, MARY COLEMAN, and THOMAS BRENNAN. Also notable is Dr. Fred Cummings, who is the former Director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, and many other distinguished men and women in the fields of art, industry, professional athletics, and government.
Although nationally known as a portraiture artist, Mr. Maniscalco has done award winning works in sculpting, landscaping, and still-life painting as well. And with that, it is my pleasure for me to reintroduce to you, Mr. Maniscalco.
Now, my sister Colleen and I would like to share Mr. Maniscalco’s work with all of you, and on behalf of our family present it to the Court.
[At which point, the portrait of the Honorable JAMES L. RYAN was unveiled.]
CHIEF JUSTICE BRICKLEY: Thank you. On behalf of my colleagues, we are deeply grateful to all of you for bringing this day forward, and helping us get to this point where we now have Jim where we want him—right here, back in this chamber.
A little over nineteen years ago, a number of us present here today were in this courtroom to witness Judge Ryan’s ascendancy to this bench. None of us who knew him doubted the fact that one day we would be here doing what we are doing today, and that is enshrining him in the Judicial Hall of Fame.
Those of us who were here in the beginning knew of his love for and the knowledge of the law, his crisp and compelling style of writing, and his professional and personal integrity. However, there was yet another quality of his that I was not aware of until my own opportunity came to join this Court. In making my decision, I asked him how to measure one’s capability for being on the Court. I wish I had kept notes of that lunch that we had together, because it was a marvelous description of what it takes to fulfill this responsibility, as well as an insight into his own approach to his responsibilities. He talked primarily of the need of one who sits on this Court to possess a principled world view of one’s self, of the role of government, and the courts in our lives, and a steadfastness in applying them.
There are not many Court conferences back in our robing room where one of us who has had the privilege of serving with Jim doesn’t have the occasion to utilize the clause, as Jim Ryan would say, but those aphorisms don’t necessarily appear in the reports of the Court, and maybe as I think about it, it’s just as well they don’t. His legacy to this Court does, of course, reside in the reports where his skills and his character are there for all to see. From my perspective, however, the best part of this day is that from now on I’m going to be able to look up at that Celtic face, and hopefully catch a wink or two when once in a while we do something right.
HONORABLE JAMES L. RYAN: They’ve heard me speak before. Mr. Chief Justice, and members of the Court, my distinguished colleagues of the bench and the bar, my many, many dear friends. Perhaps you’ll forgive me, Mr. Chief Justice, if occasionally I share my back with the members of the Court, as I will most of the time have to share it with our guests today.
It is plain to you I’m sure, that I cannot adequately articulate the depth of my appreciation for what has been said here today about me, about the family God has given me, and my gratitude for the kindness that all of you have shown in inconveniencing yourselves very substantially in being here to share this special moment with our family, and with the Court.
Until a few years ago, the members of the Court know, the custom here was to present the portrait of a former justice only after he had begun to enjoy his eternal reward. I’m assuming, of course, that the verb “enjoy” fits most of the time. Therefore, these ceremonies in the past were often in the nature of memorials. Some of you who are on the Court, and have been here, will remember there was often a sort of funereal mood pervasive in this chamber during those sessions. The close friends and the family of the deceased of the former justice would often leave sometimes sad and often weeping. Frankly, that may have been the better result than the one we risk today. That is, the possibility here that those who know me best will leave here laughing hilariously and incredulously at some of the soaring hyperbole that has emanated from my children, our children.
There were two other advantages to the old way; one, less speech, and of course there was no risk that the justice would stand up and promptly demonstrate that all the great things said about him were mistaken.
In the new way, the trick, I think, for the portraitee, is to keep everything in perspective. For me the proper perspective, members of the Court, and my dear friends, is summed up in a single word, and it’s gratitude. Gratitude for the great privilege of serving on this High Court for ten wonderful years.
My time here, as many of you know, ultimately became the capstone of twenty-two years of state judicial service. I loved the work here. The decisional process was intellectually stimulating, and it was professionally very gratifying. It is of course a lawyer’s dream, at least it was for me, to grapple each day with some of the most interesting, occasionally the most difficult, and sometimes even the most profound legal, and jurisprudentially significant issues that the people of Michigan through their attorneys could bring to us for final resolution. The glory of it, the lawyer’s dream, was that the task was to find the best answer, the truth, as we were best able to discern the truth, and to do so without regard to the interest of any client or the preference of any party.
Manifestly, no one deserves an appointment to this great Court. There are always countless lawyers in the State of Michigan who are immensely well qualified for Supreme Court service. Let there be no question about it, I sought the privilege of service in this Court, and I asked to be appointed. When the appointment came it was not for me to know why it came, and not for me to know why it did not come to countless other lawyers in Michigan, eminently well qualified. In my gratitude at being appointed to this great Court, however, it was enough for me to know that it was for some reason, one not revealed to me, a part of God’s inscrutable plan that I should work here, and I didn’t bother to ask Governor Milliken too many questions. But if ever I was tempted to think that I was chosen for service because I was the best qualified person available, I was disabused of that notion early on in an interesting way.
Shortly after being appointed to the Court, as you know, it was necessary that I stand for election in order to keep the seat. During that first campaign, the Muskegon Bar Association hosted a Supreme Court candidate’s night. The topic was, “Which Method of Supreme Court Selection Assures the Better Justice—Appointment or Election?” There were about eight Supreme Court candidates involved in that panel, one of whom was Zolton Ferency. I appeal now to the memory of Michigan’s “old timers” in this room; this tale will mean almost nothing to the newcomers.
I had argued before the Muskegon Bar with what I thought was great erudition for the proposition that on the whole, appointment of Supreme Court justices rather than their popular election, would probably produce on average better qualified justices. I, of course, had just been appointed by Governor Milliken, whose judicial appointment secretary, judicial appointment’s council, was then Miss Joyce Braithewaite, now Chief Justice BRICKLEY’S wife.
Zolton Ferency then rose to take his turn at the lectern on the subject and turning to me he said, “Justice RYAN, if you think intellectual horse power, learning in the law, and professional competence are the principal criteria when a Governor appoints a judge, you know very little about the politics of judicial appointments.” “Believe me,” he said, “I know what I’m talking about. I was John Swainson’s Joyce Braithewaite.” Well, I was forever grateful to Zolton for that humbling observation. I have really tried to remember it ever since.
My tenure here, Mr. Chief Justice, was twice extended by the people of Michigan, the electorate, and they were persuaded to send me back to this chamber very largely, I think, because of the generosity, and the hard work, and the love, and the support, one way or another, of nearly everyone in this room who labored with me through two statewide campaigns. I want all of you to know that I have not forgotten, and I’m very grateful. And I’m grateful too, to the lawyers and the judges whose hard work and whose best efforts generated the cases that were presented here for our review. Men and women whose love of the law was no less than mine, and whose arguments and judgments were no less insightful, no less wise than mine, and whose role in the administration of justice and commitment to justice I tried to remember was always no less important than mine. I’m grateful to the justices with whom I was privileged to serve.
Former Chief Justice THOMAS GILES KAVANAGH, who is here today, and MARY COLEMAN, and G. MENNEN WILLIAMS, and JOHN WARNER FITZGERALD, and Justices LARRY LINDEMER, and BLAIR MOODY, and including, of course, the presently seated Chief Justice JAMES BRICKLEY, and Justices CHARLES LEVIN, MICHAEL FRANCIS CAVANAGH, DOROTHY COMSTOCK RILEY, and PATRICIA BOYLE. These colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, taught me most of what I know about appellate judicial service. They also taught me the art of collegial decision making. The art of listening. They taught me how to disagree without being disagreeable, a skill, the mastery of which,