Emerson Boyles

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Served from 1940 through 1956
Chief Justice: 1943, 1950

Emerson R. Boyles was born in Chester Township, Michigan, on June 29, 1881. He attended rural district schools and was graduated from Charlotte High School where he was valedictorian of his class. He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1903, and was admitted to the Bar at the age of 21.

He practiced law in Charlotte and was elected Prosecuting Attorney to serve from 1912 until 1916. From 1921 until 1927, he was a Probate Judge for Eaton County.

In 1927, Boyles resigned to become Deputy Attorney General with Attorney General William W. Potter. He served in that capacity for six years. During his time in that position, the Attorney General changed twice, but each man in the office saw the value in retaining Boyles.

In 1935, Governor Frank Fitzgerald appointed Boyles to sit on the board of the Michigan Public Utilities Commission. He occupied that position from 1935 until 1936. He then became the legal advisor to Governor Fitzgerald and later for Governor Luren Dickinson. Boyles was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court to succeed Justice William W. Potter in 1940 and continued his service until 1956. Boyles’ friend, Archie Fraser, commented that Boyles, “sought to settle rather than to confuse, to clarify and to interpret rather than to enact. He sought equity to resolve differences under the law as the law was written.” (Michigan Supreme Court. Michigan Reports: Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of Michigan. New York: Lawyers Co-operative Publishing Co., 1949 – 1998, Vol. 414.)

Boyles authored the Michigan Criminal Index, Probate Blanks, and Probate Manual. He was also a supervisor of Compiled Laws of 1929.

Boyles loved his family. He married Mabel Casler in 1905 and had one daughter and three grandchildren. He also loved people and was able to put in perspective his fellow man’s welfare. Boyles truly believed that “No man is an island.” (Michigan Manual: Ed. 1997 – 1998. Legislative Council, State of Michigan: Lansing, Michigan.)

Portrait presented on: (Click link to read transcript)
September 8, 1982

Portrait Artist:
DuMont, Joseph

Oil on canvas.

69.5 x 54.5cm (27 3/8 x 21 7/16 in)

Owned by:
State of Michigan

Current location:
Hall of Justice – 5th Floor: Rotunda

Portrait photo by:
Doug Elbinger, Lansing – June 1996