Isaac Marston

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Served from 1875 through 1883
Chief Justice: 1880, 1881


Isaac Marston was born on January 2, 1839, in Poyntzpass, County Armagh, Ireland. He spent most of his youth working to elevate himself from his poor circumstances. At the age of 16, Marston immigrated to the United States where he worked with his uncle on a farm near Pontiac while attending school. By 1861, Marston had graduated from the University of Michigan’s Law Department and had settled in Ithaca, Michigan. Success came with the partnership he formed in 1863 with another young lawyer named Hershel H. Hatch. In 1872, Thomas Cooley’s son, Edgar A. Cooley, joined the firm.

Marston’s career in public service began in 1872 as he served for one session as a Representative to the State Legislature. He also served as Prosecuting Attorney for Bay County and eventually served as Attorney General for the state. His career reached its climax in 1875 with his appointment and subsequent election to the Michigan Supreme Court.

At that time, Marston was the youngest man ever to be elected to the Michigan Supreme Court. Marston served with his former law professors, Justices Cooley and Campbell. When reflecting on Marston as student, Justice Cooley said, “He saw something ahead he was to attain and he proceeded at once to put aside such obstacles as stood in his way.” (Clements, William B. “Sketch of the Life of Judge Isaac Marston,” Michigan History Magazine, Vol. 1, July 1917.)

Upon Marston’s appointment to the Court, Justice Cooley commented that he expected in Marston, “an industrious and painstaking associate and that the manner in which he would discharge his judicial duties would be alike honorable to himself and useful to the public.” (Clements.)

Isaac Marston retired from the Bench in 1883, and he returned to Detroit to practice law until his death on October 31, 1891.

Portrait presented on: (Click link to read transcript)
April 3, 1889

Portrait Artist:
Ives, Lewis Thomas

Oil on canvas

74.93cm X 62.23cm (29 1/2″ X 24 1/2″)

Owned by:
State of Michigan

Current location:
Hall of Justice – 6th Floor: Rotunda

Portrait photo by:
Douglas Elbinger – June 1996