Hall Of Justice Groundbreaking Ceremony

October 12, 1999

MS. JOHNSOSN-WYNN: Good afternoon. I am Nkrumah Johnson-Wynn, Director of the Office of the Chief Justice. We are very fortunate to have with us a number of distinguished guests for the groundbreaking ceremony for the Michigan Hall of Justice. It is my privilege and pleasure to introduce them to you.

Our speakers include: David C. Hollister, Mayor of the city of Lansing; John M. Engler, Governor of the state of Michigan; MICHAEL F. CAVANAGH, Michigan Supreme Court justice; Dan L. DeGrow, Michigan Senate Majority Leader; Charles R. Perricone, Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives; Wallace D. Riley, President of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society; ELIZABETH A. WEAVER, Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court; and Rev. Dr. Lottie Jones Hood, pastor of the First Congregational Church of Detroit who graciously accepted, at Chief Justice WEAVER’s invitation, to deliver the invocation.

I present to you Mayor David Hollister.

 MAYOR HOLLISTER: Welcome to Lansing, the Capital City, where the sun always shines. I’m really proud as you drive around the city and see the revitalization that’s taking place. It’s a product of partnerships and perseverance and that’s what we’re here celebrating today. I had a brief conversation with Glenn Allen earlier he said that his first conversation with Governor Romney was as Budget Director in 1963 and they had a discussion about building this building on this location all those many years ago. This is a real tribute to perseverance and partnerships, and I celebrate the partnership we enjoy with the state of Michigan.

I’m here to pledge the full cooperation, Governor, of the city and all its various departments and agencies. Chief Justice, we will do everything we can to get this building done on time. It’s other people’s responsibility to get it done on budget. Thank you.

MS. JOHNSOSN-WYNN: We will now have the invocation by Rev. Dr. Hood.

 REV. DR. HOOD: I invite you to bow your heads and let us pray. Eternal and ever-loving God, we come before you now in praise and in gratitude for the many blessings that you have bestowed upon us for our health and for our strength; for our minds and our bodies; for our families and our friends. And particularly on this day, oh Lord, we come before you in gratitude for the occasion of the groundbreaking of the Michigan Hall of Justice. We thank you for this awesome opportunity with which you have gifted us.

In this beginning ceremony before we go forward, we ask that you take us backwards, back in time. Back to a time before time. To a time before classes and culture. To a time before religions and denominations, before political parties and personal interests, before all things that make us forget who we are and whose we are. Back to a time when the earth was without form and darkness was on the face of the deep and your spirit moved on the face of the waters and you said, “Let there be light.” And there was light.

Today we come asking that, as we go forth in the construction of this hall, you be the one to give it life, your life and that you make your presence known not just by the light but as liquid light. What we are really asking, eternal God, is that you make this hall more than bricks and mortar, more than glass and steel, more than concrete and cement. We are asking that you breathe you life as liquid light into it and into the lives of those who construct it, the architects, the engineers, and the construction workers. The 330 persons who will one day work in it, the justices, and the judges, and the administrations and their staffs and those who will ultimately seek justice in it, the citizens of the state of Michigan. Make your presence known to each and every one of them. Let your life as liquid light infuse and inform and warm them, motivate, inspire, and bless them. Comfort, care, and caress them. Help them to be aware of your liquid light in the offices, and the elevators, in the lunchrooms, in the boardrooms, in the corridors, and the courtroom. Quicken their minds and their hearts so that every soul who enters this hall will remember that we are your children, made in your image like the wave is to the ocean, and that because nothing is impossible for you, nothing done in your name is impossible for us. In the name of all that is good we pray and the people said, Amen. And the people said, Amen.

MS. JOHNSOSN-WYNN: We will now have remarks by Governor Engler.

 GOVERNOR ENGLER: Thank you very much justices and judges, Attorney General Granholm, legislative leaders, Mayor Hollister, leader DeGrow. We are here today and assembled at the end of Capital Mall to break ground on a new home for the Michigan Supreme Court.

This is a very important day not just because we’re breaking ground on Michigan’s new Hall of Justice, the new home of the Michigan Supreme Court, but because this new Hall of Justice signifies the completion of the Capital Mall here in Lansing, a legislative branch firmly anchoring the east end of the mall, the capitol building and the offices of the executive branch standing watch on either side, the Hall of Justice here at the west end will soon take it’s place along with these stately structures.

We are here today, in another sense, to honor the judicial branch and the vitally important role it plays in Michigan government. We are also here to recognize the justices and the judges who’ve served before, and I’m delighted to see in the front row Justice BRICKLEY, Justice LEVIN, Justice GRIFFIN, Justice BRENNAN, Justice RYAN, Justice FITZGERALD, and the many other judges, attorneys and the staffs, so many people who have been part of Michigan’s judicial legacy. And certainly to recognize the men and women who will serve justice in this building as well as those who will seek, as the prayer just discussed, justice in this Hall of Justice in the future.

Now I have to admit that when I first realized, focused on the idea, that we were talking about a Hall of Justice, that did bring back some memories. It isn’t new as a phrase, at least to many of us. I can remember from my days, it was the home for Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman and Aqua Man. They all lived in the Hall of Justice and probably like the fictional counterpart the Michigan Hall of Justice will be home to some of our judicial super heroes. Chief Justice WEAVER, Justices CAVANAGH, KELLY, TAYLOR, CORRIGAN, YOUNG, MARKMAN, and the judges of the Michigan Court of Appeals, Chief Judge Bandstra, Chief Judge Pro Tem Whitbeck, and other members. They’re going to sit in chambers here. When you think about it, I didn’t realize there are a couple of striking similarities between these two halls of justice, and when I was looking at the specifications for the Hall of Justice I thought I found it an interesting coincidence that I thought I might mention.

You know, there are six stories, some 280,000 square feet, the Hall of Justice is going to have its own attached parking structure, which will be very helpful, Mayor, given the parking challenges we face here in the Capital City as we continue to bring more people into Capital Complex. But it’s literally going to be possible for justices to go up to their offices from their cars without leaving the building. Sort of like Wayne Manor in the Bat Cave and, now come to think about it, actually I’ve never seen Justice TAYLOR and Bat Man in the same room together, you know, so…Chief Justice WEAVER is already sort of a Wondrous Woman when it come to lobbying the Legislature, but I do need to make it very clear that there will be no legislative support for any kind of an invisible jet plane or so.

In all seriousness, this is a very important building and I think the days ahead, wait until this building is completed, you know, are going to be counted by all because it is a long-overdue building. The need is evident. Justices have been without a proper chamber since 1970, sort of when they were moved out of the State Capitol Building and in the G. Mennen Williams Law Building. It’s hard to imagine that, pretty much all of the state government was once housed in the capitol building. I do want to make it clear that it is not accurate to say I’m trying to get state government small enough to fit back into the capitol building. I seriously think that the Supreme Court needs this building. I know how many years, and Mayor Hollister’s mention of Judge Allen and some of the history.

I can remember justices and the Chief Justices and their judiciary messages coming before the Legislature talking about the need, and there are so many people that deserve recognition for being steadfast and talking about this over the years. Certainly at the end of 1998 Chief Justice CONRAD MALLETT, I don’t think we’d be here today without his very hard work. He was making it a crusade, and I think personally met at the critical time with every member of the Legislature who had a concern or question about the Hall of Justice and about the funding. Chief Justice DOROTHY COMSTOCK RILEY was a passionate advocate. Her vision of the building and the important statement that it made and the need for that building itself to be built, to be separate, to stand here, and the relationship of such a building and how important it was to the Michigan judiciary to Justice CAVANAGH during his tenure, Justice BRICKLEY during his tenure. These are individuals that I had a chance to work with during the time that I’ve been Governor and before that as a Senate leader. This was a topic of discussion, many, many times in the Legislature. Just in the event that Senator DeGrow doesn’t arrive I want to mention a couple of people from the Senate.

Certainly Dan DeGrow himself, but Senator Harry Gast. To Senator Gast actually goes the credit for coming up with the idea of how to pay for this. Because he actually was the first to suggest we use some of the LAPS funds to actually fund the building and do it instead of on a bonding basis, just set the money aside and get it done. Senator Gast and then representative Tom Mathieu were the leaders of the Capital Outlay Committee, and those of you that have been through the process before understand that if the Capital Outlay Committee isn’t on board then you’re nowhere. Well Senator Gast and representative Mathieu made it possible, speaker Hertel and then Senate Leader Dick Posthumus were vitally important because, as leaders of the House and Senate, they gave their blessing.

Mayor Hollister was invaluable because he talked passionately about what this meant to the Capital City of Lansing and the importance of having this building and I think there are other things that are going to happen, that we don’t even forsee, but imagine this will now become a regular stop for the children, the young people who come to Lansing. They always come to the capitol building, they go to the library and museum, which is right south of here, but clearly, in the future, they are going to have an opportunity to come now and really experience, I think, the significance of the judiciary. So I think that this is long overdue. And as I look down this mall and sort of envision standing on the steps of the Hall of Justice and looking to the east, about a mile, I guess, if we added up all the distance, that distance is more than just the physical distance and the mall itself, the placement, I think you could say, that it represents the clear and distinct separation of powers between the judicial, legislative, and executive branches of our government. Laws being made in the capitol building, administered in our executive offices and then interpreted right in the Hall of Justice. Certainly that is how the founders envisioned it, and it’s why our democracy works so well in our state and in our great country. When the Hall of Justice is complete it will stand along with the other buildings as a tribute to the ideals that our founders fought for more than two centuries ago. And so, to all of you who now, from this day forward, as we break ground and take on the responsibility of seeing this building completed on time and on budget—and we will try to help with that—good luck and Godspeed, and I look forward to being back here, all of us, sometime in 2002 as we do the dedication ceremony. Congratulations to the Michigan judiciary and to the people of Michigan.

MS. JOHNSOSN-WYNN: Thank you Governor Engler, and now Justice MICHAEL CAVANAGH.

 JUSTICE CAVANAGH: Thank you Governor Engler, Chief Justice WEAVER, Mayor Hollister, Rev. Hood. It’s good to be here today. As we break ground for this new Hall of Justice, I look around and see that so many people’s efforts have really come together to make this possible. In the brief program this afternoon, many of them will be acknowledged. But those whose names happen to go unmentioned should not think for a moment that the justices are other than deeply grateful for all you have done. Many of you know that I came to the Supreme Court in January of 1983. Now with his recent retirement, my good friend, Jim BRICKLEY has passed to me the title of senior justice on the Court. So forgive me if I take a moment to look backward.

The Court’s journey to this spot, to this day, has really been remarkable. I remember in the early 1980s when Chief Justice G. MENNEN WILLIAMS arranged to have architectural students fill the lobby outside our courtroom in the building now named after him, with scale models of a proposed hall of justice. The records of our Court reflect such efforts long before my time. It was in early 1970, almost thirty years ago, that this Court began its physical journey to this spot. On March 3 of that year, the justices departed from the Supreme Court room in the Capitol where we heard arguments this morning. They and their staff traveled first to the Williams Building, from which the Court staff was later dispersed to sites all over the downtown area. But the beginning of this story comes even before that 1970 move. Volume 381 of the Michigan Reports1 records these words of Chief Justice JOHN DETHMERS of Holland. He said, “I hope that the long continued assurances from some quarters that one day this Court will be housed in a new court building may before long come true…” That was May 1967, and we can only guess when those long-continued assurances of which he spoke had begun.

As we look back today, we remember many people. There are Chief Justices, some with us, some decreased, who worked hard on this project. We remember friends of both parties in the Legislature who kept this idea alive when it had few supporters. And we certainly acknowledge the gubernatorial support for this building. But let us take just a moment to think of another group of people, a group that probably has no representative here today. Look around you, what do you see? A parking lot, an empty field, an unpaved block. Ignore the passing traffic for a moment, what can you hear in the place? Can you hear a screen door swing shut? Can you hear children on a playground? What do you smell here? Is someone cooking an early supper?

It looks like we are building a Hall of Justice on a vacant lot, but we are not. This was a neighborhood; people lived here. People who gave up their homes so that we might build here. From Martin Luther King Boulevard back to the Capitol was in integrated neighborhood of homes and small businesses. Right about where we are standing, on the southeast corner of Michigan and Martin Luther King Boulevard was the Michigan Avenue Elementary school all the way back to Chestnut and Walnut Streets were houses, a few of them grand by the standards of the day, but most of them modest working-class homes. Many of the lots were just thirty-three feet wide; some had a second row of homes tucked in behind those on the street. Along Michigan Avenue were some old apartment buildings and a few rooming houses. There were barbershops and small groceries, but most of this area was taken up with single family homes of people who worked at the Olds plant, at Fisher Body, or for the state. People raised children here, walked to the Olds plant or to the Fisher Body plant each day for work, and came home at night to the warmth of family.

The people who lived here left their homes in the 1970s to make room for what was then envisioned as the new Capitol and for expansion of the state office buildings. Today we put up a Hall of Justice. We build it not in an empty field, but in a neighborhood; not among parked cars, but atop the homes and playgrounds and dreams of the people who lived here. Before we know it, this new building will be up. It will make such a difference as we do our work on behalf of the people of the state of Michigan. We are beginning a new century, which will bring benefits and challenges that we cannot begin to imagine. This is an exciting time, and this is a wondrous project. But as we do our work in this new building, as we follow our oath to follow and to do justice and right, let us not forget that we take this land in trust.
Supreme Court justice and Court of Appeals judges come and go. We serve for a time, and then we give our seat to another. The people of Michigan remain. To them we give our oath, and from them we receive the opportunity to serve.
This is a great day. We are breaking ground for a facility that we have needed for several generations. I look forward to the day when we can gather again on this spot to dedicate a new beautiful building. Between now and then, let us do all we can to ready ourselves in our courts for the challenges that lie ahead, so that this will be, in every respect, a true Hall of Justice.

MS. JOHNSOSN-WYNN: Thank you Justice CAVANAGH. I now introduce to you the Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, Charles Perricone.

 MR. PERRICONE: It’s my pleasure to be here. This is indeed history, and I’ve come to realize that usually if I’m in the same spot that the Governor’s in we’re making history on something, and this is a lot of fun. A groundbreaking with the political speeches, and thinking back to all the discussions that took place over the funding for this project, it is very nice to be here. I am honored to have been given the opportunity to make a few remarks here today.

As Speaker of the House I’d like to commend the members of the 89th Legislature who rolled up their sleeves and tackled the challenge of making the Hall of Justice a reality. I’d also like to recognize former Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, CONRAD MALLETT for this dedication to this project. He indeed had many discussions with many legislators. And through the hard work of many before us such as Speaker Hertel and the Appropriations chair Morris Hood, we now officially break ground for a new building that will house the Supreme Court, the Lansing office of the Court of Appeals, and the State Court Administrative office. With the completion of this building the people of Michigan will not only have a judicial home, but a permanent symbol of equal justice under the law.

MS. JOHNSOSN-WYNN: Thank you Speaker Perricone. We will now have remarks by Wallace D. Riley, President of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society.

 MR. RILEY: Governor Engler, mayor, Reverend, Madame Chief Justice, justices of the Supreme Court, past justices, Court of Appeals, Jennifer Granholm. I’m here as sort of a spokesperson for history. When the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society was founded in 1988, one of my first acts as its new president, was to contact other states, their Supreme Court Historical Societies, for information. I wanted to know what they did. All of them responded, and they responded on their letterhead and each and every letterhead had etched on it or pictured on it that state’s Supreme Court Building. The best that we could do at the time with the help of then Senate Majority Leader John Engler was to commission a bronze marker and rededicate the old Supreme Court chambers in the Capitol building.

Ever since then, we prayed, and you know when you’re a nonprofit, non-political organization in Lansing the safest thing to do is pray, for a Supreme Court building as the head of the third branch of government like a majority of the other states have. And today, as we sit here, we are minutes away from having our prayers answered. With the formation of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, at the suggestion of the former Chief Justice DOROTHY COMSTOCK RILEY in 1988, there was finally an entity to mind and pay attention to the historical happenings of Michigan’s courts, Michigan’s courts of the then and now. No longer would the recording and the preserving of Michigan judicial history depend simply on the chance incumbency of an interested crier, court clerk, or even a Chief Justice. The Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society was created to preserve court history. Today we are very pleased to be present at the making of it.

MS. JOHNSOSN-WYNN: Thank you Mr. Riley. We will now have closing remarks by Chief Justice ELIZABETH A. WEAVER.

 CHIEF JUSTICE WEAVER: Welcome to all of you honored guests, and that is everyone of you here, because we’re very pleased to have you. I want to thank you for joining us on this long-awaited day. We had the right people and the right shovels for a truly historical occasion. In a few moments we will break ground on the Hall of Justice that will carry many meanings and perform many functions for those of us here and for all the people of Michigan.

The Hall of Justice will symbolize and express one of the most cherished ideals of our democracy. The primacy of the rule of law lent fairly, timely, and impartially. It will preserve the traditions of justice, which are designed to ferret out the truth so that our courts may render just decisions. This Hall of Justice will significantly increase the ability of its occupants, the Michigan Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, Lansing office, the State Court Administrator, the Michigan Judicial Institute, and the Judicial Information Systems, to render justice and judicial services fairly and efficiently in the appellate and the trial courts.

This Hall of Justice will provide the public an opportunity to gain an increased understanding of the judicial branch of government through a public education center and two courtrooms with expanded public seating so that the grandchildren and children of the people who lived on this ground will be able to come and learn about our third branch of government. This Hall of Justice will heighten the visibility of the judiciary as an independent branch of our ingenious form of government, one among three equals in the system of checks and balances that help to safeguard our freedoms.
The Supreme Court will be devoting all six stories and over 280,000 square feet to the achievement of these principles and goals. With the Hall of Justice, the three branches of government and their leaders, state and local, have come together in a bipartisan and nonpartisan way, because the Supreme Court was involved, to build a lasting tribute to justice for Michigan citizens. Governor John Engler and Lansing Mayor David Hollister have been unfailing supporters of the Hall of Justice, and their leadership and their encouragement in seeing it through have been indispensable. Our leaders in the Legislature, Senate Majority Leader Dan DeGrow and House Speaker Chuck Perricone and their predecessors, current Lieutenant Governor Dick Posthumus was the former speaker, Curtis Hertel have played vital roles in acquiring funding and so have many of their colleagues on both sides of the aisle past and present, especially Senator Harry Gast and the late representative Morris Hood.

The idea of a separate building representing the judicial branch of government goes back as far as 1922. A long succession of justices have envisioned and planned for a day when the Supreme Court and its departments could operate as a single unit under a separate roof. One of the more recent was former Chief Justice MARY COLEMAN, our first woman Chief Justice. Chief Justice G. MENNEN WILLIAMS followed, requesting in his State of the Judiciary speeches that the space need of the Supreme Court be addressed to overcome its separation from many of its operations. Other justices participated as well as a series of studies were conducted in the ‘80s and ‘90s to choose the ride home for the Court’s operations.

The Hall of Justice we break ground for today will bare the imprint of our current justices, MICHAEL CAVANAGH, MARILYN KELLY, CLIFFORD TAYLOR, MAURA CORRIGAN, ROBERT YOUNG, and our newest justice, STEPHEN MARKMAN. It will also bare the stamp of Chief Judge RICHARD BANDSTRA and Judge WILLIAM WHITBECK of the Court of Appeals. All of these individuals have given their best ideas, valuable time, and ongoing cooperation to help us prepare for the future.

Further, there are four individuals from the Supreme Court who must be mentioned for their invaluable contributions to the process that will end with the completion of this Hall of Justice. My former colleague and former Chief Justice DOROTHY COMSTOCK RILEY has served as the project’s guiding spirit since the mantle passed from Chief Justices COLEMAN and WILLIAMS. She is acutely aware that the Hall of Justice, and those who occupy it must honor the principles of the institution in the public interest.

Justice and former Chief Justice MICHAEL CAVANAGH, serves with former Justice RILEY on the Court’s Hall of Justice planning committee. He has always been supportive, committed, and involved, and he showed you that today. He was particularly so during legislative deliberations on the funding for the project.

Former Chief Justice JAMES BRICKLEY, always a man to create a consensus, moved the project forward with an irresistible optimism. And, finally, the planning committee’s work sped forward in 1998 under former Chief Justice CONRAD MALLETT, and I might say that I know he wanted to be here, he intended to be here, and I’m just wondering if now that he practices law some circuit judge in Detroit doesn’t have him in court. But, anyway, under CONRAD MALLETT’s dynamic leadership, we secured the project’s funding. Conrad quickly saw the link between the Court’s desire to improve trial-court services statewide and the need for the right kind of facilities from which to organize the task. It was a major theme of his tenure as Chief Justice, and it capped his administration at year’s end.
Throughout the project the Supreme Court has worked closely with the Department of Management and Budget whose leaders and staff over the years have been generous with their time, their expertise, and their support of our vision for the building. This year the Hall of Justice planning committee asked the Detroit-based architectural firm of Albert Kahn Associated to translate the ideals, traditions, and efficiencies of that vision into the building’s design. We believe they and their consultants, Spillis Candela & Partners, and Justice Planning Associates, have succeeded admirably.

Instrumental in making today’s event possible is the office of property services within the Department of Management and Budget and its staff. Now would DMB architect, Tom Kane, the architectural team, and the representatives from the office of property services please stand so we can acknowledge your contributions.

And now the moment has finally arrived. I invite Justices RILEY, CAVANAGH, BRICKLEY, and Justice MALLETT, if you’re here, to join me in symbolically breaking ground for the commencement of construction of the Michigan Hall of Justice, a living commitment to fair, efficient, timely, unprejudiced justice for all. Thank you all so much for being here.