In Memoriam Leland W. Carr

October 7, 1969

Court opened for business at 10 o’clock in the forenoon on Tuesday, October 7, 1969.

Present the Honorable
THOMAS E. BRENNAN, Chief Justice,

THE CHIEF JUSTICE: The first order of business before the Court this morning is a presentation of resolutions by the State Bar and, if I’m not mistaken, by the Ingham County Bar, with respect to the passing of a former member of this Court, Justice LELAND W. CARR, who was a member of this Court for a number of years and who was Chief Justice of this Court. It has been the practice of the Supreme Court of Michigan for a good many years from time to time to receive such resolutions and to receive appropriate presentations on such occasions and to have them printed in the bound volumes of the reports of our decisions. This is a practice which we view as important for the edification of the bar and the public and which I personally view as important in that it is a reminder, to all of us, the bar and the bench as well, of the continuity of our institutions and the history of the traditions which ought to mean so much to all of us. So I am particularly pleased this morning that we have presentations with respect to Justice CARR and I wish to call upon the President of the State Bar, Mr. A. DeVere Ruegsegger.

 MR. RUEGSEGGER: May it please the Court, Mr. Chief Justice BRENNAN, Members of this Honorable Court, Mr. Rhead, members of the family of Justice CARR, ladies and gentlemen:

I consider it a rare privilege and deep honor to be selected to participate in this ceremony and, on behalf of the State Bar of Michigan, to pay homage to the memory of this distinguished jurist and humanitarian. Over the course of the many years of his public service to this State–first as an assistant attorney general, then for over 24 years on the Ingham circuit bench, followed by I8 years on the bench of this Court–many praiseworthy things were both spoken and written about this distinguished jurist. Typical of these was the statement made on the occasion of his retirement from this Court when he, at the age of 80, stepped down as Chief Justice. It was said at that time that the retirement came after he had exerted “more influence on Michigan government than any other one member of the judiciary”. In 1943 and 1944, near the end of his career on the Ingham circuit bench, we all remember him as the impartial and tireless grand juror who conducted the extensive inquiry into alleged improprieties in State government. In 1945, before his grand jury work was totally completed, he was elevated to this Court by Justice HARRY F. KELLY who was then Governor of this State. He thereafter continued as a distinguished member of this Court until his retirement at the close of 1963, having served as Chief Justice in 1947 and 1955 and was selected again in early 1962, this time to continue as Chief Justice until his retirement. Notwithstanding his great legal ability and continued re-election to these judicial posts, he never lost his great sense of humility and love for his fellow man. I am told that upon his selection by the other Justices of this Court as Chief Justice for the third time in 1962, he was asked to pose for pictures beside the portraits and busts of former Justices CHRISTIANCY, COOLEY, AND CAMPBELL. On this occasion he is reputed to have said, “CHRISTIANCY has a twinkle in his eye, I don’t think he approves of all this fuss.”

I did not have the privilege of knowing Justice CARR prior to the time he ascended to this Bench. However, during the 18-plus years that he wore the robes of a Justice of this Court, I appeared before him and the other Justices in this courtroom on a number of occasions. I found Justice CARR to be a man of great perception in diagnosing a legal question, with the ability then to tersely decide the issue. Above all else, his complete sense of integrity and impartiality was always a great inspiration to me. It has been said that he was a man, and I quote, “who expects that most people are kind and good and honest”, which characterization I wholeheartedly endorse.

If you will permit, I would like to close these remarks with a quotation attributed to Justice CARR when asked his concept of the role of a judge in our present judicial system. He answered thus: “I guess I would say that the function of the judge is just to determine as best as he can just where the truth of the matter and the law lies. One learns a lot about human nature that way.”

Thank you very much again for the privilege of being here today.

THE CHIEF JUSTICE: We’d like now to hear from the Ingham County Bar, I believe Mr. Roland Rhead is present for that purpose.

 MR. ROLAND RHEAD: May it please the Court, members of the family of Justice CARR, honored guests, Mr. Ruegsegger: It is a special privilege to appear today on behalf of the Ingham County Bar Association in these ceremonies in memory of the Honorable Chief Justice LELAND W. CARR.

Born in 1883 on a farm in Livingston county, Michigan, Justice CARR entered Michigan State Normal College at Ypsilanti, Michigan, following which he enrolled at the University of Michigan Law School. Upon his graduation from law school and his admission to practice before this Court in 1906, he entered the private practice of law at Ionia, Michigan. While at Ionia, he also served as an assistant prosecuting attorney of Ionia county. In 1913, he was appointed assistant attorney general, moving to Lansing, where he remained for the rest of his life to render distinguished service to the law and to his State. In 1921, after serving as an assistant attorney general and as a legal advisor to the State highway department, Justice CARR was appointed to the Ingham county circuit court by Governor Alex J. Groesbeck–which post he served until his appointment to this Court in 1945, winning re-election to the Ingham County Circuit Court four times.

Although there are now many in the Ingham County Bar who did not know Justice CARR while he served as an Ingham Circuit Judge, the outstanding years performance by Justice CARR are well known to nearly all members. His dignified and fair—but firm—control of every activity in his courtroom had the high admiration of all who appeared before him; his was always a courtroom hushed by respect, dignified by example, and fair by sound application of the law—in this day, truly an accomplishment to be sought after. His grasp of the law and the cases of the litigants amazed many, and often the advocate before him in a particular case; he did not require others to advise him of the theory or the principle being relied upon in the litigation, he felt and understood these things because of his vast knowledge of the law seasoned by his understanding of people. Practitioners before him recount innumerable experiences in jury trials presided over by Justice CARR when his instructions to the jury were given so quietly and with such frankness that all knew he was talking with each juror individually–always his instructions were masterpieces of sound legal rhetoric. His record on appeals to this Court was to be envied–a record engendered through his grasp of the law, compassion for people, and ability to communicate. Until the increase in his duties as circuit judge made it impossible for him to continue to do so, Justice CARR conducted a class for those interested in becoming lawyers–many of the graduates of his course are today serving the law in Michigan with distinction, and our association counts several among its members.

Of course, no memorial to Justice CARR is complete without mention of the service rendered when, as an Ingham county circuit judge, he was selected as the one-man grand juror to investigate alleged improprieties in State government; from this activity came indictments of over 100 persons.

The contributions of Justice CARR have indeed enhanced the jurisprudence of our State. Our association is proud that he was a member of the bar of Ingham county for so many years. His family, although mourning his passing, have great comfort–as have we in the Ingham county bar–in the great accomplishments of his lifetime in the law. Truly, he was a “lawyer’s judge” and a “judge’s judge.” We mourn his passing, and will sorely miss him.

I move the adoption of this resolution and that appropriate copies thereof be presented to the members of his family.
THE CHIEF JUSTICE: Thank you Mr. Rhead. The resolution presented by the Ingham county bar will be accepted by the Court with gratitude, spread upon the records of our Court, and printed in our official reports. At this time I would like to call upon Mr. Justice JOHN R. DETHMERS, the senior Justice of this Court, to respond on our behalf.

 JUSTICE DETHMERS: Mr. Chief Justice, members of this Court, Mrs. Carr and family, members of the bench and bar, my assignment this morning is one that gives me mixed feelings of sadness, and yet of pride; sadness in the nature of the mission and pride in having been so closely acquainted with Justice LELAND W. CARR and the fact that we all belong to the profession which he honored. I want you to know that I have her considerable material that has to do with Justice CARR’s life, but after listening to the president of the State Bar and the president of the Ingham County Bar, their recitations pretty nearly cover it. I do not look, I never have looked, favorably on lawyers being repetitive in their presentations to this Court and so, I think I, in turn, should avoid it. One thing was mentioned by Mr. Rhead, about Judge CARR’S instructions to juries. I had intended some comment about that. Of course I never knew Judge CARR on the circuit bench, to speak of, but I have been informed that he never used notes or papers for instructions. They were off the cuff, if we may so put it. He knew the facts in the case right down to the last “T” and the applicable law and had a penchant for stating and expressing them to the jury in such an understandable way that the jurors might know what the law was that governed the case and how they should be applying it in their deliberations. Also, this was not mentioned before, Justice CARR was not only an able lawyer in practice and a distinguished judge, jurist, but also a law teacher. First he got a little crack at school teaching as superintendent of schools over at Marine City in the years 1906 to 1908 and the next two years as superintendent of schools in Ely, Nevada. Next he went to Ionia to practice law and then came the attorney general’s office and the circuit bench and the appointment to the Supreme Court by the then Governor and now Justice HARRY F. KELLY in 1945. So when I came to this Court 23 years ago Justice CARR had already been at work here for a year. I was assigned a room immediately adjacent to his office and so continued for 17 years, from then until Justice CARR’S retirement in 1963. Being thus next door to each other, and law and cases being subjects that lawyers and judges are wont to discuss with each other, it stands to reason that we frequently went back and forth, he into my office but more frequently I into his office because the need for consultation was more frequently felt by me than by him because of his greater experience in the law. And so I came to know him very well, became very fond of him, and was a great admirer of his. I have missed him since 1963 when he left this Court. He left a gap here in the work, deliberations, performance, and conducting of the business of this Court.

Now I had started on something that I detoured for the moment, namely, his teaching experience, most distinguished for his teaching, in the field of law. He was for a number of years what might almost be called a one-man law school, here in Lansing, teaching what others studied in the several law schools. A recent member of this Court was a student of his and studied law under him, receiving all his law training from Justice CARR. Also in that frightful period that precedes, by a couple of months, the necessary taking of State Bar exams, when we all tremble, and I think members of this Court would tremble at the thought of having to take it again if they were so required, thank goodness they’re not, during that time many who later successfully passed that examination took refresher courses from Judge CARR to prepare them for the taking of the State bar. I don’t know whether his experience in such teaching was the reason or whether it would have been that way anyway, but Justice CARR had a tremendous memory for cases. During the history of this Court until the time of his retirement this Court had decided something like 36,000 cases and he seemed to be familiar with them all. While Justice CARR was on this Court he wrote 711 opinions and participated in 4,800 opinions that were handed down by this Court during his 18 years of service on this Court. I think he knew every one of those but I believe he also knew just about everything about every single one of the 36,000 cases that were decided by this Court up until the time of his retirement and could, amazingly enough, give the name of it, and the volume (I’m not sure about the page), and what the case stood for. He had a remarkable legal mind. He knew the rules of practice. Of course this Court has a constitutional responsibility for formulating and applying rules of practice governing the work in all of the Courts and he had his part in formulating those rules during the years he was here. At the same time, while he knew the law, knew the cases, he was not one to spout and do a lot of talking. He was quiet and reserved, in Court conference and outside, and there isn’t much that we can say really to add to his record. I would say that 59 volumes of the Michigan Supreme Court Reports, being volumes 312 to 371, which are the volumes in which his opinions appear during his 18 years of tenure on this Court, I’d say those 59 volumes are his best monument.

He was a man of principle. I don’t believe that he considered himself to be either a liberal or a conservative, because in his view those terms are not appropriate terms or labels to be applied to those in the judiciary and on Supreme Courts.

He was a believer in the doctrine of stare decisis, of which there may, perchance, still be a few remaining in the profession and on the bench; he believed in following precedent. He believed in the separation of powers in our form of government and that the function of the Court was not to amend the Constitution or to enact the statutes but rather to construe and interpret and apply them. That was a strong conviction of his. He was gentle despite his firm convictions about the law and what it ought to be and that it should be applied as found in the books with the recognition, of course, of the function of the court in helping to develop common law. He was given to mercy, kindness, and to the application, certainly, of equitable principles as well as the strict statutory or judicially determined law.

Speaking now for the Court, as well as myself, I say that we miss him and we honor his memory. I hope Mr. Leland Carr, Jr., and I’m not now presuming to twist your arm, I should perhaps be addressing my remarks to Mr. Rhead or to Mr. Ruegsegger, of the State and County bars, that there will come a time when there may be added to the collection of portraits in this room of great judges who have heretofore served this Court, also a portrait of LELAND W. CARR, which will certainly add immeasurably to the inspiration to be derived from our collection.

We extend to you our condolences, of course, but we realize that it must be a great measure of pride that is yours in having, been so close as wife and children to so great a man as Justice CARR. Thank you.

THE CHIEF JUSTICE: Thank you, Mr. Justice DETHMERS. It is carved on the stone of the National Archives in Washington that the past is prologue. And indeed the lives of such men as LELAND W. CARR we hope are prologue to continuation of the institutions which they loved and which they served. And so we are honored and pleased with the presentation made this morning formally, in the Court, and included in our records.

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