APRIL 22, 1980
CRIER: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, the Supreme Court of the State of Michigan is now in special session.
CHIEF JUSTICE COLEMAN: On behalf of my colleagues, all of us on the Michigan Supreme Court welcome you to this historic occasion. It is the first, the commencement of a tradition which I believe most sincerely will inure to the benefit not only of those in the legal profession, both the bench and bar, but of all of those in Michigan who may be interested in the history of our state and the development of its jurisprudence, and those who sincerely wish to know.
We have for a long while had a dream of acquiring portraits of former Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court to hold in trust for the people of the state. The tradition of giving portraits of the Justices to the state which long paralleled, I might say, that of giving portraits of the Governors to the state, lapsed during the 1930s, during the great depression, so it came to us that we have a large gap between the portraits of Justices a hundred years ago and off and on until the thirties and today when we have received none in recent history. So we started first to try to obtain the portraits of the last four Chief Justices not sitting on the Court at this time and this is the occasion for our celebration today. The portrait of LELAND W. CARR will be presented to the Court. Before I ask for comments from others, I would like to introduce two of our former Justices–Justice SOURIS and Justice LINDEMER who are here: would you stand. I think probably everybody knows you and we are pleased to have you with us. I also note that Judge Earl McDonald is here. We are pleased to have you here. Is there some other judge who has come in whom I have not noted? We are most pleased that you are here. Also our past president of the bar, Leo Farhat, is present.
I would like to call at this time upon the present president of the State Bar, Ivan Barris.
MR. BARRIS: Thank you Madam Chief Justice, honorable Justices of the Supreme Court, present and past, members of the family of Justice CARR, including his widow and children, and all of the friends and acquaintances, and other individuals who have come today on this very happy occasion.
On behalf of the State Bar of Michigan and its approximately 19,000 members, it is a singular honor to appear on this occasion when we are going to do appropriate honor to one of our finest former Chief Justices. While Chief Justice CARR, I understand, retired in 1963 and I commenced practice in 1954, I am sorry to say that unfortunately I did not know him personally but from all I have heard about him, and after all what is better than a good reputation, he was, indeed, a marvelous individual and an excellent scholar. While it is true that I did not have the honor and privilege of knowing the Chief Justice, I did have the occasion as far back as 1949 to know his son who is here of course today, Lee Carr, Jr. We both attended the University of Michigan Law School from 1949 to 1951. Therefore, I am going to, at least on this occasion, subscribe to the proposition that the acorn does not fall far from the tree. Now let me clarify my remarks. I have found Lee Carr, Jr., to be a man of high integrity and superior intellect and I would assume that he has come from a very sturdy oak tree indeed in the form of his father, but lest I be misunderstood and possibly tarred and feathered by the ladies present here, I am sure that part of Lee Jr.’s success is attributable to his most gracious mother whom I have had the pleasure just a few minutes ago of meeting. Now without further adieu, I want to say that it is indeed an honor to be here as well as a personal privilege on this occasion, which I hope will set a precedent for the years to come in honoring Chief Justices of our Court. Thank you very much.
CHIEF JUSTICE COLEMAN: Thank you, Mr. Barris. At this time we had thought that Wallace Riley, who is President of the Michigan Bar Foundation, might be with us. Unfortunately he could not at the last moment, but he has called to ask me to inform all of you that the foundation has established by a vote of the board of trustees a special fund to assist in obtaining portraits to add to the present collection. Aside from the four former Chief Justices we now have in our possession (or almost), there are sixteen other Justices whose portraits we do not have, so the foundation has established by resolution a fund which is called the Justice Portrait Fund. The resolution of the board expressed a desire of the foundation to use any contributions made to the fund in coordination with the efforts of the Supreme Court in furtherance of this same purpose. Mr. Riley said that the foundation would be pleased to receive contributions for general purposes, or if earmarked for financing a specific portrait of a former Justice, that this wish would be complied with. I simply take this opportunity to announce this here on this first occasion, our precedent-setting occasion, concerning former Chief Justice LELAND W. CARR.
MR. LELAND W. CARR, JR.: Chief Justice COLEMAN, members of the Court, I take great pleasure in having the opportunity to present my family to the Court, remembering that it was 30 years ago now that my father presented me to this Court for admission to the bar so I think I am more pleasured than he in being able to do this and more grateful to this Court than any of you can possibly imagine that you are resurrecting the portraits of the Justices, because the old courtroom to me had great personality because of those and the new courtroom none, and maybe we can get a happy combination built through this device.
This is my mother sitting here, 43 years her husband on the bench in one capacity or another and she still survives, which I think speaks pretty well for this business. My beautiful wife Dorothy, my physician-sister Ruth Carney, my baby down on the end there, Charlotte. This is Clarence Rosa who is married to my pretty sister there in the middle, Clarice, and their daughter Laurie. I have got Victor Anderson and his wife Miriam here as partners with me and friends of my father, and back here at this table, looking pensive, is the secretary who has to put up with all of us, Marjorie Archer. Thank you, so much.
CHIEF JUSTICE COLEMAN: Very important people. We are simply delighted, I think I can say for all of us, especially to have both Mrs. Carrs with us as a matter of fact today. It has been a matter of deep gratification to me and a pleasure to speak with Leland Carr, Jr., and to understand his interest in what we are attempting to do and his willingness to give us our very first portrait to add to our collection. This gift means a great deal to all of us.
I would like to speak a moment about Justice CARR. He was a big man, big in many ways. He was large in stature. To those who knew him well, he had a big heart. His mind had a broad compass, his scholarship a wide reach, and his knowledge of Michigan law was indeed encyclopedic. His mastery of the law grew out of a keen and fertile mind that was steeped in love of the law and enriched by long experience in applying, teaching, and interpreting the law.
An admiring colleague once credited Justice CARR with knowing the substance of all 36,000 cases that had been decided by the Supreme Court at the time of his leaving in 1963. The Reports tell us that Justice CARR came to the Supreme Court after 24 years on the circuit bench of Ingham County and that in 18 years on this Court he wrote over 700 opinions and participated in 4,000 more. Now these are staggering figures in the sense of sheer quantity of judicial product. They provide abundant evidence of his vigor but they hardly begin to tell the story of this remarkable jurist.
Close friends and many of the fine attorneys he educated in the law attest that the law was truly Justice CARR’S life. The law yielded in importance only to his family. He indulged in no hobbies, unless his penchant for strolling in downtown Lansing could be so considered. For several years in the 1930’s, after presiding at trials during the normal work day, Judge CARR spent two nights or more per week, from 7 to 11 p.m., conducting the equivalent of a private law school. Those were times when a young man or woman could prepare for a career in the law by, as the saying goes, “reading law” under the supervision of a practicing attorney or judge. It was the common course in professional preparation. Abraham Lincoln, of course, is a fabled example. At times Judge CARR proctored as many as 25 or 30 embryo attorneys studying nights for four years to ready themselves to take the bar examination. This around-the-clock immersion in the law and its affairs was coupled in Judge CARR with a phenomenal memory. This was one of his outstanding traits. However thoroughly a counselor had re-researched his case for trial, it often happened that the judge would recall and cite a relevant decision that had been overlooked. Like the schoolmaster he was after hours, Judge CARR would peer down from the bench and gently inquire if the attorney had taken its meaning into account.
While he served on the bench Judge CARR kept handy in the courtroom a set of the Michigan Reports and he referred to them often. During trial, Judge CARR maintained a strict courtroom decorum. His standards were well known among members of the bar. There was no flouting of authority and none was necessary. He had the feel of a good judge for the dignity of the law but this is not to say that he lacked compassion, for he did not. His manner normally was one of quiet and reserve, his style of firmness tempered with gentleness. The late Justice DETHMERS said of him, “He was given to mercy, kindness, and to the application, certainly, of equitable principles as well as the strict statutory or judicially determined law.”
Judge CARR’s reputation was fashioned in the traditional mold of respect for judicial precedent, always with due regard for the principle of separation of powers in government. In his early years before following the law Judge CARR took a hand at teaching – first in Michigan and then in Nevada. His talent as an educator was if anything enhanced over the years. It is an honor, then, for me on behalf of the Supreme Court and the people of Michigan to accept from his son Leland W. Carr, Jr., this portrait of a great predecessor as Chief Justice and to welcome its addition to a collection that now numbers in the fifties. Our plan calls for the hanging of Judge CARR’s portrait along with those of other recent former Chief Justices still to be presented on the walls of this very hearing room in which you sit. Will you please unveil the portrait.
(The portrait was unveiled by the court officer.)
This is a portrait that Roy Gamble painted and we are so very pleased that Lee Carr felt that he could part with it from the walls of his office and give us the honor of placing it in this courtroom.
I have a few closing observations to make. If anybody else wants to say anything, feel welcome of course, but I want to tell you that not only are we trying to obtain the portraits of successors to Chief Justice CARR, but we also are in a program now of restoring those older portraits which we have. There are some, as I mentioned, which are over 100 years old and they have been covered with grime and wax until you could hardly recognize the portraits. We now have completed the restoration of 10 of those portraits. This is done of course with the assistance of the Michigan Historical Commission and various other people. I might say that Roger Lane, my executive assistant, has been very prominent in seeing that this program is carried forth but we do have the 10 already restored; some of them are hanging in the chief justice’s conference room. They have been sent to Cooperstown, New York, the frames have been restored, and they are beautiful. They look as if they are new portraits. This is just the beginning of a tradition and I am again most grateful to all of you for being here today and helping us in this commencement.
You know there is always a little whispering going on up here–those of you who have tried cases–you don’t know what we are talking about, but in this case it is the suggestion that I insist that we hear something from former Justices SOURIS and LINDEMER. First former Justice SOURIS. Justice LINDEMER, you can prepare while he is speaking. I am so glad you are here.
JUSTICE SOURIS: Chief Justice COLEMAN, members of the Court, Mrs. Carr, Leland, and members of the Carr family. Before you called upon me, Chief Justice COLEMAN, I turned to former Justice LINDEMER and whispered to him something I would like to share with the rest of you.
We never called him “Leland”, it was always “Mr. Chief Justice” as it should have been, as it was. I can remember very vividly the day of Chief Justice CARR’s retirement from the bench. It was a moving day for all of us, notwithstanding the frictions that exist in a collegial court that deals with such significant problems as does this Court. Notwithstanding the philosophical differences that developed over the years, there was always a sense of respect and cordiality between us.
I went to him at the end of our conference on the day of his retirement and as we walked out of the room, I tried to express to him the feelings of regret I had in seeing him depart. In my own way, I said something like this, “Mr. Chief Justice, while we were together I always knew that every word I wrote would be subject to your careful scrutiny and that knowledge acted as a restraint upon me that with your departure I no longer will have.” I added that I felt very uncomfortable with the knowledge that the only restraint remaining would be self-restraint. Justice CARR, who was a very large man, put his arms around me and, looking down at me, responded, “Mr. Justice Souris, don’t you think it is time you called me Leland?”
CHIEF JUSTICE COLEMAN: That is a beautiful story. I am so glad someone whispered into my ear. Justice LINDEMER, would you care to make a remark?
JUSTICE LINDEMER: Madam Chief Justice and honorable members of the Court: I regret that having been given this extensive period of preparation, I really cannot come up with any great stories. I knew Mr. Justice CARR more, really, from seeing him walk in Lansing than from practice before him and, of course, I never served with him. A man of kindness, as you pointed out, always willing to pass constructively the time of day, and I am grateful with the rest of you, to Mrs. Carr and to Lee, for the donation of this portrait and I am honored to have been here.
CHIEF JUSTICE COLEMAN: That is a hard one to top. Those remarks were beautiful though. Mr. Farhat, would you care to speak? I don’t want to cut anybody off, but I don’t want to impose on you either.
MR. FARHAT: Madame Chief Justice, I had no intentions of speaking but having been invited, I can’t overcome the invitation. Of course we now live in the house on Chestnut Street that was occupied by members of some of the first families in Lansing and I recall, after we moved into the house, seeing Chief Justice CARR walk down our street as he had from so many years before and what I recall about him, since I started practicing here in Ingham County long after he had taken his position on the Supreme Court, was his soft voice, that very, very much belied the stern reputation that he had when he was a member of the circuit court in Ingham County. But sternness was only a facade for Chief Justice CARR. We also learned from the people who practiced in front of him that he was a very kind, he was a very gentle man, and he was very, very solicitous about young lawyers. One of the things I regret, and I am sure he didn’t, was the fact that I started my practice and I was trained by the circuit judges after he left the bench, probably sparing him many, many bad days in the circuit court. But I am pleased to have been invited here. My relationship and friendship with Lee, his son, goes back many years and I am very pleased to be a part of this program and I thank you very much for the invitation.
CHIEF JUSTICE COLEMAN: Thank you. I note also that Mr. Born, who is President of the Ingham County Bar Association, is here. I would like to have you address us.
MR. BORN: Chief Justice COLEMAN, members of the Court. On behalf of the Ingham County Bar, thank you for the invitation. I think I have a privilege here that I don’t think anybody else shares. When I came to town in 1957, I contacted Chief Justice CARR and interviewed him for a job, and he offered me a job, so I don’t think there is anyone else that has had that opportunity. He did, however, say to me, knowing that I wanted to practice law, that I had to wait either two weeks or a month and look for other employment and I fortunately found other employment so I did not accept the job. But I consider it an honor to have had that offer back in 1957 and thank you for being invited.
CHIEF JUSTICE COLEMAN: Thank you very much. I would note just a couple of other people who are here. One is our Solicitor General Bob Derengoski, and I think Mike Franck is back there from the State Bar. Thank you for being here.
We are going to conclude on this high note of grateful appreciation for the life of Mr. Chief Justice LELAND W. CARR and for the generosity of his son and his family. We will have a reception in the outer lobby and we will speak to you more personally at that time. Thank all of you who are here.
CRIER: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, this special session of the Michigan Supreme Court now stands adjourned.