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JANUARY 14, 2003
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to this very special session of the Michigan Supreme Court in which we will dedicate the portrait of our colleague, James Brickley. I would like to say at the outset that we have a wonderful Learning Center on the first floor and the proceedings are being piped into the Learning Center. Any of our overflow crowd who would like to witness the proceedings downstairs in the Learning Center, I invite you to go there at this time. Before we begin this afternoon I would also like to extend the apologies of my colleague Robert Young, who is teaching his first class at Wayne Law School and will have to be leaving shortly. He has asked me to indicate to you that he is sorry he will have to leave during the middle of these proceedings.
Welcome again. To those of us who knew and worked with James Brickley, today is a very bittersweet occasion. In recalling his life and his many contributions to this Court and to our state, we also feel more keenly our loss. Gathered here are many people who knew and loved him. His wife Joyce is here, as is I believe his daughter Kathleen. Is Kathleen here? Good afternoon, Kathleen. Many people are here who valued him as a colleague and dear friend: our colleague Jim Ryan, who is here this afternoon; Justice Mike Cavanagh who will speak shortly; former Governor William Milliken, who will be on the program this afternoon. I have been told that Governor Engler is here, good afternoon Governor; and Frank Kelley is here, good afternoon, we welcome you. Also I welcome, I believe, it’s Jim Brickley Jr. — and Bill Brickley is here I see. We welcome you.
Someone who wandered into the midst of these proceedings might ask who was this man that so many people have gathered in his honor here today. Each one of us, I think — family, friend and colleagues _- would have different answers because of what he meant to each of us. I think all of us would agree that Jim Brickley was a seemingly self-contradiction. A gentle and courtly and soft spoken man who rose to the very highest levels of Michigan government. His life is proof that modesty and kindness are not just possible in a life of public service, but they are essential to its true success. Although he crammed enough achievements in his life of 72 years, he didn’t have an arrogant bone in his body. On this Court, in my experience, he was a conciliator. He knew how to argue effectively, when to press a point, when to concede a point. He was a good listener, considering others’ points of view very carefully and with respect, even when he did not agree with them. I must say, for a moment, talk about his sense of humor which he used to great effect even at a young age. Many of you know that several of us on the Court have a connection to the University of Detroit High School and certainly Justice Brickley did as well. I must repeat a story that I’ve heard about him when he was a student at U of D High. Justice Brickley was in a class taught by a priest who was very strict about attendance and being on time for class. Lateness would not be tolerated according to the good father. So when young Mr. Brickley showed up late one day for class, the teacher stopped the class and said, “Mr. Brickley, I assume you have a very good excuse for your lateness.” “I do, father,” said Mr. Brickley. He turned around and there running across the back of his white shirt was a tire track. What he had done, of course, was take his shirt off and had one of his friends drive a car over it. I’m not very sure that the teacher appreciated the joke, and in fact I’m told that it earned him a trip to the principal’s office. But there was no doubt, then or now, that Jim Brickley had a wonderful sense of humor.
At this juncture I would like to turn over the floor to our wonderful colleague, Wallace Riley, the president of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, to proceed as master of ceremonies. Good afternoon Wally.
WALLACE D. RILEY: Thank you Madam Chief Justice and Associate Justices for allowing the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society to participate in this, the first special session of the Michigan Supreme Court in the new Hall of Justice. I should note the thrill of being in these new chambers in the new Hall of Justice for the first special session. It is made even more special because we gather to present to the Court the portrait of everyone’s favorite friend and former Justice, the Honorable James H. Brickley. Probably the most important, historically significant activity of the Society since its beginning, now nearly 15 years ago, has been the collection, cataloguing, restoring, preserving, acquiring and presenting the portraits of former Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court. Today we continue that noble tradition. But before the paint comes the person and surrounding me are a line-up of Brickley admirers who are anxious to share with you their tributes to Chief Justice Brickley. To remember a friend it takes a good friend, and I’d like to call on Jim’s good friend, the Honorable James L. Ryan.
HONORABLE JAMES L. RYAN: Thank you Wally. Madam Chief Justice and Justices of the Court, Governor Granholm, Governors Milliken and Engler, my distinguished colleagues of the bench and bar and ladies and gentlemen. A 10-second digression. Those to whom I am most anxious to speak about our honoree today, I’m afraid must take my back. That anachronistic situation is steeped in tradition when one addresses the Supreme Court — not logic. Forgive me, please.
Joyce has done me the honor of permitting me to introduce the members of Jim’s family. The Chief Justice has done that and if I may, just in the interest of completeness, let me ask you to recognize Jim’s eldest son, Jim. Where are you seated Jim? Oh, stand up and be recognized. Jim is in the (inaudible). Jim’s son Bill, who is a partner in a very prestigious Detroit law firm, is here. Where are you seated Bill? Right there. His wife Laura and their children, Danny and Rose. Kathy Brickley is here and she will be introduced shortly, and her husband Paul is here. Kathy is an attorney practicing in Kalamazoo after a most luminous career as a law student at the University of Notre Dame. Is Brian here? Brian, the youngest of the boys, will be here I’m sure. Not able to be here because they live in California and have other commitments is Jim’s oldest daughter, Janice, an attorney in California, and Kelly, who is the youngest of the children. Have I missed anybody. Well, I’ve missed Aunt Kay, Jim’s Aunt Kay is here. Where are you seated, dear? Ms. Fisher. Jim didn’t have any brothers but he had four wonderful and lovely sisters: Mary Kay Hickey and Nancy Mayer, I think they are here. Are you ladies here? Nancy and Mary Kay. His other two sisters, Virginia Brickley and Roberta Kanko were not able to be here. Thank you Madam Chief Justice for permitting me to do that.
And now, let me say I count it a singular privilege to have been invited by Joyce, Jim’s wife, widow, to share with you and to share with posterity some of the memories of my old and dear pal and yours, Jim Brickley. I take literally my assignment, as it’s defined in the program, to remember a friend, which is rather different, I think, than assessing a distinguished Justice’s judicial philosophy or noting his most significant cases or attempting to fix in the constellation of judicial stars in this place his proper place. So this is a celebration of a life as I get it, all of it, because it is all of it that Jim Brickley invested in his work in the Court and has left as his legacy. Another reason for looking at this wonderful life is because, as the lawyers and judges know, what is said here today is taken down verbatim and it is recorded in the bound volumes of the Michigan Reports and it becomes an important source of reference for students and lawyers and scholars hereafter who wish to learn something about the human characteristics of the Justices who served here, as well as to learn something about their career contributions.
There is another reason. Of the 42 years Jim Brickley devoted to public service, just 17 of them were spent in the judiciary and all of them in this great Court.
What of the others. Well, after earning his Bachelor of Arts and his law degrees from the University of Detroit, Jim’s first “real job”, as he once put it, was as a special agent for the FBI beginning in 1954, the early years of the Eisenhower administration, the first term. It was, some will remember, a period of the ascendance and the very sudden decline of the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy and it was a time of J. Edgar Hoover’s very high profile overt pursuit of what was then widely thought to be the nation-threatening communist menace in this country. During most of Jim’s FBI service, he was stationed in New York and he was assigned to do what he later described as surveillance. I always admired my friend’s reluctance, in fact his refusal, to discuss with me, or with anybody else as far as I knew, the details of that FBI surveillance. It was, I think, an early indicator of the professionalism of the man. But the work was boring. He said that to relieve the boredom and to enhance his professional preparation for bigger things, Jim attended the New York University School of Law and, in due course, earned a Master’s Degree in Public and Administrative Law. That was a harbinger, I think, of things to come. He came back to Detroit about 1959 and he took up the private practice of law. He took an office in a suite in downtown Detroit in a loose association with a group of fellow University of Detroit law graduates who were mostly Irish, mostly Catholic, and mostly not distracted with the burden of any flourishing law practices. And all needed to find a way to support increasingly large families. What they did have was a feeling, a sense, inspired no doubt by the emotional appeal of the spirit of Camelot that was abroad in the land in those days, that it might just be time for a changing of the old political guard in Detroit municipal and judicial politics.
So there they were, this politically ambitious group of young lawyers, in a suite that had more ambitious lawyers than it had client files and the library conference room, of what we called “the firm,” loosely, was really a hot bed of political speculation and aspiration and exploration and intrigue. The mood was exciting and Jim Brickley was right in the center of it. Now this is Jim’s day and it would be indelicate of me to identify the principal personalities of those assemblages, almost all of whom I would suffice it to say, have pretty distinguished public careers. But maybe it would be amiss for me to observe that of that gang of “loosely affiliated Irish Catholic lawyers” there emerged three Michigan Supreme Court Justices, two of them Chief Justice, two Michigan Court of Appeals judges, four circuit judges, one common pleas judge, a chief judge of the Detroit traffic court, a speaker of the House of Representatives, a Wayne County sheriff and a mayor of the City of Detroit. With all of that, after a few years — and it took about five years to get that done — there was no one left to practice law in Detroit and the suite on the 21st floor folded. Jim Brickley’s piece of the action was a thoroughly grass roots candidacy for a seat on the Detroit City Council. He was elected by a very large margin, displacing an aging but respected and totally ineffective member of the old guard. Jim served in the City Council for about five years and “serve” I think is the right verb. He studied the issues. He attended all the hearings. He listened carefully to the citizen pleaders, special and otherwise, and he was highly regarded by the Detroit area scrutinizing press as a public figure who was solidly informed and a serious student of municipal government.
But in 1967, about five years later, a vacancy occurred in the office of Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney. Now the law is that a vacancy of that character has to be filled by a majority vote of the Wayne Circuit Judges. Jim had at least one friend on that bench at the time. Indeed he had more. If you’ll forgive the personal reference, I was serving at that time as one of the 27 judges and it was our business to select, by a majority vote, the new prosecutor. There were three individuals to be considered. One of them was Jim Brickley. And after considerable debate, and I cannot emphasize the word considerable, too much, Bill Cahallan, a well-known, well-liked, thoroughly Democratic down-river Detroit lawyer, was given the appointment and selected to be the new prosecuting attorney. Councilman Jim Brickley, and I assure you this was by no means a coincidence, was the next morning early appointed by Mr. Cahallan to serve as the chief assistant prosecuting attorney. Now I am, forgiving me Madam Chief Justice, sorely tempted to share with you the colorful story of the process by which the Wayne Circuit Judges in that long afternoon and evening settled upon Bill Cahallan for the top job and Bill on Jim Brickley for the second job, but I am reserving that wonderful story for my book.
After two years of serving as the administrative chief of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office, Jim Brickley was tapped by President Nixon in 1969 to be the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. As a federal prosecutor in Michigan, Jim very quickly won the admiration and the support of the Justice Department and the necessary funds to upgrade the efficiency and the professionalism of that office very materially, including the appointment of a chief assistant district attorney who later became a colleague of mine on the federal court, the Honorable Ralph Guy who is here today. Jim’s service as a U.S. Attorney is still spoken of by the federal judges of Detroit with admiration.
Now the name Brickley was becoming synonymous with personal and professional integrity, administrative efficiency, dedication to public service _- not as a political option, but as a professional calling. So in 1970 Governor William G. Milliken, who was well aware that Jim Brickley’s talent and his reputation were becoming recognized statewide, asked Jim to run as the governor’s partner for the office of lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket. It would be the first time Jim was formally affiliated with any political party. Like all decisions insofar as I know that Jim ever made in his public career, he didn’t jump at the governor’s call. He thought about it. He talked to his family about it. He talked to a few of us who cared about him and cared about Michigan. Well, as you know, the invitation was accepted and the team of Milliken and Brickley was elected to the state’s highest office for a new four-year term. Jim was a lieutenant governor. So for the next four years, he occasionally presided over the Senate, which almost rarely needed his tie-breaking vote. He tried life as a gentleman farmer in Dimondale with real animals and real barns and spent the rest of his time, insofar as I know, examining and approving light fixtures and fabrics and paneling and paint for the lieutenant governor’s office that was being decorated by Millie Pastor. But at the end of that four-year period of service, in 1977, Governor Milliken asked Jim to accept the presidency of Eastern Michigan University. Once again, after considerable deliberation that I was privileged to observe in part, and with some considerable trepidation, Jim accepted the Governor’s new challenge for him. At that time a skilled, efficient and fair and very bright chief executive was exactly what Eastern Michigan’s presidency needed. That tenure, I might add, was not without pain. There was, of course, the natural resistance of the tenured and deeply entrenched academic community in Ypsilanti to the appointment of a president who was not from among their number and who had a reputation for administrative efficiency and who had some ideas about enriching the stature and the quality of Eastern Michigan University. As with everything Jim did with public life, he threw himself into the presidency of Eastern Michigan totally and energetically and completely. His successes there are too numerous to mention. That he did introduce much needed reforms, a new philosophy of cooperation between the academic and the administrative communities there and he enriched the relationship between town and gown and he brought a new and youthful energy that awakened a pretty somnambulant former teacher’s college to recognize that greatness that could be its own.
In late 1978, during Jim’s very happy tenure as president of Eastern Michigan, Governor Milliken faced the prospect of standing for election once more and he recognized what a jewel he had had in Jim Brickley as a lieutenant governor and as a running mate. And he pulled off what until today is still regarded as the most remarkable feat in the history of Michigan politics. He got the president of Eastern Michigan University, a job which had no small depository of enviable perks, to run once again with him, Governor Milliken, as lieutenant governor. Jim knew, of course, former Vice President John Nance Garner’s assessment of the worth of the office of vice president of the United States. And Jim now knew from experience that Garner’s comparison was perfectly applicable to its counterpart, the office of lieutenant governor in Michigan. So when some of us, I must confess, questioned Jim’s sanity at seriously entertaining Governor Milliken’s request for a reprise, I remember very clearly what Jim said. He said Bill Milliken and the Michigan Republican party said they needed me and that being so, I ought to say yes. And so he did. So during that term, he served with distinction and credit to the delegate administration and to the state of Michigan. Bill Milliken obviously was not an ingrate and in December of 1982 at the close of the Governor’s final term, he appointed James H. Brickley, then in the 25th year of his public service, to be the 92nd Justice of this great Court. Jim served here for 17 years, from Christmas of 1982 until the first day of October 1999, including two years as Chief Justice. His opinions, for those who like statistics, are published in Volumes 417 through 461 of the Michigan Reports. And if I may be forgiven a personal reference once more, perhaps I should note here that thanks very largely to Jim Brickley’s urging and absolutely to Joyce Braithwaite’s imprimatur, Governor Milliken had been generous enough to extend to me the privilege of serving in this Court a few years earlier. So I was able to be here to welcome my old friend to the best job I ever had and thought it would be his assessment too.
Jim approached the privilege of serving on the Michigan Supreme Court with humility and professionalism and dedication to getting it right. That is what marked every step of his lifetime in public service. One aside. He couldn’t have come to the Court at a more difficult time. The Court was in relative turmoil. The very first case Jim was required to address was the emotion-charged and highly unusual and internally-divisive case in which the Attorney General sued, challenging the constitutionality of Justice Dorothy Comstock Riley’s continuing service as a Justice of the Court after January 1, 1983. She had been appointed by Governor Milliken just a few weeks earlier. The lawsuit asked her ouster from the Court. It went up to argument before the Court, that case, the briefing period, the research, the conference discussions and the ultimate resolution of the case were very painful for everyone on the Court. Justice Riley obviously more so than others, because the outcome of the case was that the majority of the Court ordered Justice Riley’s ouster from the Supreme Court, a decision from which I’m happy to say, my friend Jim Brickley joined me in dissent. But what is far more important today than that is to say to you that the highly charged atmosphere of the Supreme Court during that very difficult time, including some very hard feelings, were substantially ameliorated by the remarkable courtesy and gentleness and collegiality and the careful scholarship our newest Justice, Jim Brickley, had brought to the Court. Out of deference to my pal Justice Michael Cavanagh, who served on the Court with Justice Brickley longer than anyone else, I’ll leave it to him to recount the sort of man Jim was during his judicial service.
His tenure wasn’t easy. The composition of the Supreme Court was in constant flux. None of the Justices who were serving in the Court on the day Jim arrived in December of ’82 were still here when he departed in October of ’99. He had served with 16 different Justices. He saw himself not as one of Michigan’s most important jurists sitting at the pinnacle of the Michigan judiciary, he saw himself as our old court clerk, Hal Hoag, once said: he saw himself as a constitutional visitor to the Court and for a very short time. And in that respect, saw himself as a trustee of its traditions and its authority and its jurisprudence. Jim Brickley did not have an intellectually prideful bone in his whole body. While he held a vast array of firm and reasoned opinions about a lot of subjects, he was utterly devoid of the vices of self-absorption and self-importance or false pride, that fascination with the robe that poisons so many otherwise very capable judges. Jim took very seriously the intended symbolism of the black robe to conceal and obscure the individuality and the personality of the wearer when conducting judicial business.
He had a vibrant and exciting and engaging Irish wit. He had an exquisite sense of humor especially when he was the butt of the joke. During his final months on the Court he was not well. And as much as he loved the Court and his work, he was determined that his declining health must not compromise the standards of excellence he had always set for himself and to which he had always tried to adhere. More than that, he concluded that after 42 years of public service, it was time to turn his full attention to the medical care and treatment he was certain would restore him to good health. And while doing that, to spend much more time with his dear, dear wife, Joyce. Sailing in their boat on Traverse Bay and on Lake Michigan and watching the sun set in the west on the Great Lake, doing some long-deferred traveling and, in between, getting to know his grandchildren much better. And so to a state-wide, really, thunder of applause by editorialists and political observers and judges and lawyers and state and federal officials, present and former, and countless little guys who Jim didn’t know but who had been touched by his 40 years of public service, he retired from the Court on October 1, 1999. And then, just a couple of days short of two years later, on September 28, 2001, he was called by Almighty God to his eternal reward.
Tomorrow, when all of us have gone our individual ways and Jim’s portrait is hung in one of the spaces in this beautiful Hall of Justice for generations to come, knowledgeable school teachers and tour directors and lawyers who will have read Jim’s opinions will gaze at that handsome and serene face and say, or ought to say: here was a wise and thoughtful judge who was respectful of lawyers, dedicated to getting it right, and always a credit to the Court and a model for the judicial performance of other constitutional visitors to this Court in years to come. Thank you.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you Justice Ryan.
WALLACE D. RILEY: Nobody could have done it better. Thank you Judge Ryan. Thirty years ago, Mary Stallings Coleman became the first woman on the Michigan Supreme Court. And 27 years ago Dorothy Comstock Riley was sworn in as the first woman on the Michigan Court of Appeals. Fourteen days ago another woman became a first — Michigan’s first woman governor. She is here today, in her first appearance before the Court as Governor, to pay tribute to the former Chief Justice, James H. Brickley. May it please the Court, Governor Jennifer Granholm.
GOVERNOR JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM: Thank you. May it please the Court, to the Justices, to Judge Ryan who did a marvelous job recapturing the life of Justice Brickley, to the Brickley family, to Governors Milliken and Engler, and to all of the distinguished guests here, including Frank Kelley seated back there. I do want to begin by saying what an incredible honor it is that you have asked me to participate. Those of us assigned remarks were given three minutes or so to make some comments. So the length of my remarks does not reflect the depth of my admiration for Justice Brickley. For this state, Justice Brickley was a heroic figure, public servant, par excellence and for me, personally, Justice Brickley was a hero. I am an unabashed fan of Justice Brickley and I appreciate being asked to speak. People have called Justice Brickley so many things, as Judge Ryan stated, during his life, whether it was special agent or lieutenant governor or professor or president or prosecutor or Justice and I’m so proud to be able to call him a role model for us baby boomers who were not privileged to serve alongside him. At my inauguration, I was proud that a miniature chair of Justice Brickley was on the podium as I spoke my inaugural address so he was there in spirit.
Today we are here to dedicate a portrait, and Edgar Degas, the great impressionist sculptor and painter, was once asked to reflect upon the meaning of his own work. He responded that art is not what you see but what you make others see and in his work, Degas made us see the exquisite beauty in the extension of a ballerina’s arm, in the perfect composition of a dancer’s studio, in the allure of exploring secrets that might be on a stranger’s writing desk. Degas, I think, made us see passion and grandeur in ordinary aspects of life. Justice Brickley made us see in everyday occurrences the nobility of the law and the nobility of public service. His life’s work is an extraordinary and unusual art in which we see the brush strokes of civility, of gentleness, of bipartisanship and of thoughtful service. He showed us in his art that the law is not just a storm of words and written arguments but rather a ray of light re-energizing our common faith in government and in our civil society. In this day of Divorce Court and Jerry Springer, Justice Brickley’s life is like a balm to the soul. His service uplifted all public servants. His work ignobled all of us and his portrait will hang here as a testament to his life and to his honor. It is, I’m sure, a loving tribute to one of Michigan’s great sons and a reminder that service is as admirable as justice is attainable. So, we’ve yet to unveil the portrait, and I’m sure that Mr. Petroskey is perhaps grateful that we do not expect his work to capture all that has been described here today. But I do know this—that when it is hung, and as it has been referenced since Justice Brickley graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, I have no doubt that the Justice’s likeness will remind all those who come and inspire all those who come as they see it and say: There was a man who embodied the motto of U of D High. There was a man for others. So welcome home, Justice Brickley. Thank you.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you, Governor.
WALLACE D. RILEY: Thank you Governor. Justice Michael F. Cavanagh took his seat on the bench of the Michigan Supreme Court less than a week after Justice Brickley and served with him the entire 17 years that Justice Brickley was on the Court. So, he is the perfect colleague to speak about fellow Justice Jim Brickley. Justice Cavanagh.
JUSTICE MICHAEL F. CAVANAGH: Thank you Mr. Riley. Joyce reminded me the other day when we spoke that when I spoke at Jim’s funeral, I quoted from a speech that he gave six years before to the graduates of U of D Mercy Law School. I said then that I felt he told them some things that I think applied actually more to him than to anyone else. As he spoke that day, he urged the new graduates to lift their life with spirit. And we felt it worthwhile to repeat part of what he said. “In spirit is excitement, energy, curiosity. It is the passion that makes people smile when they talk to you. You came here to this law school to learn and you came here to learn how to learn. As a lawyer you will never stop learning about the law. But make sure you never stop learning about everything else, too. Reading things that have nothing to do with the law will make you a better lawyer, not to mention a more interesting dinner guest. Nourish your spirit every day. The fashionable cynicism of our age gets so old sometimes. How many people do we know who seem to believe that a person’s intelligence can be measured by the ability to see flaws in everything, in everyone. Amaze people with what you do believe in. Find political candidates that you do support. Find neighborhood causes that are worth fighting for. Make sure your spirit gives off plenty of light and heat. Anywhere you work or play or spend time should be different because you are there. Be a memorable person.”
We’re here this afternoon to unveil a portrait of a beloved former Justice and I’m confident that the artist has done a superb job of capturing our dear friend. I have to say, though, that as I thought of today’s event, I found myself thinking about another picture that we have all seen. Jim Brickley brought many qualities to this Court and others will talk today about his skills as a lawyer and a government leader. What I will remember is his joy, his sense of proportion, his ability to see the blessings that lay around us every day. A day on the water, a big old fish in a warm sun [displaying a picture of Justice Brickley holding a fish, that was on the cover of his funeral memorial]. Our friend Jim Brickley was a memorable person. He saw the potential in each of Michigan’s citizens. He understood the role of law and he knew what was important in life. His unfailing hope nourished our Court for most of 20 years and will abide in our memories and in the institution he served so faithfully. Thank you all.
WALLACE D. RILEY: And thank you Justice Cavanagh. The Honorable William G. Milliken is, and now with term limits will continue to be, Michigan’s longest serving Governor. He enjoyed that longevity in part because he made good choices. Jim Brickley was always a good and frequent choice. Governor Milliken.
GOVERNOR WILLIAM G. MILLIKEN: Madam Chief Justice, Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court, Governor Granholm, Governor Engler, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen who have come here today to pay fitting tribute to our great friend, James Brickley. I had the privilege of viewing the portrait of Jim Brickley last week at the home of the artist in Northern Michigan. As a long time friend and ally of Jim’s, it was a moving experience for me to see this extraordinary portrait by the talented artist Frederick Petroskey. The artist has been able to capture, as you will shortly see, the very essence of Jim Brickley. His intelligence, his genuineness, his sensitivity. It is a fitting memorial to Jim which will now become a permanent part of this great Hall of Justice.
It was my good fortune to have been associated with Jim Brickley through more than three decades. Sometimes I can hardly believe that, but it was true. His was an extraordinary career in public service. You’ve heard a recital of his background and his history _- attorney, FBI agent, Detroit City Council, chief assistant Wayne County Prosecutor, U.S. Attorney, Lieutenant Governor, university president, state Supreme Court Justice, including two years as Chief Justice. He had one of the most varied and successful public service careers in the history of Michigan. I had the very unique experience of convincing him to run for lieutenant governor twice. The first time was in 1970 when he was serving as U.S. Attorney for southeast Michigan. After one term, however, he decided to move on to other challenges, saying something to the effect that “no one grows up dreaming of being lieutenant governor.” But as I prepared, as Jim Ryan has said, as I prepared for the 1978 election, I knew I wanted Jim Brickley again on the ticket and I approached him to propose that. He was, as you heard and as you know, president of Eastern Michigan University at that time and he could easily have said no. But he had a strong sense of public service and agreed to join the ticket again. Some of you may have heard me recite the circumstances of that particular announcement. There was strong speculation in the media then of whom I would select as a running mate. Not one of the speculation stories suggested Jim Brickley as a possibility. There were no advance leaks. I remember vividly the morning of the press conference. It was packed. The gasps of surprise at his appearance were audible. The reaction was instantaneous. We both laughed about it afterwards and we both delighted in the fact that it was one of the few times that we had ever been able to keep a secret from the press.
I think Jim enjoyed all of his public duties. I think his final assignment, the Michigan Supreme Court, was his favorite. On this Court his passion for intellectual discourse, for the thorough exploration of ideas, could be fully engaged. He brought to the Court deliberations the precision and the clarity and the lucidity of an extraordinary mind. He thrived on the honorable exchange of ideas, always willing to consider other points of view and always reaching an intellectually honest conclusion. His life was a life of commitment. Unafraid of challenge or controversy. He believed deeply in the Constitution and the rule of law and in making the institutions of government work. He unhesitantly accepted the obligation to defend individual rights, the right of free speech and thought. He was dismayed by ideological posturing. He understood that allegiance to principle superseded loyalty to party or person. Jim Brickley’s passing left an empty space, but his life and his work will leave a permanent imprint on Michigan. To all those who cherish decency and integrity and courage in public service, his life will always provide a model. His honesty, his intellect, his civility, his good humor, will be an example for anyone who aspires to public office. Thank you.
WALLACE D. RILEY: Thank you Governor. I said before the paint, the person. You’ve heard about the person. It’s time for the paint. By this time in the proceedings you’ve had plenty of time to read the box in your program about the artist, Frederick T. Petroskey. I wish to introduce you to the man, who with Justice Brickley’s daughter, Kathleen, will now unveil the portrait.
That’s Jim Brickley, no question about it. As the saying goes, behind every successful man there’s a good woman. Frankly I’ve grown rather fond of saying that behind every successful woman there’s a good man. But let me tell you, with the Brickley-Braithwaite combination you could have said it either way and be 100% correct. Joyce, can we call on you for a response.
MRS. BRAITHWAITE-BRICKLEY: The first thing I want to say about the portrait is that Fred Petroskey never met Jim. He may have met him once he thought, fleetingly in a restaurant. But he didn’t know him and yet there he is. He had tons of pictures. He didn’t have someone to sit for him. He had my recollections, the recollections of others. He had photographs. I liked photographing him. We had lots of them. I thought he was great looking. So I want to thank Fred Petroskey for his work of art.
If you would permit me please, I would like to make a few comments about Jim. By coincidence to this unveiling of the portrait of Jim today, I spent a lot of time during my 20 years in Lansing studying some of these portraits, wondering about the people. You could see what they looked like and you could see, if you were lucky, you could look up about what he wanted revealed about himself personally. Obviously we are able to see what they looked like, but who were they? So on this occasion, I am delighted to say that telling the personal side of my husband in order for others in the future who might speculate about the portraits will have something to remember. Jim has already been discussed so eloquently and accurately this afternoon. I want to tell those assembled here that I consider him a master of the art of living. Surely he tried to be sure many facets of his life were in balance. With Jim, what you saw publicly was what you got. There was never a dark side to Jim Brickley. He was, as they say, the real McCoy, whose values and basic decency set his course both publicly and privately.
Whenever I speak of Jim as he was, as partner and soul mate, I run the risk of nauseating the men in the audience and turning a lot of the women green with envy that this joyful man was my husband and my friend and that we laughed our way through our marriage. Marriage is pretty funny sometimes, as you all know. Jim’s humor was always right at the surface. Never had a difference of opinion—well yes, we did have differences of opinion, but they were always quickly resolved. As our friends know so well, Jim and I always looked at each other through rose-colored glasses. We recognized the humor in that but it was a wonderful way to live. Jim was at the heart of all of that with his good nature and his love of life. He was able to cut through the minutiae of things, both publicly and privately. Despite the tons of paper that all of you must deal with so constantly on the Court, Jim found time to read so many different things. His curiosity and his desire to understand diverse thought was insatiable. I could easily have become jealous of those briefcases you all lug around all the time. I recognize the importance of your work and I’m delighted to be here before you. Jim’s enthusiasm and energy was a part of him and he was a whirling dervish of a man, rarely still. He loved his service on this Court. When he was first appointed by Governor Milliken it was surely the ideal merging of man and job. He was a scholarly man. He was a bit surprised when he came here almost 20 years ago at the wealth and warmth of respect each Justice held for each other, the camaraderie. It was a pleasurable work atmosphere for him.
It was glorious to live with such a man, a classic optimist who considered that his glass was always at least half full. He took his work seriously but never himself. It should be noted that Jim was a real music buff. All kinds of music from Pavarotti to Willie Nelson. He started out with his friend, Jim Bert of Detroit, who is here today, with a preoccupation they had with jazz. And that was a long time before I knew either of them. They now refer to that as their Turk Murphy days. It’s worth telling that Jim himself could not sing a note or carry a tune. Still he persevered by singing often and loud. Still those of us in his family told him his every song sounded like Jingle Bells, except of course when he was singing Jingle Bells, then it would sound like something else altogether. In his more recent days, his taste in music leaned heavily toward the American Treasury of Music, the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jerry Herman, Rogers & Hart and like everything else, he threw himself fully into that and he focused close attention on the lyrics, studied the songs. He appreciated the poetic nuggets he found, especially the simple truths such as “the fundamental things apply, as time goes by”. Jim loved the theater and movies. I’ve never known a man who was such a movie buff as I was, so that was an attraction. We went to nearly every film that every came out. His daughter Kathy told me a story about him that I love. As his and my long friendship started to turn to a more personal interest, she said he would suggest a movie to her on the weekend, then as a supposed afterthought he said: “and why don’t you call Joyce Braithwaite. Maybe she would like to go to the movies, too. Why don’t you call her.” And Kathy agreed. But seconds later he would come back to her and wanted to know what I’d said and was I going. Kathy said, “Dad you just asked me that a minute ago. I haven’t had time to call her, but I will.” So he’d wait another half minute and come back to her with the same question. I was pleased to learn that he had at least a modicum of contrivance just like the rest of us.
Jim was so many things to so many people — nephew, brother, father, stepfather, grandfather and husband. This portrait will help our grandchildren remember there was another side to that mischievous may who always tried to eat their dessert after he had eaten his own. Jim never drank coffee. I was the coffee drinker. Yet whenever we were at home the first thing I would notice in the morning was the smell of coffee brewing, something he’d probably left for me as he started to Lansing at 4:30 in the morning to get here on time. My morning paper, I would discover, often had big holes in it so I’d know there must have been a ghastly picture of a snake, which he knew I was terribly afraid of, so I had my coffee and my edited paper. The thoughtfulness and consideration he showed the world included his wife. There was silliness in the mix too. I hope you’ve all seen it; I hope you had occasion to see it. As music lovers we had one big night of the year. It was not our anniversary, it was not our birthdays, not New Year’s Eve. It was Oscar night, the night of the Academy Awards. Our procedure on that evening never failed, never varied. He would come home on time for a change bearing champagne and change into his tuxedo. Then he would come to locate me as he knew I had already changed into my bizarre creation, whatever I invented or rented at the Old Town Playhouse. I seem to remember a lot of feathered boas and sequins and maybe my granddaughter’s diamond tiara. We would exchange our envelopes at each category. Yes, we actually did exchange our envelopes. May I have your envelope, please? Yes, may I have your envelope? The best was that I always won. It was the only thing in the world where I excelled over Jim. He left me in his dust in everything else. Having gone to high school in Canada, Jim was such a hockey fan, more specifically the Red Wings and beyond that Gordy Howe. Jim was never in awe of anyone else, even meeting presidents and celebrities that went with our work. But the sight of Gordy Howe in the airport once when we were down there changing planes a few years back made him absolutely catatonic. That sent him going on a frenzy of hockey stories which I had to listen too all the way to our destination. I had other stories like that, I will not share them today, but there is a Mickey Mantle story, too.
Jim named our much loved boat “Priorities” which will always remind me of the way he saw our life together. Jim was often noticed by the girls. Why not, he was a very handsome, dashing fellow, tall and fit and with that smile. When I’d call his attention to women doing double and triple takes to him wherever we traveled, he didn’t believe it. His humility kept him from seeing himself as everyone else saw him. A lot of our travel consisted of our mystery trips where I’d execute the whole thing down to the packing of his suitcase so he couldn’t guess the climate where we were going. He got one guess. Each week he was to get a clue from me and I would not want to admit I cheated but my clues once led him to think that we were going on a train to Seattle. In fact we took a plane to London. Patty Boyle, Jim’s former colleague on this Court, told me this year that she “always loved seeing Jim when you and he were going somewhere on a trip. He always acted excited like he was going on his honeymoon.” I’m so glad she passed that along to me. When Jim became ill and not quite up to his usual frenzy of tennis and jogging and biking and weight lifting and horseback riding we substituted another exercise. We danced. We danced for at least an hour every morning. A little Elvis, a bit of Tony Bennett, some Sinatra and get this, the soundtrack from Saturday Night Fever. No one ever said anything about it but we were amused to think of what our neighbors might think seeing us whirling around the living room at nine o’clock in the morning.
Jim died as he lived, with dignity and courage and perhaps a tad of curiosity because he did like to experience new things. And his most favorite Gershwin song, our song, contained the words “The more I read the papers the less I understand the world and all its capers and how it all will end.” Thank you for letting me talk aloud about Jim and to tell the flavor of our too-short life together. I will close with a brief thought about the art of living. I’m sorry I’m not its author but it is the life story of Jim Brickley, I believe, and it’s called “A Worthwhile Sharing,” and it goes like this: “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play. His labor and his leisure. His mind and his body. His education and his recreation. His love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.” So, Chief Justice Corrigan, members of the Court, I will leave Jim Brickley here with you so that he may decorate this beautiful hall as he decorated the world every day that he was ever in it. Thank you.
WALLACE D. RILEY: That certainly is one of the best portraits the Society has ever presented to the Court and I understand that Bill Milliken Jr. and Craig Ruff have some small replicas of it that they’re going to pass out to those of you who want them on your way out. And of course, there is the reception as soon as Your Honor adjourns the Court.
CHIEF JUSTICE CORRIGAN: Thank you all, so much, for these many beautiful tributes that you have made to our colleague Jim Brickley, especially Joyce, thank you for sharing those amazing thoughts about your husband. I know how difficult it was to do, especially about the dancing. I at this time have a letter from Patricia Boyle, who could not be here today because she is undergoing medical tests and she wished to be remembered to everyone, but I hope that you will permit me to speak for Justice Boyle as she had some additional thoughts and asked them to be conveyed.
“I am sorry I am not able to be with you today to see the unveiling of what I am sure is a magnificent portrait. In my new incarnation as working lawyer on a sunny October morning I was at the Oakland Bar Library doing research when I learned of Jim’s death. The issues I looked at by pure chance took me to several opinions of this Court in which Jim and I had disagreed. Opinions in which he had written the majority and I a dissent or I had written the majority and he a dissent, the former more than the latter as I recall. As I thought back through the process that brought these offerings to the printed page, I was again struck by what a remarkably kind colleague Jim had been. He applied a yardstick of fairness to every issue and once the measure was applied he was quietly resolute. He never expressed rank or even irritation, either around our conference table or in his beautifully written opinions. Indeed, no matter how heated a debate, I never saw him angry nor did he ever act in any way other than perfectly graciously to anyone from Mrs. Fuentes, the cleaning lady, to the staff and other Justices. He was a good man and the kind of public servant who believed in doing good and in the capacity of people to be good. I never heard him speak of the politics of feminism. It was just a part of his fairness yardstick. In his years in executive government he advanced the careers of a number of women, myself included, and in later years discussing legal issues around the conference table in Lansing, he would reference human concerns that would take me back to a time when I had a less jaded view of human potential. He was, of course, famously handsome and charming. I used to kid him all the time about how handsome he was. When we had our annual court photo taken I’d say to him: `Jim, just for once would you try not to make the rest of us look bad. We’re tired of people looking at our official photo and saying who’s that great looking guy.’
“All my relatives, male and female, once having met him would from time to time inquire about his welfare although most of them couldn’t have named any other member of the Supreme Court but me. He wasn’t a touchy-feely kind of guy but when he turned to you and gave you the light of his full attention he made you feel like you really mattered. I liked Jim best and was most inspired by the way he loved Joyce and his real life in Traverse City. All of us I think knew that Joyce was the animating center of his life and that all roads led to her. When he spoke of Joyce as he often did it was with enormous affection and pride. He talked of their sailing trips to Beaver Island in the summers, their travels to Key West and London, Joyce’s opinions of movies and plays, how much she meant to her legion of friends and what her opinions were on issues large and small. One time at a court conference in Lansing I mentioned in passing that I looked up an old movie in a movie anthology I had at home. The next day Jim called me from his office in Traverse City to get the name and publisher of the anthology because he was always looking for something that would please and interest Joyce. It was a measure of their respect for each other and the vitality of their partnership that Joyce expressed her opinions for publication and Jim never explained or defended them. So my abiding memory of Jim is a memory of Jim with Joyce. Several years ago on another beautiful sunny day at the close of a judicial conference on Mackinaw Island, Terry and I walked for awhile up the east bluff to see a beautiful little church we admired. As we started down the hill for the ferry to the mainland, we saw Jim and Joyce walking toward us up the hill. They were on their way to visit lifelong friends. We chatted for a moment and went our respective ways and when I turned to look at them they were strolling along up the hill, enjoying the day, enjoying each other, holding hands in the light. It was a life well lived.”
As Justice Boyle said so rightly, Justice Brickley’s life was a life well lived. On behalf of the entire Michigan Supreme Court, our present colleagues and our past colleagues, and let me acknowledge Justice Charles Levin in the audience, and of course, Chief Justice Dorothy Comstock Riley who is here today among those former colleagues of ours, on behalf of all of us, this army of Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court, I thank you Mr. Petroskey, members of the portrait committee, the Society and all of the speakers today, who together have created a portrait of their memories and tributes to an extraordinary life. This portrait will become not only a part of this Court’s gallery of historic portraits but a reminder of one of the great public servants in our state’s history and at the end a gentle hearted man.
This special session of the Michigan Supreme Court stands adjourned.