Presentation Of The Portrait Of The Honorable George C. Edwards, Jr.

JUNE 12, 1986

CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: This is a most auspicious occasion, as the Court convenes for the presentation of a portrait of one of our former members, an all-time great, the Honorable GEORGE C. EDWARDS, JR. Our first speaker is George Roumell, Jr., President of the State Bar of Michigan.

 MR. ROUMELL: May it please the Court.
James K. Robinson, a Commissioner of the State Bar of Michigan intended to be here today, but the people in the state Legislature need some expert legal guidance and he had to be there.

However, Jim did prepare a resolution honoring former Justice EDWARDS, which was passed unanimously by the Board of Commissioners on Friday, May 9, 1986. And I’d like to read portions of the resolution.

The career of GEORGE CLIFTON EDWARDS has been marked with rich diversity, high distinction, moral courage and outstanding public service. On the occasion of the presentation of portraits of Judge EDWARDS to the Michigan Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the State Bar of Michigan, by this resolution, expresses its appreciation to Judge EDWARDS for his many contributions to the administration of justice during his over forty years as a member of the State Bar of Michigan.

WHEREAS, Judge EDWARDS has lived his life in a manner which fully justifies the application of the words he used in Pioneer-at-Law [New York: Norton & Co, 1974], to describe his father: “[H]is life [has] typified [and continues to do so] the fierce independence, the integrity, and the social vision of those who, through two centuries, have created the American Dream:

Now THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED that the State Bar of Michigan expresses its unanimous accolade of tribute and gratitude to Judge EDWARDS for his outstanding contributions to the development of the law, his tireless efforts to preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States and his shining example to those who will follow his noble path in the service of their country and their fellow man.

It is a real pleasure for me to be here, because we are honoring a very unusual Michigan lawyer. In 1951, he was a judge in the Wayne Probate Court, Juvenile Division; in 1954, judge of the Wayne Circuit Court. Then, in 1956, he was appointed to this Court, and elected to it in 1959. And may I remind you that when he was elected he had achieved the highest majority of votes ever cast up to that time for a justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.

You’ve heard me read portions of the resolution. I think there are really four cases that I know of in which Justice EDWARDS at that time wrote the opinion of the Court, and which in each case was unanimous. In each, he symbolized his belief in justice, and the fact that justice is the cornerstone to freedom in our society. The first case was In re Maddox, 351 Mich 358 [1958], where an alleged sexual psychopath was charged on a civil charge and sent to Ionia. Somehow he was sent thereafter to Jackson prison. Justice EDWARDS and this Court said that under our Michigan Constitution that particular individual was entitled to a trial by jury before he went to Jackson, defending the whole concept of justice.

And then there was People v Gonzales, 356 Mich 247 [1959]. There he set, along with this Court, the concept of illegally seized evidence, and warned the police of this state that they must obey the Constitution of the State of Michigan, and of the United States.

Then on the civil side I’m sure he made Benjamin Cardozo chuckle. As you know, Judge Cardozo was the author of the Palsgraf [v Long Island R Co, 248 NY 339 (1928)] case. And Judge EDWARDS went one step better in Comstock v General Motors, 358 Mich 163 [1959], when he developed and amplified the Palsgraf rule on proximate cause in torts for which many citizens in this state are grateful.

In my own field, in labor law, one of his early cases was Cortez v Ford Motor Co, 349 Mich 108 [1957]. By now it’s an old case, but it set the cornerstone for the responsibility and the rights of a labor union in representing its members in negotiating with management. It is so cardinal now in labor law that we rarely cit it, because it had been accepted as law throughout the country.

Judge EDWARDS is a man of conviction. He’s a man of judicial leadership, a believer in justice and democracy. What I’m going to say now come from a little talk he gave that he probably doesn’t remember. It was given at the Hellenic Bar Association in early 1962 in Detroit. At the time, we asked why he gave up his seat on the Michigan Supreme Court to come back to Detroit as Police Commissioner. This native of Dallas, Texas, looked at us and said, “I love Detroit. We have problems in Detroit, and I want to make a contribution.” No native son of Detroit has loved Detroit as much as GEORGE EDWARDS did.

This is a man that believes in our ministry of justice. As an example, I’d like to relate a case that speaks about this courageous individual, the Detroit desegregation case. After the United States Supreme Court, in my opinion, incorrectly held that cross-district busing could not be imposed in Detroit as a remedy, the case was sent back to the Sixth Circuit. Judge EDWARDS wrote the concurring opinion [Bradley v Milliken, 519 F2d 679, 680 (CA 6, 1975)]. And I would like, with deference to this Court, to read three very important sentences in that concurring opinion. “‘The constitutional right of Negro respondents residing in Detroit is to attend a unitary school system in that district,’” he was quoting the United States Supreme Court. Then this is what Judge EDWARDS said, “Unless the thrust of this sentence is altered by further Supreme Court interpretation, or overruling–or by action in the area of racial integration by Congress or the Presidency–it can come to represent a formula for American apartheid.” He then ends the opinion in words that I will never forget: “I know of no decision made by the Supreme Court of the United States since the Dred Scott decision [Scott v Sanford, 60 US (19 How) 393 (1857)] which is so fraught with disaster for this country.”

There are men and women at the bar and on the bench that serve as beacons to those of us who labor in the fields of law. When you read an opinion and language such as that, you know that one of those beacons is GEORGE EDWARDS. He is our conscience; he is the conscience of all lawyers. Law is a ministry; we are all ministers of peace. But in the case of GEORGE EDWARDS, he is a bishop of the ministry, a bishop of peace. Thank you very much.

CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: Thank you very much George Roumell for your eloquent and just remarks. Next, I call upon another great justice of this Court, THEODORE SOURIS.

 JUSTICE SOURIS: May it please the Court, Mister Chief Justice, members of the Court, Judge EDWARDS, Peg, Jim, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to take this opportunity to express personal appreciation, as distinguished from the expression of professional appreciation I will make in the next few moments, to attempt in my own way to thank Judge EDWARDS, and indeed, Peg, for all the things that they have done for my family and for me in so many ways, on so many occasions. As I look back upon my life, I think there has not been a single public event, a public decision that I have made, in which George, particularly, did not share, and in the process offered guidance and advice that, with one notable exception, I was happy to take.

Let me turn, as George Roumell did a moment ago, to our ethnic forebears for the commencement of my sermon on GEORGE EDWARDS. It was Plato who said that the judge should not be young; he should have learned to know evil, not from his own soul, but from late and long observation of evil in others. Knowledge should be his guide, not personal experience.

Judge EDWARDS has had more than his full share of opportunity for late and long observation of evil in others. As a labor leader, a public housing administrator, a city councilman, a police commissioner, a lawyer, a juvenile court judge, a circuit judge, a Supreme Court justice, and as a member of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, he has had late and long observation of evil in others. And it seems to me he is eminently qualified for a position of high honor in Plato’s army of judges.

Even by the time he joined this bench, and that was thirty years ago this month if memory serves me properly, by appointment of your chief justice who was then Governor of the state, Judge EDWARDS was fully qualified to serve actively and indeed vigorously in the ranks of Plato’s army. The warrior allusion I make is apt, for judicial service on this Court in the decade beginning in the mid-’50s was more like a judicial crusade than the contemplative ministry of justice. Dean Roscoe Pound, at about that time, described Michigan’s Supreme Court as having a bad eminence in the land. But the crusade of which I speak had begun the year before George joined this Court.

Let me take you back, if I may, to those days, briefly, merely to help recall the baseline from which judicial progress in this state must be measured. Those were the days, some of you will remember, when it was said bitterly that Michigan’s Supreme Court issued one-man opinions. By that it was meant that the work of the Court was assigned for writing to one member. And, with rare exception, all others joined without dissent. The Court’s reports before 1955 clearly, as I read them, support that assertion. But from that date on, the reports disclosed first one judicial voice in dissent, Justice TALBOT SMITH’s, then another, Justice EUGENE BLACK’s, and then George’s. Soon after, that drumbeat of dissent became a clarion call for judicial reform. Those members of the Court serving in the late ‘50s managed somehow to focus upon the judicial issues that were being explored and determined, decided throughout the country, that were necessary to be addressed by this Court in order to bring the state’s jurisprudence into the Twentieth Century. And they succeeded.

First, Judge EDWARDS and his philosophic colleagues on this Court dared to suggest that the Court’s function, its task, was to do justice, not simply toperpetuate the myth of its own judicial infallibility by simply, rigidly adhering to its past decisions, right or wrong. They viewed such blind adherence to their prior decisions as a substitute for the kind of rational, serious, reflective thought necessary to resolve the problems, legal and social, confronting the Court every day. They led the Court ultimately to the realization, at least by majority accord at that time, that Justice Cardozo was right when he said, and now I’m quoting from the Nature of the Judicial Process [Cardozo, Selected Writings (New York: Fallon Publications, 1947), p 171], “I am ready to concede that the rule of adherence to precedent, though it ought not to be abandoned, ought to be in some degree relaxed. I think that when a rule, after it has been duly tested by experience, has been found to be inconsistent with the sense of justice or with the social welfare, there should be less hesitation in frank avowal and full abandonment.”

Then these members of the Court of whom I speak, turned their attention to the substantive and procedural issues of the day. Included among those substantive issues of law that they succeeded in forcing the Court to reexamine are the following:

Number one, the compensablity under our workers’ compensation law of heart attacks and emotional injuries resulting from pressures of employment;

Number two, entitlement of a worker to unemployment compensation when denied the opportunity to work because of a work stoppage against his employer in a place other than his place of employment;

Number three, immunity from tort liability of hospitals, of municipalities, and of other governmental units;

Number four, liability of manufacturers to the users of negligently manufactured goods;

Number five, rights of criminal defendants to appeal convictions, to the assistance of trial and appellate counsel, and to be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures;

And number six, the right of equal representation in our state Legislature, and in other legislative bodies.

These are issues of great importance to the state, and these are issues with which that Court grappled. They turned also to procedural reforms that were, in my view, of equal importance. In Michigan, unlike other enlightened industrial states, the right to a trial by jury was often illusory in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and mid-’50s. Jury selection methods were practically guaranteed to result in a select jury. And if the result of that jury was not to the liking of the judge trying the case, our processes in Michigan provided the trial judges the opportunity to control the jury’s verdict simply by granting summary judgment before trial, by directing a verdict, and by granting judgment notwithstanding a verdict.

By 1960 or 1961, the new Court, by majority vote, not on a politically partisan basis, had established rational, relatively easily applied rules which allowed determination of a litigant’s right to a jury trial on disputed fact issues, and which severely limited the grounds for challenging the sanctity of a jury’s verdict.

Other procedural reforms were effected case by case. But the most sweeping reforms were made in the Court Rule Amendments of 1961. While I now regret, sometimes deeply, the role George and I both played in extending the right of discovery, nonetheless, those rules without any doubt substantially enhanced the opportunities of people to invoke the judicial process which previously they frequently were unable to afford.

By the time I reached the Court in 1960, like George by appointment of your chief justice, the crusade was well underway, and now, in my view, it has been won. The accomplishments I have mentioned could not have occurred but for the role Justice GEORGE EDWARDS played on this Court from 1956 to 1962.

Why is it that one man made such a difference in this Court’s work, and such a difference in the work of the Sixth Circuit? I suggest it may be because GEORGE EDWARDS has, as Walter Lipman once described, a public philosophy with common and binding principles. I thin, I’m absolutely certain about this, that that Edwardian philosophy is subsumed in one word, and that word is “equality.” That’s clearly evident from his judicial writings, his speeches in which he has exposed to public view the societal harm that is caused by the persistence of inequality of justice, both public and private.

Were all who are engaged in the ministry of justice, which Mr. Roumell referred to in his remarks, endowed with Justice EDWARDS’ qualities, I think the face of justice would be fairer than it is. It has been my very great personal pleasure to have been associated so closely with one of America’s most perceptive, imaginative, courageous, and compassionate ministers of justice.

CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: Thank you very much Justice SOURIS for that very moving and thoughtful address. And now it’s my pleasure to ask the Honorable Richard A. Enslen, Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan to come to the podium.

 JUDGE ENSLEN: May it please the Court, Mister Chief Justice, justices, George and Peg and family. I thought sitting on the other side of the bench, George, that this was a motion I couldn’t lose. But earlier on, I was watching Mr. Roumell address the Court and a note was being passed among the justices, and some whispering was taking place. So I feel this may be the swing speech for my client.

To Judge GEORGE EDWARDS, JR. All of us feel especially privileged to have been in his presence during the fifty years or so of his service to Michigan, and to the United States. Indeed, we don’t need this portrait today to be reminded of his place in the history of this country, because that is already assured and secured. Only a few men and women emerge every generation or so who can truly be acknowledged by all of us as standing alone and ahead of the rest of us in our chosen profession. He is in fact considered to be one of our nation’s true giants on the bench: in part because of his unswerving pursuit of justice under law; in part because of the wisdom of his opinions, always styled in the crisp and brilliant fashion inherent among the most intellectual members of our judiciary; in part because of his compassion for, and identification with, those who must continuously struggle to attain simple justice; in part because of his conscience and his integrity; in part because of his tenacity; in part because of his courage, instinctive, both intellectual and physical, and the fearless fashion in which this courage became evident to all of us; and in part because of Peg’s love for him, and his for her. The sum of these parts is GEORGE CLIFTON EDWARDS, JR., whom we honor here today.
In the early days it was not as a lawyer or a judge that he was brought to our attention. Instead, it was as a leader of the industrial labor movement that these qualities to which I have alluded today were first revealed. And no always to the applause or the accolades of the whole society either. During the 1930s, he was living testimony to the warnings of Edmund Burke. “Those who would carry on the great public schemes must be proof against the most fatiguing delays, the most mortifying disappointments, the most shocking insults, and worst of all, the presumptuous judgment of the ignorant upon their designs.”

In his days as a labor leader, city councilman, and police commissioner, he reminded us by his conduct and his words that neutrality on the great issues of the public is a weakness and not a strength.

As a state trial court judge, as a distinguished appellate jurist on both the Michigan Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals, he always maintained the requisite judicial neutrality, but without forgetting that social change could not and did not occur without a struggle. In all his capacities, he identified with the advice of Frederick Douglass, “Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning, they want the ocean without the awful roar of its mighty waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” [John W. Blassingame, Frederick Douglass: The Clarion Voice (1976).]

Finally we are pleased that life has blessed him with good health, and that he is with us here today as his portrait is unveiled in this august Court. We share with him and Peg the feelings expressed by Tennyson, who, like George and Peg, knew that the journey is not yet complete.
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs;
The deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

 CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: Thank you very much Judge Enslen for those distinguished and beautiful words.

Up until this point we’ve move chorusly, scholarly, and euphoniously according to the schedule laid down by the friends of GEORGE EDWARDS. But at this point the chief justice takes over, and we will move in a slightly different tone.

I want to begin by introducing some of the other justices of the Court who have sat before us. To begin with Chief Justice THOMAS BRENNAN, Justice PAUL ADAMS, Justice JAMES RYAN, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, ROBERT DANHOF, Judge Albert J. Engel, Judge Theodore Bohn, Louis J. Caruso, the Solicitor General, Jordan Rossen, general counsel of the UAW, Professor Harold Norris of the Detroit College of Law, Michael Franck, Executive Director of the State Bar of Michigan, Ann Beser of the Speaker’s Office, and Stan Winkelman.

I have been particularly touched by all of the words of the designated speakers. George really goes down in the annals of the State of Michigan as one who helped bring the state out of the Nineteenth and into the Twentieth Century, into the light of a new day. I know that he has been an inspiration to all of us.

I am particularly grateful to him for his friendship, his association, his example, and for countless services rendered. As a matter of fact, perhaps neither he nor I would have been here if he and his colleague, Tom Downs, sitting here, hadn’t done such an excellent job in the 1950 recount when the scales were in the balance as to whether a young Governor would return to office or not. And his discovery, for example, of the Oleo Margarine votes which had been wrongly cast, and which, when added in to my total instead of the total of my opponent, might well have made the difference in that very close election. Of course, if I hadn’t been reelected, some of those illustrious people of whom George spoke as changing the jurisprudence of this state wouldn’t have been in a position to perform their great services. So George, it’s with a heart full of gratitude that I recognize the services that you performed, and Tom performed, and the many who joined in that activity.

I think I should take credit at this time, in a backhanded way, for the illustrious judicial career of GEORGE EDWARDS. In 1948, I tried to persuade GEORGE EDWARDS to run for the United States Senate, and, while we didn’t know it at the time, neither he nor I, the statistics and the conduct of our own candidate in that race indicate that if George had run, he would have begun a long session as Senator from Michigan, and would have been the senior Senator for a long, long time.

Then there was another occasion when as a young Governor, some tried to persuade me to appoint GEORGE EDWARDS to the United States Senate to fill a vacancy when Senator Vandenberg left our midst. And I think the good Lord touched my shoulder, because I saved George for the judiciary by preventing his going to the United States Senate at that time, where I’m sure he would have had an equally illustrious career.

George, I want to say that you’ve really been an inspiration to all of us. Some while ago I attended a wedding down in Texas, where SMU is located, and, knowing that George had done his undergraduate work there, I said, “George, now I’m going down there, I don’t know my way around Texas at all. If you’ll just tell me where the monument to you is on that campus I’d be much obliged, because I’d like to go down and pay my tribute.” And George looked at me in that way of his, and he said, “Governor, they hang people like me in the trees down there instead of erecting monuments.” So I’m delighted that we come to the point where we can, in our humble way, due to the kindness of George’s committee, and due to his illustrious career, establish a monument of sorts to one of Michigan’s great human beings, a leader for the progress of the people of this state. And so we proceed to the unveiling of the portrait. Very appropriately, Mrs. George C. Edwards, “Peg” to all of us, is going to perform that office.

[The portrait was unveiled by Mrs. Edwards.]

CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: Now George it’s your opportunity to respond, but we have one court rule that you’ll have to follow. And that is: Please introduce your family before you begin whatever remarks you may have.

 JUSTICE EDWARDS: Mister Chief Justice, justices of the Michigan Supreme Court, judges, members of the bar, friends all, my cup runneth over. In fact, it runneth over to the point where I’m darn near drowning in it.

I don’t know whether I can get through what I plan to say to you, but I’ll do my best.

First, of course, is my beloved wife Peggy.

James Edwards, Ruth Edwards, Blake Edwards, Steve Edwards. I deeply regret that George Edwards, III, is not here.
I great each member of the Court with respect and affection. As you’ve heard, I’ve now been an appellate judge for 27 ½ years. Six of those were on the Supreme Court of Michigan, to which Justice WILLIAMS appointed me. Before that, he had appointed me to two Wayne County courts where I served for six years. Due to the marvels of Lexis, I find that in the appellate courts I have written 1,083 signed opinions, 248 of them were published in the Michigan Reports, the balance published in the Federal Reporter, 2d. Total production when per curiams, printed per curiams in the Court of Appeals, are added would be well ahead of one printed opinion per week for 271/2 years. These statistics would make me extremely weary if I were not now a senior judge.

These days people ask me how it is to be a senior judge. And invariably I reply, it’s like going to heaven without dying. Now I have some time to do things I have been wanting to do for such a long time–other than write assigned cases.

I won’t discuss those opinions, although I had intended to do so briefly, because they have been discussed so well–I don’t know whether I should say well, thoroughly then–by the kind friends who have preceded me at this podium. I can say to you that I’ve worked on them through those years. I can say to you that they’ve represented the best that I could bring to the case at hand. I can say to you that I’ve rarely regretted an opinion, beyond thinking, if it did not command the majority or was reversed by the Supreme Court of the United States, that in any event I had given it my best, and I just wished that I had commanded sufficiently effective language to convince the Court of that which I thought before it decided contrariwise and think now was correct.

All in all it’s been a good life in the appellate law. And, best of all, at the moment I feel that I have yet a long way to go.

Currently, in my present court, I have some time as a senior judge, with half an active judge’s caseload, to do some long-delayed writing on legal and other topics. I’m currently working early mornings and weekends on two books; whether they get published or not remains to be seen. The first may be called something like The Police Commissioner, the Cop, and the Mafia. The cop, a most distinguished one, is here today. His name is Vincent Piersante, formerly Chief of Detectives of the Detroit Police Department, subsequently Director of the Organized Crime Division of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. Vince saw me through two of the toughest years of my life, and allowed me to make a contribution and to survive the most difficult single job that I’ve ever had.

May I say to you Chief Justice WILLIAMS, to all of your colleagues, to all of those gathered here, I value your scheduling this ceremony. I value deeply the things which have been said here today. And I have valued through the many years which have passed, consultations that I have had and the contacts that I have had with each of you as we have gone through the varying and troublesome issues of our day and time.

While I have been engaged in seeking to do justice in the appellate courts, my wife Peg has been engaged as a volunteer teacher. First for ten years in the Detroit Public Schools, and now for another eleven years in the Cincinnati Public Schools. In connection with the portrait presentation in Cincinnati, Peg received a card from the principal of her school, a downtown area, a black school in Cincinnati. The card reads, “Thanks to Peg and you, Washburn is a better place.” The card also conveys some thoughts which I want to share with you. They come from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends (I don’t have any false friends, at least I don’t recognize any of them); to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” As I look at this gathering, see the faces of friends from Lansing, from Detroit, from elsewhere in Michigan, or elsewhere in the Sixth Circuit, who have helped make these long years joyful ones, I want you to know, each one of you, how much Peg and I appreciate your presence here, how much we hope to have a chance to greet and shake hands with you at the reception which will follow. Thank you very much.

CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: I have received several letters from colleagues of Justice EDWARDS, including one from Judge Philip Pratt, who couldn’t be here, and from Judge Douglas W. Hillman, who couldn’t be here. But I want to read a few words from the last letter:

Some years back Judge EDWARDS made a monumental effort to come to Grand Rapids to swear me in. That was a major event in my life, and I will always be very appreciative. He’s a fine gentleman, outstanding citizen, tremendous judge, and not a bad tennis player.

With that we will adjourn. Thank you very much.