MAY 8, 2002
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Good afternoon. And welcome to this very special session of the Michigan Supreme Court because today is the final session of oral arguments here in the Law Building courtroom. I would like to especially welcome many members of the audience here. May I begin with special guests Patricia Boyle, we’re glad to see you Justice Boyle. Justice John Fitzgerald, we’re glad to see you. Former Chief Justice Brennan, happy to have you here. Chief Judge Robert Danhoff, former chief judge of the Court of Appeals. Our colleague, Bill Whitbeck, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals. Charles Levin, former Justice of this Court. Judge Kirsten Frank-Kelly of the Court of Appeals and Christopher Murray of the Court of Appeals and our former colleague Ray Roman Gribbs of the Court of Appeals. We thank you judges for being with us here this afternoon. I also especially welcome and we’ll be hearing shortly from former Chief Justice Dorothy Comstock Riley. We’re very happy to see you here this afternoon Dorothy. Did I miss any former Justices? I would also like to welcome our speakers this afternoon. I see we have representing the legislative branch Senator Walter North and Representative Jim Howell and we welcome you here this afternoon. I also see State Bar President Bruce Neckers here to represent the State Bar of Michigan and I thought I saw Solicitor General Thomas Casey, hello Solicitor General Casey, representing the Attorney General whose office has brought so many cases here. Larry Nolan who is the treasurer of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, we thank you. And Dr. Green from First Presbyterian Church who has been the Court’s neighbor for so many years, we welcome you here this afternoon.
Thirty-two years ago this Court held a ceremony to close the courtroom that was in use in our state capitol. One of the speakers on that day was Thomas Schweigert, then the president pro tern of the Michigan Senate. He brought with him the good wishes of the Legislature and the hope that the G. Mennen Williams Building would only be the temporary headquarters of this Court. Could any of the people who were present at that ceremony thirty-two years ago know that this Court would remain here for over three decades? But in a few months we will finally have a long-awaited permanent home in the Hall of Justice and we understand from the survey we have been doing that we may be one of the last two remaining courts in the United States not to have its own court building. In October Pennsylvania will have that lone honor and Michigan will at last join the other 49 states in having its own home for its state judiciary.
When the Court moved from the capitol to this building it brought something old with it here and Dave Palazzolo, I would like you to point, if you would Dave, to the case law board so that everybody can see it. This is a relic from our Court’s past. Before we could broadcast proceedings on the P.A. system or a video monitor, this board kept those waiting for oral argument advised about how case law was proceeding. The crier would down numbers as the cases were heard. Nobody knows exactly old it is, but it’s safe to say the generations of lawyers and their clients have kept a watch on this board. Why are we taking the case call board with us since technology has made it obsolete? Because it reminds us that the Court is a continuous and a living institution. It has a valued past which this was a part of. And because it is a human institution the Court changes and sometimes it outgrows some of its outward trappings.
So it is good for us to remember, even as we approach our move to the Hall of Justice, that the life of a court is not in a building. It’s in the people who come here seeking justice, and it’s in all of us who work here. Even as we move to a beautiful building we hope will stand for the rest of this Court’s future we realize especially after September 11 just how fragile democracy and system of law is. We are its life blood and cannot sit idly by and expect democracy and the rule of law flourish.
Let me begin then by calling on Bruce Neckers, president of the State Bar of Michigan who will speak to us this afternoon on behalf of the Bar.
MR. NECKERS: Thank you Chief Justice Corrigan, may it please the Court and distinguished guests. Frances Bacon wrote in Of Judicature, the place of justice is a hallowed place. On September 11 we were reminded in the most searing way the importance of place pales in comparison to any one of the lives it shelters. That the magnificence of the grandest building counts for nothing compared to the courage and selflessness of which the human spirit is capable. But we also were reminded of what powerful symbols buildings can be of our achievement and aspirations, of what we value, of who we are and who we hope to become. That is why over the last few years we have celebrated together each step in our progress towards the first building devoted exclusively to the judiciary in Michigan judicial history. We celebrated the passage of the Appropriations Act in the middle of the night. The signing of the bill, the groundbreaking, the beam signing, and now this. The closing of what has served as the Supreme Court’s temporary headquarters for the last thirty years.
It does not even take the three minutes that I have been given to express the sentiment that I imagine is uppermost in the minds of everyone who has spent any time in this building. Thank goodness this day has finally come. At any given moment in history I suppose there are always more important problems to solve in the justice system than the inadequacies of the physical facility in which the business of justice takes place. But it is nonetheless important because buildings do serve as a symbol of the importance which the public places in the judiciary of this state.
In preparing for what I was going to say today, I looked for what the State Bar of Michigan’s president would have said in 1971. He said, as far as I know, nothing. But what I found was this single reference in the April edition of the 1971 Bar Journal Directory. It said that as of April 1 the address of the Supreme Court of Michigan would be, and I quote, Second Floor, seven story building, Lansing, Michigan 48901. How inspiring. So let me say simply this, notwithstanding some of it homely and practical deficiencies, this facility has indeed been hallowed ground by virtue of its purpose and the people within it.
In addition to the succession of distinguished Justices who have served in these chambers over the last three decades, this building has seen some of the most distinguished practitioners of our profession working their craft on this side of the bench. Dramatic changes have occurred in our practice of law and in the judiciary in the last 30 years. We can certainly celebrate undeniable progress in opening our profession and this Court to those who previously were systematically or culturally excluded from its ranks, and we pledge our best efforts to preserving and extending that progress. Although the facilities may seem inadequate, our system of justice has survived very well during the 30 years we have spent here. While your decisions may not have always been correct and the people on this side of the bar may not have been all that eloquent, over the last thirty years litigants from the poorest to the richest, from those living in the darkest cells to those living in the greatest splendor, for those with the least power to those with the most power, have followed what you’ve told them to do as the supreme law of this state. Whether here or in greater quarters, we can only pray that we will do justice because that’s what makes this a hallowed place.
Members of the Court, on behalf of the State of Michigan’s 34,000 practicing lawyers and as president of the State Bar of Michigan, I am honored to present to this Court an engraved gavel commemorating this occasion, the closing of the courtroom on the Second Floor of the G. Mennen Williams Building for the time capsule to be placed in the Hall of Justice and to say to you that we look forward with the greatest anticipation to that time in October when we can join you in your new quarters just that way. Thank you very much.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you Mr. Neckers. Thank you, on behalf of the Court I accept this gavel. Thank you. Next we will hear from Senator Walter North who is the chair of the Senate Appropriates Subcommittee.
This is Senate Resolution No. 219 and it was offered by the leadership of both sides of the aisle in our chamber. Senator DeGrow and Senator Cherry. It’s a resolution to commemorate the Michigan Supreme Court’s thirty-two years of service in the G. Mennen Williams building.
Whereas the Michigan Constitution of 1835 provided for a Supreme Court, the judges of which were to be appointed by the Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and whereas the Constitution of 1908 provided for the elections of the Justices at non-partisan elections: and whereas the Constitution of 1963 provides that “The judicial power of the state is vested exclusively in one court of justice which shall be divided into one Supreme Court, one Court of Appeals, one trial court of general jurisdiction known as the circuit court, one probate court and courts of limited jurisdictions, that the Legislature may establish by a 2/3 vote of the members elected to and serving in each house”; and whereas the people of the State of Michigan have designated the Michigan Supreme Court as the highest court in the state hearing cases appealed to it from other state courts; and whereas the Justices of the Supreme Court have met and heard cases in the G. Mennen Williams Building since 1970, including twenty-six Justices who represent 1/4 of all Michigan Supreme Court Justices; and whereas approximately 63,000 matters have been filed with the Supreme Court and eighty-three volumes of its opinions were issued during those thirty-two years; and whereas the Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in many of Michigan’s most significant cases in the G. Mennen Williams Building and has rendered many of the Court’s most important decisions while residing there; and whereas May 8, 2002, is the final day of oral arguments in the G. Mennen Williams Building as the Supreme Court prepares to move to the new Michigan Hall of Justice: now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate that we hereby commemorate the Michigan Supreme Court’s thirty-two years of distinguished service in the G. Mennen Williams Building and recognize the end of an important era in Michigan judicial history and be it further resolved that a copy of this Resolution be transmitted to Chief Justice Maura Corrigan as a symbol of our esteem. Adopted by the Senate May 7, 2002.
And just as a sideline, my grandfather, who I am named for, was sitting on this bench and was Chief Justice on three different occasions and he ended his service in 1952, fifty years ago. So when I went into the Supreme Court chambers to see him preside, it was over in the 3rd Floor of the Capitol, and now that’s the Senate Appropriations Committee, and that brings me to my next subject. I left an Appropriations Committee to come over here, so I will be leaving right after I present this Resolution to you, Justice Corrigan, but never to fear, we passed the judicial budget on general orders earlier before I came over here.
JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you so much Senator North, thank you, we really appreciate this. And we feel a special connection to you in light of your family history and we thank you for being with us this afternoon. Let me now call upon Representative Jim Howell, chair of the House Committee on Civil Law and Judiciary and Representative Howell is also a lawyer. We welcome you this afternoon.
REPRESENTATIVE HOWELL: May it please the court, good afternoon Chief Justice and Justices, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen. I am honored to represent the Michigan House of Representatives on this special occasion. As a former police officer, attorney, and now the chairman of the Civil Law and Judiciary Committee, I have a great appreciation for the people who make up our justice system and help our society to function properly. Each of you play an important role in promoting justice, security and stability in our great state. As many of you know, it was more than thirty years ago that the Supreme Court moved out of the Capitol into what is now known as the G. Mennen Williams Building.
Between the late 1800s when our capitol was constructed, and 1970 when the Supreme Court moved into this building, Michigan grew tremendously. By 1970 there was not enough room in the Capitol to accommodate the other branches and the offices of our judicial system. For years now the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the State Court Administrator’s Office, the Supreme Court Commissioners and other court operations have been scattered around in eight different buildings. Consequently our courts have had to contend with built-in inefficiencies. Sending files or paperwork from one office to another or convening meetings involving people from several different buildings can be difficult, time consuming and especially difficult in the dead of Michigan winters. Additionally Michigan has had to pay millions of dollars in rental fees for seven of the eight buildings its justice system uses. Clearly the verdict is in. It makes sense to consolidate our operations in one building. In fact, by some estimates it would cost the state at least $200 million over the next twenty-five years to continue renting space. In the long term this is a savings for the people of this great state and one that will allow upgrading of our Court of Justice.
Consider this. Michigan has been a state for 165 years and the Supreme Court has occupied the same building for thirty-two years. Maybe that doesn’t seem long but a lot can happen in three decades. Many important court decisions have taken place here. We are rightfully proud of our courts, its employees, and the judges and Justices that have been selected by our citizens to serve. As a society becomes more complex its issues develop and evolve as competing interests, continue to assert their constitutional rights, the workload of our judiciary will grow heavier. It is essential that our judges and their support staff have the most efficient facilities possible to carry out their important duties. And while the G. Mennen Williams Building has served us well its time has come and gone. In a few short months Michigan will consolidate its state judicial operations in the beautiful new Hall of Justice.
As we close this session of the Court for one final time in this building let me take this opportunity to thank all of the dedicated men and women of Michigan’s justice system for your hard work and commitment. Thank you for your dedication and good luck with your upcoming move. I look forward to touring your new home. At this point I would ask, if it please the Court, I would ask permission to retire because I have duties to attend to in the Michigan House of Representatives. Thank you.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you, thank you so much Representative Howell and we appreciate your presence here. Thank you. Next I would like to call on Solicitor General Thomas Casey who is representing the Executive Branch here this afternoon and we think it’s very fitting that your office is here as your office participated in the last oral argument today. Mr. Casey.
MR CASEY: Good afternoon Chief Justice Corrigan, associate Justices, members of the judiciary and honored guests. It is appropriate that the last case argued in this building involved a state agency as one of the parties and the Attorney General as counsel because of the frequency in which the state appears as a party in this Court. Given the frequency with which the state is a litigant, it’s rare that there’s a case call these days in which we don’t appear at least once and have one argument.
I understand that the Court has had 63,000 applications since 1970 when it moved into this building. I don’t know how many of those cases involved the state. I was unable to check our records, we don’t keep records in that detail, but I was able to run a computer check and learn that since 1970 Attorney General Frank Kelley and Attorney General Jennifer Granholm appear as counsel of record in over 2,000 published opinions issued by this Court.
Many of those are criminal cases handled by county prosecutors but there have been thousands of applications that have been handled by our office on behalf of state agencies, the state and the state officers and hundreds of cases on the merits involving almost every area of importance to the jurisprudence of the state from administrative law to zoning. We’ve handled cases in areas such as apportionment several times every decade, cases involving civil rights, certified questions from state courts, federal courts, the Legislature, court funding cases, criminal cases, our office handles criminal appeals from over fifty counties. We handle environmental cases, cases involving challenges to the executive power of the Governor, insurance cases, Headlee cases, tax cases, utility regulation, workers compensation and of course there’s the perennial problem of governmental immunity from tort liability.
I have been in the appellate division of the Attorney General for twenty-seven years and I have been present in this courtroom for most of the arguments that members of our staff have presented for those twenty-seven years. And I have had the honor of presenting more than a dozen oral arguments myself. I have presented arguments before all of the Justices whose portraits hang on these walls except I believe Justice Brennan, so I see a lot of familiar faces on the walls and here in the audience as well. So I personally have a lot of memories in this courtroom and I’m going to miss it when you leave.
I would, before I close, like to thank Corbin Davis and his staff in the Clerk’s office. They have provided many, many years of very friendly and extremely helpful service to my staff and this Court and I think the Bar in general is very well served by that office.
In closing I would like to thank the Court for the experiences our office has had, and for the memories that the Court is going to leave behind here. But now as the Court moves ahead I’m sure we will continue to share new experiences and will continue to see a great deal of each other as we work together to defend the Constitution and laws of the state, pursue justice and serve the people of the State of Michigan. On behalf of Attorney General Jennifer Granholm and the Executive Branch we wish you good luck and extend our best wishes as you move into the new Hall of Justice.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you so much Solicitor Casey, thank you for being with us. I would like to recognize a couple of other people in the audience that I neglected. I see Lucille Taylor, the Governor’s legal counsel is present, we welcome you Lucille. John Berry, Executive Director of the State Bar of Michigan, and I see retired Judge Terrence Boyle in the back, welcome Terry. I wanted to introduce Al Lynch, our chief commissioner. AI, if you could be recognized, who has been with the Court for many, many years and lately has announced his decision to take early retirement. He will be one of about 30 of our judicial branch employees taking early retirement. Al we welcome you here, and our legal counsel Michael Gadola is in the audience as well. Mike. At this time I would like to call on our colleague and our senior Justice at this time, Michael Cavanagh, for his remarks, and Justice Cavanagh has presided on behalf of the Court over the Hall of Justice project, so I call on him this time for his remarks.
JUSTICE CAVANAGH: Thank you Chief, and thanks to each of you who has taken the time to join us here this afternoon. I see an awful lot of familiar faces out there. And I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to say here this afternoon. After all, the Court isn’t going out of business and the Justices certainly aren’t staging a mass retirement. The only thing that really will change is the setting and I got thinking, well not just the setting. The new Hall of Justice of course will provide us the opportunity to work together in ways that are far more efficient and effective. But that will happen in October. Today it is this room that is our focus.
In recent months I had the opportunity to spend a good deal of time thinking about the learning center that will be located on the first floor of our new Hall of Justice. This pioneering exhibit, unlike any in the country, will provide Michigan citizens, young and old, an opportunity to learn about our system of justice. So wait until October. When you see it I’m sure you’ll be just as excited about it as we are. In the meantime, however, we still have many groups of school kids who troop through and visit this courtroom. We see them come and go and sometimes one of the Justices takes a turn as a tour guide. You know a few years ago a fellow made a little money publishing a book with a title along the lines of Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Well thinking about this courtroom and our young visitors, perhaps everything we need to know about this room is visible right in front of our eyes. Maybe like our young visitors we just need to take a minute and look around.
We sit here between the flag of the United States and the flag of the State of Michigan. We are mindful of the constitutional rights granted by our system of law and we understand that this Court exists by the grace of the people. We live in a free nation ever jealous of our liberties. And we live in a state where the most prominent word on our flag is tu ebor—I will defend. Our job here is to preserve and defend that liberty.
Look at these chairs. This is pretty good stuff. Leather, high back. If you don’t think they’re comfortable, ask my good friend Chuck Levin. Personally I don’t think he ever fell asleep back here listening to argument after lunch on a warm afternoon, but then again I often find myself in a minority. But as nice as these chairs are, look at these nameplates. Here today, gone tomorrow. This is $2.00 stuff from Office Max. Because these jobs do not belong to us. We are place-holders. The people of Michigan ask us to sit here for a short time and then we are to leave. A Justice of this Court has no personal mandate to forge a better world. Our job is simply to do justice, to follow the law, occasionally to make some law as we are required to do under our common law system, and to do this job as well as we can, each day, until another comes to take our place.
In the back are some pews. This courtroom, obviously, is a public place just like the District Court in St. Ignace. Anyone is free to walk in and sit down. And we hear our cases in the open and not just for people who can come to Lansing. Hidden in plain view are three cameras that we long ago stopped noticing. Back up in the corners, up high, and over here above the crier. Through our friends at MGTV our arguments are seen allover the state, which is fitting I think since what we do here certainly affects persons throughout Michigan. So there is a lot of history here. And as the Chief Justice mentioned, that case call board behind the crier carne from the Capitol and will go with us to the new Hall of Justice.
Up front we have a table for appellants. This is a court of last resort. Think about that phrase for moment. Whether one situation falls on a civil docket or on the criminal side, think what it means to be down to your last chance. Appellants come here scared but hopeful. They believe in their cause and they believe in us or they would not be here. And over here sit the appellees. They did not ask to come here. They believe that justice has already been done. They ask for our restraint. They ask us to engage in that sometimes terribly difficult exercise of not making a new ruling. They too are scared but hopeful. And in the middle is the podium. From that spot the lawyers address us. This central location is a perfect symbol for the importance of attorneys in the appellate process. A judge is not a knight errant roaming the countryside in search of injustices to right, a judge decides only questions properly presented during a case or controversy. Even within a case we decide only the questions put to us by the lawyers. And no judge can ever doubt the powerful impact that good advocacy can have in shaping the decision in a particular matter. Many more lawyers than judges pass through this room, but without the lawyers we would be nowhere.
And lastly, let me encourage you to look around the walls. We swear our oath to follow the Constitution and the law and we do our very best. But this is a court of individual personalities. Always has been, always will be. Look at these twelve faces and remember what each brought here. We could sit here for an hour telling stories about each of them, and maybe two hours with Chuck. As a kid I practically grew up in the house of Thomas Giles back there on the wall, known as Thomas the Good. And look at the other three giants of Michigan law back there with him. Soapy Williams elected governor six times, and then a justice for longer than he was governor. Mary Coleman, our first woman justice. Thomas Emmett Brennan, that shy, withdrawn figure and founder of the Thomas Cooley Law School and the Chief Justice that presided over the Court’s departure from the Capitol and its arrival in this building. And down this wall are four outstanding lawyers. James Leo Ryan, our loss and Cincinnati’s gain. Patty Boyle and Chuck Levin, as fine a two-person debating society as I ever hope to hear. And Bob Griffin, who brought wisdom gained in the United States Senate. Over here Blair Moody, taken from us while still young. Dennis Archer, to be the first African-American president of the American Bar Association. The magnificent Dorothy Comstock Riley who will speak in a few minutes, and John Fitzgerald whose family has served this state generation after generation. That is his father, Governor Frank D. Fitzgerald, in the portrait within the portrait. So many stories. So many compelling individuals. Of course other Justices sat in this room. As it was mentioned, 26 in all. Besides those on the bench today and those on the walls of this room, I have been blessed to share this bench with two fine Justices, Jim Brickley and Conrad Mallett. And we leave here today noting a segment of this Court’s history. In the Hall of Justice these nameplates will reappear, though only for a while. Others will come later, just as others came before us.
It has been observed that over half the cases filed in the history of this Court were presented to us while we sat in this building. And that our published opinions here fill some 83 volumes of the Michigan Reports. Those are just numbers though. It has likewise been observed that some famous cases were argued here. Mr. Kevorkian’s cases. Baby Jessica. Decennial rounds of apportionment. The Poletown condemnation case. Several visits of the Headlee litigation concerning the schools. And we once held oral argument in the even on an emergency election case that captured everyone’s attention for a week and is now long forgotten. That all happened here. But those cases are no more important than the next one that the clerk will take over the counter tomorrow.
The measure of this Court is its ability to do justice every day for great and small alike. I would like to think that by and large we succeeded here and I would like to think that the people of Michigan agree. The Supreme Court of Michigan conducted its business in the Capitol Building for many years, and even worked without a fixed home for some years before that. As has been mentioned, since 1970, for these thirty-two years in this temporary location we have been slowly making our way west. From the Capitol to the Hall of Justice. Today we take another step in that journey. Thank you Madam Chief Justice.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you Justice Cavanagh. Appreciate your remarks. Our final speaker this afternoon will be the Honorable Dorothy Comstock Riley, former Justice of this Court. Justice Riley has been, with Justice Cavanagh, one of those so instrumental in helping the Hall of Justice to come about, and because of her will and determination we will be moving into the Hall of Justice come October. We thank Dorothy for her will and for what she has given us in the years since her retirement to help bring about the Hall of Justice.
JUSTICE RILEY: I’d like to thank Chief Justice Corrigan for selecting me to represent the Justices of this Court this afternoon. With the help of the Chair of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, Wallace Riley, I have prepared some remarks that I have asked Larry Nolan, Treasurer of the Michigan Historical Society to deliver for me today. Thank you.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you Chief Justice Riley and we welcome your remarks which will be delivered by Larry Nolan of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society.
MR. NOLAN: Lawrence Patrick Nolan. My first recollection of having come to his building is as a prospective law student with long hair where I walked down the hallway to then talk to Justice Brennan, who had founded the law school but hadn’t started a class yet, to thank him for the opportunity to go to law school. I told him that I would never forget that opportunity and he told me to get a haircut. You can see I listened to him then and I continued to listen to his wise consult. It’s nice to see him here today. My second trip was in a state police uniform as a security guard for the Court of Appeals where I worked for three years while I went to law school nights. And so you know it is with great pleasure as well as an honor, and I’m quite humbled to be asked by Justice Riley in receiving a phone call here a couple of weeks ago, to deliver her remarks. And so I am very honored to do that on behalf of Justice Riley, who I have always had a great, great deal of admiration and respect for. Justice Riley served in the Michigan Supreme Court from 1982 to 1983, as we know, and again in 1985 through 1997. She was Chief Justice of this Honorable Court from 1988 through 1991.
[Remarks of the Honorable Dorothy Comstock Riley]
Madam Chief Justice, Justices, former Justices, judges, representatives of the Executive and Legislative branches, fellow lawyers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It is indeed an honor to be summoned from retirement to participate in a significant milestone in this Court’s history. It’s an honor which could well have been given, and so I shall pretend to share it, to any of the nine other living former justices who served on this bench in this courtroom. In fact one of those nine other Justices, the 81st Justice, Chief Justice Thomas E. Brennan, has had some familiarity with closing a courtroom because he presided on March 3, 1970 when the Supreme Court chambers in the Capitol Building were closed.
For the past thirty-two years these walls have listened to oral arguments presented to the 24 Justices who over those years in varying panels of seven, have held court here. Before that, for 90 years this Court officed in the Capitol and held oral arguments in the old Supreme Court chambers in the Capitol Building. Before that the Court had no permanent courtroom and in fact the first session of the territorial Supreme Court on July 29, 1805 was held at the house of Detroit resident James May.
But this isn’t just another closing of a courtroom day, and certainly not just another soon to be moving day. When the Court closed the old Supreme Court chambers in 1970 it was not to move to new quarters in a new Supreme Court building, but rather to a floor in one-sixth of a new law building. The judicial branch was no longer sharing with the legislative branch in the Capitol Building, but was now sharing with the executive branch in the Law Building. However, hope for a separate Michigan Supreme Court building was not gone, and for the next fourteen years of the Governor Milliken administration, followed by eight years of the Governor Blanchard administration, efforts continued.
So what is so special about this courtroom closing today. It is special because it precedes the move into the judicial branch’s new Hall of Justice. From the bottom of my grateful heart today I thank Governor John Engler for his steadfast support of the concept of a new Hall of Justice.
You know, my first vision involved the building of two or three buildings as a judicial complex with the first to be built being a Supreme Court building to stand as a symbol of justice for the people of Michigan. However, the Governor believed we could have it all and have the whole complex in one building which would stand as Michigan’s Hall of Justice. That was a concept beginning in the Engler administration in the early 1990s and now ten years later this closing and the upcoming move.
In the interim task, the task proceeded under the able stewardship of my successor Chief Justices, Michael F. Cavanagh, James H. Brickley, Conrad L. Mallett Jr., Elizabeth A. Weaver and Maura D. Corrigan. Each of these Chief Justices offered special momentum to the project. Justice Cavanagh is serving as chair of the review committee which meets every other month to oversee the work of the Albert Kahn Architects and the construction supervisors. Chief Justice Brickley made meaningful contributions to the project during his term, and while we miss his physical presence his spirit is with us today and will be at the October dedication. Chief Justice Mallett’s intimate familiarity with the legislative process was invaluable in obtaining court funding for the projects on behalf of the court. And as planning for the project unfolded, it was Chief Justice Weaver who conceived the idea of a learning center to educate the public about the operation of the judicial system. And what better closer could you have for the commitment to completion of the project than Chief Justice Corrigan. For the record, it has been 197 years since the creation of the first Supreme Court for the territory of Michigan. And 165 years since the appointment of the first Michigan State Supreme Court. And 123 years since the Michigan Supreme Court sat in its own courtroom, and 32 years since it last moved from that courtroom.
No one knows how long the Court will sit in the new Hall of Justice. Seven of the 103 Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court will answer the call at the opening court next October. They and all those who follow in the years t come will owe some gratitude to their predecessors and most especially to Governor John Engler who, but for, there might not be this closing today. For myself and for the 11 Justices and former Justices with whom I’ve served 13 years in these chambers we salute Michigan’s one court of justice and say thanks for all the memories. The Honorable Dorothy Comstock Riley.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you Mr. Nolan, and thank you Justice Riley for your beautiful remarks this afternoon. We’re very grateful to you.
MR. NOLAN: Justice Corrigan, may I present those remarks to the Court.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Certainly. Thank you. At this time the Court itself is making a proclamation that I would like to read to you before my colleagues and I affix our signatures. And it is as follows.
Whereas we the Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court wish to mark the closing of this courtroom in the G. Mennen Williams Building where this Court has presided since 1970;
Whereas 26 Justices of this Court have presided in this courtroom over 32 years, representing a fourth of all Michigan Supreme Court Justices;
Whereas approximately 63,000 matters were filed with this Court and 83 volumes of the Court’s opinions were issued during this time;
Whereas the Court heard oral arguments in many of Michigan’s most significant cases in this courtroom and issued many of the Court’s most important decisions while housed here;
Whereas the period from 1970 to 2002 represents a rich and vital chapter in this Court’s history;
Whereas this day marks another step on the Court’s journey towards a permanent home in the Michigan Hall of Justice;
Now, Therefore, we the Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court declare this day, May 8, 2002, a day of celebration of this Court’s history and contributions to the pursuit of justice.
In witness whereof, we hereunto set our hands and cause the seal of the Supreme Court to be affixed today, this 8th day of May in the year 2002.
While my colleagues are signing the proclamation, I would like to explain what will happen at the end of these proceedings to everyone here. Normally when we adjourn Court, the justices exit from the side door next to the bench. That is not going to happen when we adjourn today because, when the Crier, Mr. Palazzolo, calls upon us to rise, this will not be the courtroom of the Michigan Supreme Court anymore. So what we will do this afternoon is leave the bench and then process into the lobby by that door. So we will have Justice Markman lead us, and I would ask that all of you follow us in silence. When we’re gathered in the lobby, we’ll all turn and face the courtroom, whereupon, the Clerk of the Court, Corbin Davis, and the Court Crier, Dave Palazzolo, will close the door and turn out the lights. I ask Mr. Nolan to approach once again and, on behalf of the Court, present the proclamation to the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society. Thank you Mr. Nolan.
MR. NOLAN: I can honestly say I have not had better days before the Court, your Honor. Thank you.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: At this time I would like to call upon Dr. Green of the First Presbyterian Church to give a final benediction.
DR. GREEN: Let us turn to the God of our lives. Mighty God, Great Spirit, Sovereign Creator, Wise Counselor, Persistent Advocate and Everlasting God, Judge of all life from beginning to after endings, and before Whom all life is held precious, and whose wisdom and resources are unknowable, and whose grace is without end. We pause before You as we take leave of this place where over the last thirty-two years this Court has called home in the state of Michigan. In Your providence, creative and sustaining Spirit, bless this location among many since the founding of the independent Supreme Court in 1857. Remind us the courtroom has been a chamber of the Court and not the Court itself.
We acknowledge the Court is people. Those people who have come to it, and those people who sit on it. Bless the memory of the 103 justices in our state of Michigan’s history and the twenty-six justices who held court in this place since 1970. Bless the women, men, children and passions which came to this hallowed space seeking remedy for disputed differencese. Bless the noble causes supported, ideas explored, intellects challenged, integrity manifested, decisions weighed, values respected, judgments rendered, and administration fulfilled in the sacred space of spiritual design called justice. Bless teh sojourning of this Court as it moves from the past to the future, from this place to new quarters, from incumbent justices to their successors. From the ancient body of Hammurabi code, common law, tribal council traditions, the Decalogue, and legislative and administrative actions, to emerging dreams of even-handed righteousness for all.
Bless the Court and all in this state with the grace to place the welfare of the weak above the power of the strong. Forgive the failure of wisdom, blind prejudice, human error, of those who came before it, those who served on it, and those who benefited from it. Bless the people of this Court with continued mature judgment tempered with open ears, sound thoughts, compassionate hearts, bridled tongues, good humor, creative solutions, and seamless continuity of Your Justice, widely rendered. Bless this space for its next occupants. Sanctify the move of the Court. Prepare the new site to witness integrity, impartiality, and righteousness, and may these transitions foster stable government and good rule. Amen.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you Dr. Green for being with us this afternoon and thank all of you for joining this special session of the Michigan Supreme Court. The new term of Court will begin on October 8, 2002, with ceremonial argument in our old courtroom in the Capitol, and we will then process to the dedication of the new Hall of Justice. We look forward to seeing you on October 8. Until that time, thank everyone for being here. I especially thank the justices and judges, our former and present colleagues for their presence here today, all of you in the audience, all whom you represent, and each one of us here who was so privileged to serve.
This court stands adjourned.