A Tribute To Hugh H. Carpenter

OCTOBER 17, 1957

On the occasion of his retirement as Clerk of the Supreme Court of Michigan, October 17, 1957.

Chief Justice JOHN R. DETHMERS:

The Court is convened, and assembled with us are many lawyers, judges and friends, to honor the longtime and recently retired Clerk of this Court, Mr. Hugh H. Carpenter. His retirement, effective September 1st of this year, brought to a close 5 years of service as Clerk of this Court, 3 decades of service as Deputy Clerk and approximately 40 years of loyal and faithful service to this Court, to the State to the people of the State and, by no means least, to the Bar and lawyers of this State. Many have expressed a desire to pay their respects to Mr. Carpenter at this time. The Court will recognize first his long-time close friend and associate, the recently retired Solicitor General of the State, Mr. Edmund E. Shepherd, who will speak for the Bar, for the lawyers of Michigan. Mr. Shepherd.

 EDMUND E. SHEPHERD: Mr. Chief Justice, Associate Justices and Friends:
On the first day of December, 1913, Hugh H. Carpenter, a young man in his early 20’s, bearing a Vermont heritage, entered this Capitol to begin an honorable and distinguished career in public service. His first assignment was as secretary to Mr. Justice MCALVAY of this Court.

Out of his abundant store of historical data, Mr. Carpenter has reminded me of the fact that on that day, 44 years ago, the facilities of the Court bore only slight resemblance to those of today. The State Main Library then occupied the space on the second floor now used by the Law Library, while the Library of the Court was situated on this, the third floor where chambers of the Justices are now located; and its stacks of bookshelves were in galleries reaching in the fourth floor. There, just in front of the desk of the Supreme Court Librarian was a railing which enclosed a well into the ceiling of the Main Library on the floor below.

Hugh also remembers that of 8 Justices only 2 had offices on the third floor; that chambers now occupied by Mr. Justice CARR were those of Mr. Justice BROOKE in 1913, while the present offices of Mr. Justice VOELKER comprised the chambers of Mr. Justice BIRD. The Chief Justice and Mr. Justice MCALVAY, whom Mr. Carpenter served as secretary, had chambers on the fourth floor off the galleries of the library, while Mr. Justice MOORE occupied the space now assigned to our Court Reporter, Hiram Bond. The remaining 3 Justices of those days were housed outside the Capitol, in what is now the Hollister Building.

When Associate Justice MCALVAY died on July 9, 1915, Hugh Carpenter was loaned by the Court for a brief period of time to the office of the Chief Executive to become a secretary to Governor Woodbridge N. Ferris. Then, on October 1, 1915, he entered the office of the Court Reporter and was later admitted to the Bar of this Court.

On January 1, 1920, having been honorably discharged from the Navy where he served during World War I, Hugh was appointed by the Court as Deputy Clerk under the late Jay Mertz. In that capacity, for upwards of 32 years, Hugh Carpenter served this Court efficiently and loyally, and endeared himself to members of his own chosen profession.
Finally, on the first day of October, 1952, when Jay Mertz retired, this Court appointed Hugh Carpenter to succeed him as Clerk, thus observing a precedent established when Jay himself, who had served as Deputy under Charles Hopkins for many years, received well-deserved promotion.

During more than 43 years of public life, Hugh Carpenter served 36 Justices of this Court as secretary, as Assistant Court Reporter, as Deputy Clerk, and as Clerk. Throughout this time, by virtue of his deep knowledge of appellate practice, Hugh proved of inestimable help to members of the legal fraternity; he has painstakingly, considerately and courteously explained to those of inquiring mind the rules of this Court, and their proper application, as they have been revised and amended; and he has often been called upon to point out those distinctions which must be drawn between the remedies of appeal, certiorari, mandamus, quo warranto, prohibition and habeas corpus, or appeals in the nature of these several writs.

Such counsel and advice was always given ungrudgingly with an economy of words of definite meaning.

Over and above all, Hugh has remained loyal to this Court, and, as was said of his predecessor, Jay Mertz, he has been “a shining example of integrity in the performance of his duties for this Court; and for the people of Michigan, he is a supreme exemplification of what a public official should be.”

I find myself reluctant to close without a personal word. To me, through the years, Hugh has been a staunch friend, a wise counselor, an indispensable guide. And without him, the duties of the office I performed for 21 years on the floor immediately below, would have proved onerous indeed. It is, therefore, a great honor and privilege to represent the State Bar of this State in presenting to Hugh H. Carpenter a citation signed by the Chief Justice and by the President of the State Bar.

of the
“Hugh H. Carpenter, third Clerk of the Supreme Court of Michigan, has completed nearly four and a half decades of devoted service to the State. All but a small fraction of his 44-year tenure has been given to being a loyal and faithful arm of that Court.
“During the 32 years, from 1920 to 1952, that he served as Deputy Clerk of the Supreme Court, he was a strong bulwark of that office, an intelligent, able and efficient public official who in large measure contributed to elevating the office of Clerk of the Supreme Court to such a pre-eminent place in the regard of the Bench and Bar of this State.
“This reputation continued throughout the period during which he so well discharged his duties as Clerk of the Supreme Court.
“To a man to whom all public servants might well look as a model, for he unfailingly rendered extraordinary service on many occasions, this certificate is given as a slight token of great esteem and affectionate consideration.
Chief Justice
President, State Bar of Michigan
“Dated at Lansing, Michigan
“October 17, 1957.”

Chief Justice JOHN R. DETHMERS: Thank you, Mr. Shepherd. During the years in which Mr. Carpenter served this Court as Deputy Clerk and Clerk he performed official duties for the State Board of Law Examiners. Present this morning to speak for that Board is its President, Mr. Stanley E. Beattie. Mr. Beattie.

 STANLEY E. BEATTIE: May it please the Court, the honor of participating in this testimonial to a very able man, a good and solid friend, comes to me because of the position which, by statutory devolvement, I at the moment, possess. As President of the Board of Law Examiners I wish to refer to the long association which Hugh Carpenter has had with the process of qualifying men and women for the practice of law in this State.

At the moment when a candidate for the Bar first approaches the qualifying process he comes into contact with the Clerk of the Supreme Court. From him he learns of the course of study which must be pursued, of the degree which he must attain, of the character screening which he must pass, and of the statutory, overall examination to which he will be subjected.

With the Clerk is reposed the qualifying record of every candidate and with him are reposed in ruggedly permanent volumes, the grades, subject by subject, which have been attained by the candidate in the crucible of the examination. Thus, under Mr. Carpenter’s supervision, in the years he has been Clerk – and in the many years he served the process of the law examinations as right-hand man and Deputy to Jay Mertz, of happy memory–have been preserved the proficiency records of almost all the lawyers now serving in Michigan, of the judges of our circuits and of other important and highly placed judges of Michigan.

We of the Law Examiners have been proud that the candidates approaching our Board for its processing have been greeted by such a man as Hugh Carpenter–an official devoted to his duty, warm and kindly in his dealings with men in all walks of life.

He has carried forward in unique fashion the majesty and dignity of the jurisprudence of our beloved Michigan.
On these many bases we herewith attest the honor and the gratitude which are his due.

Before closing, may I be forgiven if I speak on a personal plane, shared, I know, by so very many: It would be hard to accept a parting from Hugh Carpenter.

Men of his uniform friendliness and kindliness do not come often into our lives. In the happy fact of his long attachment to important public office, men in every corner of Michigan have had thrust upon them a man, a friend of the type they would have traveled far to obtain in choosing friends, Hugh Carpenter.

We do not accept a parting. He is still a young than with zest and enthusiasm for life who turns now to new activities.

Your speaker is one of the many who hope and intend that these new activities will serve to keep Hugh’s smile and handclasp a part of their lives in the future as heretofore.

Chief Justice JOHN R. DETHMERS: Thank you. Mr. Beattie. The Court is pleased to call on Mr. Alfred B. Fitt, member of the Bar and legal advisor to Governor G. Mennen Williams. He will speak for the Governor. Mr. Fitt.

 MR. ALFRED B. FITT: May it please the Court, I shall make my remarks brief and to the point. There sometimes seems to be an inverse ration between the importance of the public office a person holds and the quantity of kindness and courtesy he uses in dealing with the members of the public who must come to him. Mr. Hugh Carpenter perfectly illustrated the operation of this rule, and I shall use my own first experience with him as an example of it. I had occasion to file my first case before this Court a number of years ago and I had become used to the contempt with which young lawyers were treated by common pleas court clerks, and the relative indifference with which they are sometimes treated by circuit court clerks, and so I was prepared for almost any reception when I came to this Court. The only reception I was not prepared for was the one I received. Mr. Carpenter dealt with me with utter courtesy and kindness and he led me, a young and somewhat scared lawyer, through a maze of petitions and orders to show cause, pleadings and briefs, and for that I was and am most grateful. This morning, as you know, I am here on behalf of the Governor whose schedule for today was filled before we knew of this occasion. However, the Governor has given me a letter, Mr. Carpenter, which is addressed to you, and with your permission I will read it now.
“Mr. Hugh Carpenter
1209 Shiawassee
Lansing, Michigan
“Dear Mr. Carpenter:
“You have maintained and nurtured a great tradition of service to the bar and public in your years as Clerk of the Supreme Court. I cannot let you depart without adding my appreciation of all your good works, nor without wishing you the best of good fortune and happiness as you leave us.

Chief Justice JOHN R. DETHMERS: Thank you, Mr. Fitt, and will you express our appreciation to the Governor?

Mr. FITT; I will, sir.

Chief Justice JOHN R. DETHMERS: Mr. James E. Haggerty, newly-elected President of the State Bar of Michigan, will speak for the Commissioners of the State Bar. Mr. Haggerty.

 JAMES E. HAGGERTY: May it please the Court, as representative of the Board of Commissioners I am deeply gratified to be permitted to share in this occasion. And may I say, Mr. Carpenter, going back through my memory of some 34 years it is within my personal knowledge, as it is with most attorneys of this Bar, that you have rendered a service above and beyond the call of duty. Not only in the first instance to the Court, but to each and every attorney no matter how high or low his status may have been. As you approach and in fact are participating in the golden years reserved for the righteous, it is indeed the sincere desire of the Board of Commissioners that the Chief Justice Of All will give you many years, richness and a complete fulfillment of life.

Chief Justice JOHN R. DETHMERS: Thank you, Mr. Haggerty. The member of this Court who has longest served as a Justice and who, in consequence, has had the longest period of association with Mr. Carpenter is Mr. Justice EDWARD M. SHARPE, who will speak on behalf of the Court. Justice SHARPE.

 Justice EDWARD M. SHARPE: Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Bench and Bar, it is a real opportunity and privilege to speak about Hugh on this occasion. To some of us of the older generation, we are going to miss Jay, as we have and Hugh just tremendously. This place will not be quite the same without Jay Mertz around in his blustery way and Hugh around in his quiet and efficient way. There is one thought that hasn’t been expressed here this morning that I would like to leave with the people here in attendance, and that is that when we read the opinions in the Michigan Reports we sometimes fail to see in those opinions–way back maybe a year or 2, or 3 or 4–some lawyer consulting with his client, advising that client that he has a cause of action and then starting a lawsuit. Then some lawyer came in to defend that lawsuit and a trial was had. The issues were joined and the trial court heard the case. Then one side or the other appealed that case to this Court. I want to call your attention to the fact that all of these people – even the stenographer who took the testimony in the court below – have played a part in the building and the constructing of the opinion that was finally published in the Michigan Reports; and in the work of building those opinions the office of the Clerk – whether it was Jay Mertz or Hugh – has played a tremendous part in seeing that the Court operated as a court should. Both of these men have been uncanny in being able to select the right number of cases for us to hear the next day, because they seemed to know which case would be argued and which wouldn’t be, and we are going to miss Hugh Carpenter. We are going to miss his quiet way of coming in and discussing things with a judge personally, or with the Court, and I want to say to Hugh Carpenter today that this Court appreciates the efficient service that he has rendered for almost 40 years. We want him to know that we appreciate his friendliness. It is good to know, in these days when so many things are questioned, that we have men like Hugh Carpenter in public service, quietly doing an efficient job. And, Hugh, to you we are offering our congratulations and best wishes for many more years of happy and contented life, looking back upon many years of efficient service to the State of Michigan.

Chief Justice JOHN R. DETHMERS: Thank you, Mr. Justice SHARPE. American tradition and English and American jurisprudence vouchsafe to the accused the right of rebuttal. Mr. Carpenter, is there aught you care to say at this time?

 HUGH H. CARPENTER: If your Honors please, I thank you very much for these expressions from the Bench and from the Bar. I do not believe that anyone could have enjoyed his work during these last years more than I have. If the work in the Clerk’s office were confined solely to entering cases, filing papers, getting out the docket, and things like that, it would probably become rather tedious and boring, but it is the little conferences, telephone calls, and correspondence with the attorneys who are interested in these cases that make the work interesting and enjoyable. It is your never failing courtesy and cooperation and appreciation for small favors that will never be forgotten. I thank you for this citation which was just handed to me. It will be a very highly-prized memento of this occasion. I thank you all very much.

Chief Justice JOHN R. DETHMERS: The Court appreciates very much your long and faithful service to the Court and to the Bar, and to the people of this State. We wish you well in your retirement. To you and Mrs. Carpenter go the best wishes of the Court for many years of life and health and happiness together. The Court also wishes to express its thanks to the State Bar for the arrangements that have made this occasion possible, and to all who have participated in this ceremony.