Presentation of the Portrait of the Honorable Michael F. Cavanagh

May 18, 2016

Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr.: Good afternoon.  Welcome to this special session of the Court where we will unveil and dedicate the portrait of our former colleague and Michigan’s longest-serving appellate jurist, Michael F. Cavanagh.  The carbon dating that the Michigan Historical Society performed suggests that he served just about a millennium.  I have also waited 18 years to properly hang him.  [Laughter.]

I believe we have among us some other former justices.  Not only do we have former Justice Archer, who will be speaking, we have, I think, Charles Levin is here and both Kellys.  Former Justices Marilyn Kelly and Mary Beth Kelly are here.

Seeing Mike this afternoon reminded me of how much my colleagues and I appreciated his wit and his warmth in conference.  But seeing his family and friends reminds me of something much more important—that being on the bench was only a part of Mike Cavanagh because more than anything, he is a father, husband, brother, uncle, grandpa, and dear friend to many.  In particular, we welcome, with our sincere condolences, Mike’s wife, Patricia; son, Mike, Jr.; daughters, Megan and Jane; and the entire Cavanagh clan.

And certainly, in Michigan, the name Cavanagh is synonymous with public service—especially in a black robe.  In fact, the person who gave Mike his first job serving the public I believe is here today.  And it’s he who we should blame.  In 1967, Gil Wanger hired Mike to be Lansing’s assistant city attorney.  And as a Republican who served as a delegate to Michigan’s Constitutional Convention, Gil took much grief for hiring a Democrat in his office.  And one of life’s great ironies is that Gil ultimately lost to Mike in a race for district court judge in 1972.  But, ever magnanimous, Gil doesn’t regret the hiring.  He said, “I was glad I did,” as Gil says today, “because Mike did a good job.”  Mike kept doing a good job for 50 years—or nearly so—first as that assistant city attorney, a district judge, and then a judge on the Court of Appeals and on the Supreme Court.

Not long before he retired, Mike spoke at a ceremony of graduates at the University of Detroit Mercy Law School who were renewing their Lawyer’s Oath.  He talked about how much the world had changed since he first took the oath in—what was it, nineteen-diggity-doo?  [Laughter.]  In 1966.  But what was more important, he said, was not what had changed, but what had not changed.  And, to quote him: “Principles, courage in the face of adversity, love of family and friends, love of God, compassion for your fellow man, decency, honor, and the strength and commitment to stand your ground when it would be so easy to succumb.”

That commitment to stand his ground is what I remember most about Mike during the 16 years that we served together on the Court.  So I was not surprised to learn recently that Mike authored more dissenting opinions than any other justice in Michigan history.  He wrote 277.  That dissent statistic does great things to my heart.  And I feel proud to have contributed to helping Mike achieve that dissenting distinction.  [Laughter.]

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg very aptly described what it feels like to be in dissent.  She said, “I’m dejected, but only momentarily, when I can’t get the fifth vote for something I think is very important.  But then you go on to the next challenge and you give it your all.  You know that these important issues are not going to go away.  They are going to come back again and again.  There’ll be another time, another day.”  That’s what Mike did so well and for so long.  He gave it his all.  Now, that is the conclusion of my extraneous remarks, and I am moderately honored to introduce my colleague, Justice McCormack.  [Laughter.]  She looks innocent, but she’s not, and she’s a biter.  [Laughter.]  I have the healing scars to prove it.  Justice McCormack served for Mike’s last two years on the Court, but they developed a special bond.  In fact, I recall Mike saying on several occasions that the years he was happiest on the Court were the last two.  That seemed a bit of a snub, but one learns to live with those things.  [Laughter.]  Mike was the most senior and Bridget the most junior.  And for my part, I note that Mike wasn’t the only justice happy to have Justice McCormack on this bench.  Her dynamic approach and sparkling intellect made our conference discussions more challenging and entertaining.  So I have very high expectations for her remarks this afternoon.  They will make us both think and laugh.  Justice McCormack.

Justice Bridget M. McCormack: Wow, thank you very much for that introduction.  As you know, I tell my kids that low expectations are the key to life, so you just kind of made it hard.  But thank you very much for the opportunity to speak today to my colleagues, to all the Cavanaghs, to all the friends of Mike, and especially to Mike.  I’m really honored that I have this opportunity.

I didn’t personally meet Mike Cavanagh until the very end of 2012, unless you count appearing before him in this courtroom, which I had done, as early as a decade before.  I don’t know if he remembers that.  But in December of 2012, shortly after I was elected and shortly before the Chief swore me in, I drove to Lansing to have lunch with Mike.  And then we spent most of the next two years in daily contact, because that’s the job, and because, well, lucky me to have that opportunity.  I’m so grateful that as a brand new justice, I had, in the senior member of my Court, this big-hearted, humble, patient, gentle, hilarious professional to show me the way.

In a way, Mike’s contributions to this Court and our state’s law are more quantifiable than any other justice to have served.  The concrete list is remarkable.  He served longer than any other appellate judge in Michigan’s history.  He sat with 22 other justices and participated on panels with 2,005 different cases argued.  He wrote 277 dissents, 120 majority opinions, 65 unanimous opinions, and 95 concurring opinions.  He ruled on nearly 100,000 cases during his tenure on the Court—more than half of what this Court has ever ruled on.  He made elections look easy, winning every time he ran—in 2006 winning almost as many votes as the Governor while on the nonpartisan section of the ballot.  And when he was the chief justice, in 1992, he initiated what is now one of his most important legacies: the unique partnership this Court and the courts of our state have with the tribal courts and judges throughout Michigan.

Michigan is home to twelve federally recognized tribes, each with its own court system working to ensure the proper administration of justice within its jurisdiction to resolve disputes in a manner that will be respected and enforced across jurisdictional lines, and to serve the children, families, and communities whose welfare depends on them.

Mike recognized almost 25 years ago that while separate sovereigns, we have shared interests and goals, most important among these protecting Michigan’s children.

In 1992, Mike reached out to Chief Judge [Michael] Petoskey of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians to establish the Michigan Indian Tribal Court/State [Trial] Court Forum, bringing state and tribal court judges together to explore the overlapping issues facing their respective courts and to find common ground in their solutions.  This partnership produced significant statewide reform.

Michigan Court Rule 2.615 was implemented, providing for state court recognition and enforcement of tribal court judgments.  Tribal judges and staff were offered and encouraged to participate in the Michigan Judicial Institute’s state court educational programming, and that programming was also broadened to educate state judges and staff about tribal sovereignty and the existence and functioning of tribal courts throughout the state.

The relationships Mike nurtured through the 1992 forum proved just as lasting as its objectives and just as vital to the progress that would be made in years to come.

The Michigan Judicial Association was created, and the coalition of state and tribal partners played an important role in the enactment of the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act.[[1]]  As a result of the partnerships Mike built, the tribal courts have been a critical partner in enforcing child support orders issued by our state courts throughout the state.

In 2014, again with Mike’s leadership, shortly before he left the Court, this Court reestablished the Tribal/State, and now Federal, Judicial Forum.  Fittingly, both Mike and Chief Judge Petoskey are members of this new forum.  I am the Court’s liaison to it, and in that role, I have come to understand, in a very personal way, what Mike’s leadership in this area has meant to the tribal court judges in this state.

Mike also oversaw the construction of this building, including this magnificent courtroom, which is round in honor of the peacemaking and sentencing circles used by tribal courts.

But the contributions Mike made to this institution, to all of the colleagues with whom he served over the years, and to the people of this state are far greater than the tangible results I have just ticked off, impressive list that it is.

This is an unusual judging job, this multimember court business.  And to do it well, you need more than to be smart and thoughtful—which Mike is, in great measure.  Effective collegial decision-making requires unique skills.  Mike’s decency, his civility, his patience, his humor, and his reliably steady commitment to give the work his all, day after day and year after year, made him a master at it.

And Mike could certainly make a hard call when he needed to.  Take People v McDonald,[[2]] a 1976 Court of Appeals opinion Mike authored in which he had to engage an important set of due-process and equal-protection questions in deciding whether to strike down a statute, one of the bigger moves a court ever has to make, and one which should always give us pause.

The defendant, a licensed cosmetologist, was convicted of cutting the hair of a man in violation of § 55 of the Barber Licensing and Regulation Act of 1968.  Yes, I see you tensing up—[laughter]—just hearing me talk about this difficult social issue.  You can imagine the conflict and the emotion that Mike had to stare down in deciding these important constitutional questions.  Licensed barbers could cut the hair of men and women, but licensed cosmetologists could cut the hair of women only.  Mike didn’t hesitate.  The restriction, he wrote, was “not only anachronistic but unreasonable and unconstitutional as well.”[[3]]  I love unconstitutional as third.  [Laughter.]  It’s unreasonable, and it’s also unconstitutional.  He explained, and I quote: “All hair is created equal—organically and chemically—according to the unanimous trial testimony.”[[4]]  My point is, Mike is hilarious.  And his sense of humor has been a source of joy to all his colleagues and all of his staff.

I’m told that, once, Justice Levin accidentally leaned his chair back a bit too far and tipped over.  And the next morning, there was a crash helmet at every justice’s seat on the bench, courtesy of Justice Cavanagh.

When you sit on a collegial court, every time a member changes, the entire body changes, and it has to readjust and settle into its new order.  Mike experienced more of those realignments than anyone else in this Court’s history, and some, I suspect, were harder than others.  And yet there is a steadiness to Mike’s contributions to this collegial body across its many different lives that characterizes Mike.

No matter whether he was writing majority opinions or more dissents, Mike’s time on this bench and at our conference table was marked by decency and civility.  He never was short on time when a colleague or a clerk needed his help or attention.  He was generous and patient, and reliably so.  I can’t find anyone who has heard him raise his voice.

As most of you know, we communicate with each other often by memo.  Mike’s memos about his colleagues’ work always blended authentic affirmation with constructive suggestions in an effort to persuade.  So many law clerks over the years have had the opportunity to see in Mike’s work how you can make suggestions and disagree constructively.  What a lovely example Mike has been, not just to his own clerks, but for all the clerks who had the pleasure of reading those memos.

Part of Mike’s skill in this area, I suspect, derives from his personal economy with respect to the spoken word.  He rarely asked the most questions at oral argument, but often asked the single most important question.  And if a lawyer could not answer the question, Mike graciously moved on, never embarrassing any advocate.  Likewise, he was never the first into the fray of any conference discussion, but waited for the right lull to penetrate it with an insight, never overstated, that changed the conversation.  He is closer to a poet than a debater.

My people, Mike’s people, have a soft spot for tradition and especially the tradition of hard work.  We’re known to revere, even idolize, the laborers in our midst.  The diggers.  We’re privately prideful about long hours and our own hard work, and the hard work of those who paved the way for us.  Mike Cavanagh is a worker.  He worked on Great Lakes freighters to put himself through school, and during law school he worked as a claims adjuster.  He left this building every day with a suitcase full of reading materials and research.  I also know that his clerks often dropped off more work at his home later in the evening.  That was what it took to do the job, so that’s what he did.  That Mike sustained the work ethic required to do the job well for 42 years doesn’t surprise his friends and family gathered here, but it’s worth noting, nonetheless.

I like Mike’s own words on this topic.  At Justice [Patricia] Boyle’s portrait dedication, Mike said: “Not only must our decisions comport with the law, but we must give our lives to the law.  Being a judge, I suggest, is an all or nothing proposition.  The best judges give it everything they have.  They love their families, but the law wrings them dry.”[[5]]  Knowing how Mike feels about his family puts that in perspective.

Seamus Heaney, who you could count on to find the lyrical in simple things like hard work, makes vivid this idea in his poem “Digging” about his father and his grandfather:

My grandfather cut more turf in a day

Than any other man on Toner’s bog.

Once I carried him milk in a bottle

Corked sloppily with paper.  He straightened up

To drink it, then fell to right away


Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods

Over his shoulder, going down and down

For the good turf.  Digging.


The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap

Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge

Through living roots awaken in my head.

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.


Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.[[6]]

Mike Cavanagh had so many tools.  He has a spade and a squat pen, but also his wit and his curiosity, and his decency, and a perfectly timed question, and a wry smile.  And he used them every day, and most nights, for 42 years in service to this institution, to the people of this great state, and to the rule of law.

Thank you, Mike, for giving it everything you had, for letting it wring you dry.  We are all better for it.  God bless you.  [Applause.]

Chief Justice Young: Thank you, Justice McCormack.  Our next speaker served four years on the Supreme Court with our guest of honor.  Dennis Archer came to the Court in a very typical fashion—appointed by Governor Blanchard.  But he left the Court to take on a very unusual challenge for a jurist—to run the city of Detroit.

When you think about it, Dennis and Mike shared a number of commonalities.  For example, both are completely and passionately dedicated to public service and giving back to the community.  Both rose from humble beginnings to the top of their profession, though I must point out that Dennis Archer claims that his start in life was a bit more humble.  And as he explained at a recent speech, “I was born in Detroit and grew up in Cassopolis.  We had no running water.  We were so poor, we couldn’t pay attention!”  And that’s still true.  He can’t pay attention.  [Laughter.]  But now, it’s my turn to pay attention to the former president of the [American Bar Association], former mayor of Detroit, and former Supreme Court justice, Dennis Archer.  [Applause.]

Justice Dennis W. Archer: May it please the Court.  In 1985, as our Chief Justice has just acknowledged, I was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court by Governor James Blanchard.  And I was sworn in in January of 1986 to take the place of former Justice James Ryan, who was going to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.  We were in a different building than the one that we are presently in today.  And as I look at the distinguished members of our Michigan Supreme Court who work so hard on all of our behalf, I think back to the Court I was privileged to serve on: G. Mennen Williams was our chief justice, Dorothy Comstock Riley, Charles Levin, James Brickley, Patricia Boyle, and Michael Cavanagh.  And because Chief Justice G. Mennen Williams could not run again and there was no election, Robert Griffin became a member of our Court.  Mr. Justice James Brickley shared with me, when he came on the Court, how delighted he was that I was joining the Court.  But what I would learn as a member of the Court is that every time that there’s a new addition to our Court, it changes the chemistry just a bit.  We had, and we were very blessed to have, a collegial Court.  And when I think about the leadership that was provided and the collegiality that occurred while I was privileged to serve on the Court—Justice McCormack, you may have only served for two years with Mr. Justice Cavanagh, but you captured the essence of the man, the person, his humanality, his love of family—still married to the best tie maker in the world—if you’ve not been privileged to have one, as I was.  But you really captured it.  I think back to our Court and the challenges that we faced and the issues presented at that time we were serving.  It was a very hard-working court.  We had one leader who was there, who was always hard-working.  He was the essence of friendship, civility, and always had the talent or the ability to pick outstanding and top-flight law clerks that he personally nurtured and worked with and caused them to feel very much a part of our Court family, as well as providing suggestions and recommendations after learning more about what they wanted to do in their future.  Mr. Justice Levin taught us patience.  The only thing that I think could have helped us more was a GPS system, at the time, so we always knew where he was.  He was one of the most brilliant writers and thinkers on our Court.

Our Chief Justice, Dorothy Comstock Riley, was a person that—much like, I’m sure, our current Chief Justice—believed in being timely and efficient and the like, and thanks to her and her partner, Wally Riley, we now have a Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society that reminds all lawyers who are members of the State Bar of Michigan of what the State of Michigan and what we’ve accomplished and what we stand for.  It is difficult to try to put into words what friendship means, and when you talk about, Mr. Chief Justice, how Michael Cavanagh came from a family who believed in public service—I’m still asked today questions in terms of having served, having had the privilege of serving as mayor, what I thought about the city of Detroit and the issues and how we’ve gone through the different elements and the timing that we have.  And I always think back to the person that I did not know as well as I got to know, Michael Cavanagh, and Jerome P. Cavanagh, who was a remarkable leader, a person well ahead of his time.  A person who reached back to the entire community that he served.  He was a remarkable person.  I’m not sure who he got all those ideas from, but I have a sense from having worked with Mr. Justice Michael Cavanagh that he got a lot of them right from you.  We are very blessed, when you all think about it, to have an opportunity to know people that have a remarkable past, and we don’t think about it as we go through our lives.  But Bridget helped us today—I’m sorry—Madame Justice helped us today when she spoke of the number of cases that he participated on, whether it was writing majority opinions, signing off on unanimous opinions, or dissenting opinions.  That’s a huge contribution, and I will tell you that unless you’ve had the privilege of sitting in one of these chairs and understanding the volume of work that they each go through in coming into the conference meetings to make decisions in terms of what cases should be heard or shouldn’t be heard, it’s made easier because of the talented men and women who work for this Court, commissioners and the like, who made our lives so much easier.  Michael, I can’t wait to see what I believe is going to be a spectacular portrait.  I know it will capture you because Megan had a whole lot to do with it, and I know that she chose well, and I’ve heard so much about you, sir.  To all of you who came today, thank you for coming to let Mr. Justice Michael Cavanagh know how much you respected him for his service and his continued service.  And for those of you who think that you want to go play golf with Michael Cavanagh, get some strokes.  [Laughter and applause.]

Chief Justice Young: Thank you, Mr. Former Everything.  [Laughter.]  Our next speaker shares more than a last name with Mike Cavanagh.  She shares Mike’s love for the law and exceptional legal talent.  And of course, for a Cavanagh, that’s not unusual.  But it’s also probably true that she is the best lawyer from that household.  As a dad, that’s not a bad thing.  Megan revealed the real Mike Cavanagh when she introduced her father at a recent event and said, “Perhaps the title he is most proud of is ‘Papa’ to his grandchildren.”  I know that Mike is also proud of you, Megan, and I’m very much looking forward to hearing more about Mike from someone who knows him best.  Megan Cavanagh.  And share the good stuff.

Ms. Megan Cavanagh: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice and Honorable Justices of the Court.  I am honored to have the opportunity to speak today on behalf of our family to celebrate my dad and to commemorate his place in this Court’s history.  I did want to state that I will not be waiving my five-minute fire-free time.  [Laughter.]

Chief Justice Young: You’ve been here before.

Ms. Cavanagh: And I would like to reserve three minutes of rebuttal for after he speaks.  [Laughter.]  I did—as you mentioned—I had the privilege of being intimately involved in the creation of this portrait: involved in the fundraising; finding the artist, Mr. Del Priore; arranging the logistics for bringing the portrait into existence; but more importantly, I had the privilege of working with my dad and Mr. Del Priore in their pursuit to capture the man in the justice—to put down on canvas who he is and who he has been to this honorable institution and to this great state.  I had a behind-the-scenes seat to witness them select the images which are depicted in the portrait, images that individually and collectively reflect what is important to him and what is important about him and his legacy to this state.  So in a few moments, when the portrait is unveiled, you, too, will get to see all of these things and the final product of Michael’s artistic endeavor.  And I will let you know in advance—I think it’s fantastic.  You’ll see the justice in the robe that he donned term after term, sitting alongside you.  You will see the reporter in his left hand that symbolizes the prolific written history he has given to the people of this state.  You will see a Native American walking stick in his right hand, a gift given to him by the Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa Tribe in recognition of his work on behalf of the twelve federally recognized tribes of this state and, as Justice McCormack just spoke about, his commitment to their tribal courts being recognized and respected as a vital part of this state’s justice system.  And you’ll see in the background this grand building in which we gather this afternoon, a monument that he helped design and construct, a true labor of love for him and a lasting testament to his profound admiration for this noble branch of state government.  I’m in a somewhat unique position because of my professional career as an attorney and appellate practitioner.  I get the opportunity daily to appreciate and benefit from all of these many contributions that he has made.  I get to advance my clients’ causes to this Court and to the Court of Appeals in this building that he helped construct.  I get to study the words he has written in the reporter and apply them—as well as often tried to distinguish them—[laughter]—this body of law that he has created.

And now whenever I walk into this building to apply the law he has helped create to my client’s case, I get to see this portrait and to get to see his smiling face.  But I would also like to share with you on a more personal level what I see when I look at the portrait.  Things that may be less obvious to others, but are just as significant to me and the rest of us that love him.  I see my nephew Brennan’s and my nephew Seamus’s kind, humble, Irish-blue eyes.  I see my brother Mike’s capacity for holding and considering other’s perspectives, even those that are different from his own, and his commitment to and love for a strong, supportive partner and the families they have created.  I see my sister Jane’s intelligent and sometimes slightly irreverent humor, and her dogged persistence to hold true to what she believes.  I see my nephew Keegan’s dry, keen wit and unapologetic confidence in who he is as an individual.  I see my Elouise’s genuine awe and enjoyment of the good things her life holds and gratitude for the opportunities to love and enjoy the people that we are blessed to call family.  And I see my Georgia, my own great dissenter, who challenges not only the premise of your belief, but also at times your reasoning and your conclusion.  Who, through her considered questions, challenges you to test and refine not only the foundation of your position, but more importantly, the outer edges of your position, leaving you, more often than not, with the better reasons and more appropriate, circumscribed decision.  And perhaps above all, I see the tireless effort, sacrifice, patience, and wise counsel of the woman who has stood behind him and beside him for fifty years, the person who has contributed more to making the man in the justice in this portrait than anyone or anything else.  And as I said before, it’s a truly fantastic portrait of a truly remarkable man, a man that I have the privilege to call my dad.  And so, without anything further, I think we can introduce the artist, Michael Del Priore.  [Applause.]

Mr. Michael Del Priore: Your Honor, Court, family and friends.  I wasn’t going to say anything, but I was asked to and I only want to share just a few minutes of what went behind doing this portrait.  It’s a case of—an artist needs to be found to paint and immortalize someone who’s done such great things for your state, and I want to commend the Court for having the insight to be able to hang these beautiful portraits that you already have in the building, but also the building itself.  I’ve done many chief justices, but I’ve never been in a building more beautiful than this.  This is the most beautiful courtroom and house I’ve ever seen, so it’s an honor and a privilege to have my work to be immortalized here also.

But I knew when I met Justice Cavanagh the first time—I knew I was going to like him.  Because he had three characteristics I really liked.  One was he was short.  [Laughter.]  Two, he had a mustache.  [Laughter.]  And three, his name was Michael.  [Laughter.]  And if you don’t know, “Michael” means “God-like.”  But, in doing the portrait, it was a case of doing a lot of preliminary studies, and I asked him what is the most important things to him, and we could have painted—we actually stood out in this balcony area and overlooked the Capitol.  And we were going to paint that behind the Justice, but he said, “No, the most important thing to me is this building.”  So what we did—we went outside, out on the ground, and shot the other way.  And we came up with the most beautiful compositions of this building with him in front of it, and I think you will be pleased with what you see.  So I just want you to know that he lent himself to the portrait perfectly—he has all the character of a portrait.  He kind of has that Roosevelt look, kind of, to him.  [Laughter.]

And lastly, to say that I know you will see me again, because when I painted him, he was a little bit fuller.  So I may be back to readjust it; I’m not sure.  [Laughter.]  But all in all, I want the Court to know that I am thankful and privileged to be a part of this community and this state.  Thank you very much.  [Applause.]

Ms. Cavanagh: And now, for my brother Mike and my sister Jane to come up to unveil the portrait.  [Portrait is unveiled to applause.]

Chief Justice Young: That is a wonderful portrait.  And the artist has used all of the embalmer’s arts to make him look almost alive.  [Laughter.]  I think it’s time for you, Mike, to do your rebuttal.

Justice Michael F. Cavanagh: I’d like to thank Chief Justice Young and the Justices for convening this special session of the Court for my hanging.  [Laughter.]  I especially want to thank Lynn Seaks, administrative specialist in the Court’s executive office; of course, my lifelong right arm, Marcia Jackman; and all the Court staff involved in planning and executing the details of this special session.  Thanks also to Carrie Sampson, executive director of the Supreme Court Historical Society.  And I’m honored today by the presence of the society’s president, Charlie Rutherford, and its present emeritus, Wally Riley.  To Justice Bridget, Justice Archer, and Megan, thank each of you for your kind and overly generous remarks.  They were just shy of capturing the true magnificence of me.  [Laughter.]  But they were close.

I really hope each of you know how much I value your support and counsel and, most importantly, your friendship.  But as Megan alluded to, my greatest source of support throughout my career has been my family.  The love of my life, my wife of fifty years and two-and-a-half weeks, Patsy, has been my constant and steady support.  Her love, her counsel, probably most importantly her tolerance, have been inspirational.  With her, I’ve been blessed with three outstanding and supportive children.  Our oldest daughter, Jane, is with us; I’m delighted for her presence.  And I’m pleased that Mike and his wife, Katie, and their three sons, Brennan, Seamus and Keegan, are able to be with us—I think they could start a rugby team.  [Laughter.]  Our youngest daughter, Megan, you’ve already heard from; she’s accompanied by our granddaughters Georgia Grace and Eloise Patricia.  Thank you all for your love and support.  As I’ve said before, remember kids, the key is reading, writing, and diagramming.  [Laughter.]

I owe a great deal to the love and support of my five siblings.  My brothers, Paul and Jerry, and my sister Ann have walked on, to use a tribal colloquialism.  My two remaining sisters, Eleanor and Joan, both Irish biddies, still fuss over me and are quick to offer advice, whether solicited or not.  They were unable to be with us today, but out of my 29 nieces and nephews, a number representing each of my siblings were able to be with us today.  Thanks to all of you for your love and support.

And I, of course, would be remiss if I failed to mention my other family, the one through whose devotion, loyalty, and unselfish efforts our team was able to leave our footprint on Michigan’s jurisprudence.  The other loves of my life are Yvonne Smith, who assisted me for 25 years before she retired some four years ago.  I still miss you, Yvonne, and of course, there’s Marcia Jackman.  Perhaps the wisest and most fortunate move of my legal career was in selecting this woman as my court reporter some 44 years ago.  We have been through thick and thin ever since.  Marcia retired from the state at the same time I did, and a large part of Marcia and Yvonne’s responsibilities in seeing that our office ran smoothly and efficiently was managing, directing, educating, and mothering our law clerks.  I’ve been fortunate and privileged to have had the loyal service of 53 outstanding and talented men and women.  Their advice, their counsel, their insight and skills were all directed toward the goals of improving the law, making me look good, and keeping me consistent.  I am currently Of Counsel to a firm founded by two of my former law clerks, Natalie Alane and Mary Chartier.  They are both here today, along with our whole office crew.  A number of my other former clerks are also with us today.  It’s wonderful to see you all again, and thanks again to each of you.

Finally, I’m honored by the presence here today of two stalwarts of this Court with whom I had the privilege of serving for many years.  Corbin Davis was appointed Supreme Court Clerk in 1983, the year I joined the Court.  For the last few years, he has been serving as the Court’s Reporter of Decisions, and I am advised maybe he’ll finally be hanging it up later this year.  Hopefully that’s another party.  [Laughter.]  The other stalwart is my dear friend Aloysius J. Lynch, who served as the Supreme Court Chief Commissioner from 1979 until his retirement in 2002, some 23 years.  Al and Corbin, thank you for your counsel, support, and friendship, and for being here this afternoon.

Well, my ride here on this Court was a number of things.  It was exciting, demanding, exasperating, challenging, satisfying, and rewarding.  I had the privilege of serving with 22 other justices, each unique with their own talents and personalities.  My own role was always to keep doing my part of the work of the Court and to try, where helpful, to assist in gaining consensus.  This was not always an easy time, but the answer was the same as in any period in an organization faced with challenges.  We needed to stay focused on what was important.  Get our work done.  Treat each other with respect and courtesy.  It sounds trite, but really it’s the only way.

And when I say “focus,” I think of a poem by the—of course—Irish poet, John Boyle O’Reilly, who lived 1844 to 1890.  And the poem is entitled “To-Day,” and reads:

Only from day to day

The life of a wise man runs;

What matter if seasons far away

Have gloom or have double suns?


To climb the unreal path,

We stray from the roadway here;

We swim the rivers of wrath,

And tunnel the hills of fear.


Our feet on the torrent’s brink,

Our eyes on the cloud afar,

We fear the things we think,

Instead of the things that are.


Like a tide our work should rise—

Each later wave the best;

To-day is a king in disguise,

To-day is the special test.


Like a sawyer’s work is life:

The present makes the flaw,

And the only field for strife

Is the inch before the saw.[[7]]

In my years on the Court, I tried to realize and accept what I could and couldn’t change and to keep my focus on that inch before the saw.  I showed up for work at the Supreme Court on the first day of January, 1983.  And on January 1, 2007, I started my fourth and final term on the Court.  I heard my last Supreme Court case on October 22, 2014.  And, as has been mentioned, I participated in 2,005 opinions.  I enjoyed greatly supervising the construction of this Hall of Justice and working with the late Justice Riley and Mike Murray to see it become a reality.  I learned a tremendous amount from working with our Native American brothers and sisters of Michigan’s twelve federally recognized tribes.  Overall, I truly have had the experience of a lifetime, and I’ve been blessed to have served the people of this great state.  I hope the Court can continue to enjoy the respect of the people.  More than 200 men and women have served on the Michigan Supreme Court.  God willing, a far greater number will serve in the future.  I received this Court in good shape from those who came before me, and I tried to do everything I could to make sure that whoever came after me would receive a Court that is healthy in every way.

I wish to thank the Court for hanging me in these hallowed halls and to again thank everybody for your past support and friendship, and especially for your presence here today.  It has made this a most memorable occasion for me and my family.  Thank you again, Mr. Chief Justice.  [Applause.]

Chief Justice Young: I want to thank everyone who made Mike’s second pre-wake possible.  [Laughter.]  On behalf of the Supreme Court, I am pleased to accept this portrait of Justice Michael F. Cavanagh.  This reflection of our dear friend and former colleague will now join the Court’s gallery of historic portraits for all time.  In future years, as they look upon it in a nearby restroom—[laughter]—our successors will see this portrait and hopefully understand what made Mike—and not just what a distinguished justice he was, but one of Michigan’s greatest public servants.  Thank you, Mike.

We are adjourned.

[1] MCL 712B.1 et seq.

[2] People v McDonald, 67 Mich App 64; 240 NW2d 268 (1976).

[3] Id. at 69.

[4] Id. at 72.

[5] Hon. Patricia J. Boyle Portrait Presentation, 465 Mich ccxiii, ccxlix (2001).

[6] Heaney, Death of a Naturalist (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966), pp 13-14.

[7] Roche, Life of John Boyle O’Reilly: His Complete Poems and Speeches (New York: Cassell Publishing Co, 1891), pp 508-509.