Retirement Ceremony In Honor Of Harold Hoag

DECEMBER 15, 1982

 CHIEF JUSTICE FITZGERALD: I’d like to welcome you all to this special session of the Supreme Court. And first of all I’d like to welcome Justice DOROTHY COMSTOCK RILEY to our bench. This is the first time she’s had occasion to sit with us and we’re delighted to have her here.

Likewise, this is the first time in the State of Michigan that we have had two female justices on the Court, and we are pleased to note this historic occasion.

We’re here today to pay tribute first of all to a friend, and secondly, to the Clerk of our Court. We have a number of guests with us today whom I’d like to introduce. We’re happy that you’re here.

First of all, former justices of the Court: Justice and Mrs. PAUL ADAMS, Justice LINDEMER, Justice SOURIS, and Justice and Mrs. BRENNAN.

We have a number of former staff members of the Court here, and we are pleased they could come back and be with us for this occasion. First, a man all the justices know and remember very well, and that is our former Crier, Phil Sprague.
We have another person who is dear to all of us, and most of us were here at one time or another when she was here. Former secretary to three justices of this Court, Justice NORTH, Justice OTIS SMITH, and Justice BRENNAN: Mary Lou Shepherd.

From Detroit, a member of our Court Administrator’s staff and the person who keeps things on an even keel, Herb Levitt.

And from the Court of Appeals, the counterpart of our honoree today, Ron Dzierbicki, the Clerk of the Court of Appeals.

The Solicitor General of the State, Mr. Caruso.

And a gentleman who has appeared many times before this bench on multitudinous matters, Bob Derengoski, our former Solicitor General.

We have some local guests: Mike Franck, Executive Secretary of the State Bar, and one of our Ingham County probate judges, Robert Drake.

Are there any other people whom I should introduce? I see our Court Administrator, Russ Baugh. Russ, would you please stand?

Well, we’re very glad that you could all be with us today.

And with this we’re going to start this observance. There is no person who ever has benefited, more from Hal Hoag’s services than a Chief Justice of this Court. All justices benefit, but a Chief Justice benefits a hundredfold from his wise counsel, his hand-holding, his encouragement, his back-patting, and his general consolation. And for this reason I’m going to call on some former Chief Justices of this Court so that they may express some of their views about our honoree today.

First of all, Chief Justice KAVANAGH?

 JUSTICE KAVANAGH: Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Court, distinguished former members of the Court, and friends of Harold Hoag: Chief Justice FITZGERALD said it all. The work of the Clerk of this Court is of a special benefit to those of us who are given the responsibility of serving as Chief Justice. The Clerk of the Court, I am convinced, is really the heart of the Court. And in the case of Harold Hoag, I know that’s true. When I was the Chief Justice of this Court Harold Hoag was not only the heart, but the head of this Court. He, as the Chief Justice has suggested, held my hand, he counseled me, he cajoled me, he scolded me. Whatever I was able to accomplish in my tour of duty as Chief Justice, a very large part I can thank Harold Hoag for. I mean that sincerely, because he certainly was my good right arm. He thought of the things that had to be thought of when they had to be thought of. And he was always there with the help and suggestion that made resolution of problems a little easier, and generally right, I think.
When lawyers deal with a court, by and large they deal primarily with the clerk of the court. And I think the people, the litigants, the public generally, largely get their idea, their impression of a court from their dealings with the clerk of the court. To the extent that that is true I am satisfied that with Harold Hoag as the Clerk of this Court we can all take great pride in having a man of integrity and unusual ability representing us to the public.

Harold Hoag is a very dear friend. Harold Hoag is a first-class lawyer. He is an unusual administrator. But I keep getting back to the idea that he is a friend. He is a friend of every justice that has ever sat on this Court. He is a friend of the institution that is this Court. His contribution to this institution, and to those of us who are fortunate enough to have served on the Court, is unmatched in anything I know of in the history of the Court.

Harold, we shall miss you greatly, and we’re all very much indebted to you for your fine service and loyal friendship. God bless you. And until you leave, keep working.

CHIEF JUSTICE FITZGERALD: My immediate predecessor in this position is Justice COLEMAN. I would like to call on her for a few words.

 JUSTICE COLEMAN: If anyone has ever been indispensable to this Supreme Court, Harold Hoag has been that person. That thought leads me to express the hope that he will agree to come back and be of counsel, when the occasion arises, for our new Court, and we will be a very new Court with three new members.

Personally, I think of Hal in terms of superlatives, but I guess I don’t want to embarrass him–excessively, that is. Anyway I’m going to share with you, and him, some appropriately descriptive words which leap into my mind when I think of him. Father confessor; he’s too young to be my father, but I mean that in the sense that he lends a non-judgmental ear to all kinds of problems and pressures which we might pour on his head. He’s also an advisor when asked for assistance. And in this role he exhibits the unusual native and acquired traits of a wise man, and a diplomat, with a keen sense of human behavior and a sensitivity to hidden explosives in given situations. A psychological Geiger counter, if you will. Above all, he is loyal. The word friend has been mentioned, and he’s certainly been that, but he’s been loyal to each succession of justices, and to the Court as an institution. His integrity is unassailable. His self-discipline and efficiency may have some roots which may have been enhanced by his experiences and responsibilities in the Navy, maybe at home, but certainly he has this marvelous discipline that all of us, I think, envy a great deal.

Dependability; when you ask Hal to do something there isn’t any reason to check, it’s just done. In fact he often anticipates what should be done and accomplishes it before we have a chance to ask.

On a personal note, he’s been a very astute and reliable financial advisor. I don’t have time to ask my husband all these things, but Hal has really stood in the stead of a home advisor in that respect. And with patience he’s deflected all kinds of nonfiscal problems. Importantly though, he’s extended the honor to me of treating me at once as a justice, and as a Chief Justice with a mind of her own, and with a great courtesy that he would always extend to a lady. And this is a unique combination on this Court so far. I have been the only one in over 140 years, and: he’s not let the fact that I was a little different from my predecessors stand in the way of giving me credit, as I say, for having a mind, and still treating me as I like to be treated. I like to eat my cake and have it, too.

He has understood that I think instinctively.

I’ve been privileged and even exalted by the opportunity to have worked and learned for the past ten years with Hal Hoag, who is a very special man in my life. I take nothing from Frieda, and I’m sure he’s a very special man in her life, and I’ll share a little secret. He said yes, he was going to retire this time because Frieda said she’d like to have him at home. And I think that’s lovely. I don’t blame Frieda at all. He is a very special man in both of our lives. I’m going to miss him so much. He will always be a friend, I know that. And I will always feel that I can call on him. God bless you.

CHIEF JUSTICE FITZGERALD: And yet another former Chief Justice of this Court whom I would like to call on for remarks, Justice THOMAS E. BRENNAN, now President of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

 MR. BRENNAN: Mr. Chief Justice FITZGERALD, and Justices, may it please the Court:

There is no little irony in the circumstances that bring us here today, and I think the significance of these proceedings may best be appreciated if we take note of it. This occasion was meant to mark the retirement from active service to the Supreme Court of Michigan of its long trusted and beloved Clerk, Mr. Harold Hoag. In point of fact, I am informed, Hal Hoag has lately agreed because of exigencies related to the tragic and unexpected passing of Justice MOODY, and the rush of events that have followed it, to remain at his post a while longer. So we observe today a retirement earned, but not taken; deserved, but not yet enjoyed; fully vested, but somehow inchoate and not realized. And so quite unintendedly and curiously we mark today the return of Harold Hoag to active service in the service of the Court.

All of this is, as I say, a curious, ironic, and significant aspect, for it is not the first time our good friend has found himself recalled to active duty. Having been mustered out of the United States Navy in October of 1945, after five years of service stretching from Scotland to the Philippines, Hal Hoag went to the University of Michigan, acquired his law degree, married his dear wife Frieda, and took a job in the insurance business. He was ready to settle down and live happily ever after. But very shortly that dream disintegrated. In December of 1950 he was recalled to active duty in the Navy because of the Korean War. And Harold Hoag is a man who generously answers the call of duty. This time he stayed sixteen years, rising from the rank of Radioman to that of Commander.

In 1967 he retired from the Navy, and that same year was appointed Deputy Clerk of this Court. I had been a member of this Court for about five months when Hal Hoag was first piped aboard these hallowed decks. Indeed, I suspect I am one of the few people present who were here then to receive him.

His fifteen years of effort have not been long as far as Supreme Court clerking goes. Indeed, Hal and his four immediate predecessors account for more than one hundred years of continuous service to this Court and the people of Michigan. But if he rose from Radioman to Commander in sixteen years in the Navy, he has risen from Deputy Clerk to a veritable institution in his fifteen years with this Court. For those of us who have been privileged to work with him, Hal Hoag has been a sterling example of dedication and commitment to public service; of duty performed with civility; opinions rendered with tact; advice given without affront; bad news broken gently; humor preserved constantly. Loyalty, circumspection, attention to detail, a keen awareness of the Court’s interest, its vulnerability, its mission, its historic importance as an institution of human government, these special attributes have recommended Hall Hoag to all who have known him. He is precise and correct at all times. But despite his orderly mind, and his quick grasp of problems, he is habitually patient and understanding, whether assisting a young lawyer enmeshed in his first application for leave to appeal, or counseling a young Chief Justice bedeviled by a host of administrative decisions. On that latter point I can give the sure testimony of personal experience. Even today, a dozen years after the event, I remember well his steady bearing and his clear presentations. And I would be remiss if I did not take advantage of this occasion permanently to mark my gratitude upon the records of this Court.

Our ostensible purpose today was to mark Hal Hoag’s retirement from the Court, and to wish him Godspeed, long life, and a joy-filled, contentment-filled, satisfaction-filled, perhaps fishing- and travel-filled respite from the burdens of office. Events have altered that. Instead, today we thank Harold Hoag for what he has given all of us in the profession of law these last fifteen years, and we express our appreciation for his continued service, however temporary. And in doing this we celebrate the energizing force of duty, that remarkable quality of the human spirit which prompts and enables the best of men to see what needs doing. Harold Hoag is a dutiful man. And a beautiful man, as those of us on and off the bench who have been inspired by his goodness and warmed by his friendship are proud to attest. God bless you Hal, and may

He grant you and your family good health.


I’d like to take the opportunity at this point to ask my colleagues on the bench if they have any comments they would care to make. Justice WILLIAMS?

 JUSTICE WILLIAMS: Thank you, Chief Justice, and colleagues.

Frankly, and I have not hidden this from Hal, I was very, very suspicious of Hal when I first came on the Court, because I suspected that he was running things on the Court. And as time went on I discovered that I was absolutely right. And as time went on a little further, I fervently thanked God that he was, because if it weren’t for his careful, dedicated and devoted service, the Supreme Court of Michigan would have been able to accomplish but a very small portion of what it has. And I must say that Hal has done it in such a self-effacing manner that if you weren’t an innately suspicious person, like myself, each of us would have been convinced that all of the good that had been done we had done ourselves, not that Hall had done it.

Two things I want to say in addition. Hal’s devotion to each one of us personally has been so really intense and undiluted that I think that it has made each one of us a better person, and charged us up to do a better job than we would have otherwise done.

And the second thing is that Hal has been dedicated to the institution of the Supreme Court in a manner I think maybe no one else has ever been. And I think that that too has inspired each and every one of us with a more lofty concept of what duties and privileges we have been given in becoming members of this Court. And I think we have attended our responsibilities a great deal better than we would have otherwise done. And so, Hal, don’t go very far from this Court because not only would we not get as much work done, but I’m afraid that the high standard this Court has achieved might be quickly eroded. God bless you.

CHIEF JUSTICE FITZGERALD: Are there any other remarks to be made, or should we proceed with the program?
Speaking as probably the briefest in time in the office of Chief Justice in the history of the State of Michigan, I can only say that Hal, in just the short time I have been here, has been a great help and comfort to me. I can only underscore everything that has been said by the other Chief Justices. I think everything that Hal brought to them in their four years, three years, two years, however long it may have been, has been compressed into six weeks for me. And I sincerely appreciate it.

It’s often said that there are three branches of government; and just to show you the esteem that Hal Hoag is held in by the branches of government other than the Court, it’s my pleasure to be able to read to you communications from those branches of government.

I have here a letter from the office of the Governor, addressed to Hal, and I hope I will be excused for opening someone else’s mail.

 “Dear Mr. Hoag: It gives me great pleasure to add my personal and official congratulations to those of the many friends and colleagues gathered to honor you during the special session of the Supreme Court on December 15.

Your outstanding direction of the Court’s administrative affairs has been of great value to the justices and to the people of Michigan. Please accept my sincere congratulations on your fine record of public service, and my best wishes for a long and relaxed retirement. Kind personal regards. Sincerely, William G. Milliken, Governor.”

And from the other branch of government, we have before us a House Concurrent Resolution, Number 938, offered by Representatives Bullard, Smith, Ciaramitaro, and Fitzpatrick and Senators Faxon, Plawecki, Engler, Corbin, and Welborn. Obviously a joint operation between the House and Senate.

“A concurrent resolution of tribute to Mr. Harold Hoag.” Prefaced by a quotation from the author George Elliott. “Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.”

“Whereas, It is a privilege to pay tribute to Mr. Harold Hoag in recognition of his superb service as Clerk of the Michigan Supreme Court. Mr. Hoag’s upcoming retirement brings to a close a career that has been marked by consistent excellence in serving his community, his state and his nation; and

“Whereas, Mr. Hoag was educated at Creston High School and Grand Rapids Junior College prior to joining the U. S. Navy Reserve, where he attained the rank of Radioman 1st Class. He subsequently earned both an A.B. and LL.B. from the University of Michigan and worked for Michigan Mutual Liability Insurance Company prior to being recalled to active duty during the Korean Conflict. He excelled in service as a Radioman 1st Class and as a commissioned Lieutenant Junior Grade in the U. S. Navy. He further was assigned to the Judge Advocate General and served as a legal officer in the Naval Forces. He also served as a legal officer for the Appellate Defense Counsel Division and the Navy Comptroller in Washington, D.C.; the Chief of Naval Air Reserve Training at Glenview Naval Air Station in Illinois; and the Iceland Defense Force. Moreover, he earned a master’s degree from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and worked for the International Law Division in Washington, D.C.; and

“Whereas, It was upon his retirement from the U. S. Navy as a commander that Mr. Hoag began his illustrious tenure with the Michigan Supreme Court. He excelled as Deputy Clerk from May of 1967, and was elevated to the Clerk’s position in January of 1975. He has earned our heartfelt gratitude and praise for his good work. May he know how greatly we value him; now, therefore, be it

“Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), that the highest tribute be extended to Mr. Harold Hoag upon his retirement as Clerk of the Michigan Supreme Court; and be it further

“Resolved, That a copy of this resolution be transmitted to him, his wife, Frieda; their two children, John and Joan; and their two grandchildren as a reflection of our esteem.”

Adopted by the House of Representatives on December 2, 1982, and adopted by the Senate on December 6, 1982.
I think these communications from the other branches of government show really what we’ve known all along: what a great asset Hal has been to our Court.

We have one other speaker here today, and we’re delighted to welcome him: Mr. John Krsul, the President of the State Bar of Michigan.

 MR. KRSUL: Mr. Chief Justice, Justices of the Court, distinguished guests: I’m honored to appear before this Court today on behalf of the 21,000 members of the State Bar of Michigan to honor one of our own.

At its meeting on November 19, the Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution in honor of Harold Hoag. If I may, I’d like to read that resolution to the Court.

“Harold Hoag, hereinafter referred to as Hal, for his friends call him that, and we know of no one who calls him otherwise, commenced life in Kent City in the Michigan county of that name. He migrated to the big city to spend his childhood, and is thus the proud product of Grand Rapids’ schools, including Grand Rapids Junior College (which style of name affords a clue to the era of Hal’s youth).

“Hal Hoag joined the United States Naval Reserve in 1941 and was called to active duty in April of that year. He spent World War II on a Navy tanker transporting oil to Scotland and North Africa, and later in the Pacific. His rank was Radioman 1st Class at the time of his release from active duty in October, 1945.

“He enrolled at the University of Michigan the following spring and emerged a lawyer in 1950, having completed the requirements for the B.A. degree at the end of his first year of law school.

“Hal also departed the Athens of the Midwest a married man, having wed Frieda Waldmiller in 1947.

“He plied the lawyer’s trade for nine months in the employ of Michigan Mutual Liability Insurance Company before Uncle Sam again pointed his way; in September 1950 Hal was recalled for active duty in the Korean Conflict, as it was known. Commissioned a Lieutenant J. G., U. S. N. R., in 1951, Hal served the Navy for another 16 years in a variety of legal officer assignments, including a stint in the Office of Navy Comptroller. This assignment was presumably the handiwork of a prescient fate for Hal’s future career in another bureaucracy.

“Included also in Hal’s Navy years was an assignment in 1957-1959 for postgraduate study at Tufts University, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where he earned a Master’s Degree–another move by the gods, we may suppose, to prepare Hal for the work which was later to crown his career.

“Hal retired from the Navy a Commander in April, 1967, commenced work a month later as Deputy Clerk of the Michigan Supreme Court, and on January 1, 1975, became the Clerk of the Court, an office in which he has persisted until this day.

“Thus, it might be said that the career of Harold Hoag has paralleled, but in reverse, that of Sir Joseph Porter, K. C. B., ruler of the Queen’s Navy in Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘H. M. S. Pinafore’. Sir Joseph made his mark in the law after a fashion, before going on to become a big wheel in the Navy; while Sir Hal made his mark in the Navy before going on to become a big wheel in the law.

“And fortunate we are that Hal’s career evolved as it did, for it brought his talents and temperament into the service of our Supreme Court during a period of growth and great change in the law and in the work of the Court which presides over our system of justice. Hal has been a steady anchor to windward during this time, for the Court and for the bar which practices under its authority.

“The State Bar has particular reason to appreciate Hal Hoag’s tenure as Clerk of the Court. Our work intrinsically involves frequent communication and contact with the Court and the Clerk’s office; and in all his years there, Hal has never failed to be helpful, kind, and courteous. We have been the beneficiaries of his wisdom and sage counsel. And, in addition, Hal has for many years lent his knowledge and energies to the work of one of the bar’s most active and productive committees, the Committee on Civil Procedure.

“Accordingly, the officers, commissioners and members of the State Bar of Michigan do hereby express their regret at Hal Hoag’s relinquishment of the office he has held with such great distinction, and their sincere appreciation, not only for the job he has done, but also for the true gentleman he is.”
Signed by myself, as President. Unanimously adopted by the Board of Commissioners, November 19, 1982.

We all know that it long has been the policy of this Court that no man shall be gainsaid the opportunity to present his own cause or rebuttal. So it becomes appropriate at this time that we offer to our honoree today the opportunity to say what he will. Hal?

 MR. HOAG: May it please the Court: Cherished friends, I address you in that manner because that is what you are. All of you. And because I wish to give you this response in that vein. You certainly have done me too much honor. Just as certainly I know that your remarks are genuine and heartfelt. I cannot resolve that paradox beyond the observation that it is my experience that good friends remember the best, and discount the rest.

Seventeen years ago I decided to seek my release from active duty in the Navy, partly to come home, and partly to accept a position teaching international law. I could not gain my release in time, and lost this splendid teaching opportunity, but determined to carry out that plan, to come home and enter the general practice of law which had been my first hope and desire that was thwarted by the first Korean Conflict, as the second Korean Conflict lost my teaching opportunity. I was released. I came home, my idea being to find an administrative law job for a year, and learn the jargon that Michigan lawyers use, it having been my experience in traveling in the Navy that there is a different jargon in every jurisdiction, and one would be less disadvantaged to learn it. I came to this Court on other business, and strictly by chance landed the job of Deputy Clerk, even after advising Don Winters that my intentions were to remain only a year. During that year I thought I perceived some additional tasks that the Clerk’s office could perform of potential benefit to the Court. And I thought it offered the prospect of a very rewarding career for me. So with Don Winters’ blessing, I sent my first memorandum to this Court. It consisted of two sentences. The first sentence was the statement that I thought there were some additional tasks that the Clerk’s office could perform with potential benefit to the Court, and that I might be able to help in their performance. And the second sentence was a request for a whopping raise of $1,500 a year. That was a whopping raise fifteen years ago. The response of the Court–there are three members–there are no members of that Court now sitting, but there are three members here today, including the justice who made the motion. The response that I received was in the form of a minute from the Court’s conference. And it said, “Motion made and carried to raise Deputy Clerk Hoag’s salary $3,000.” That answered both of my questions decisively. That support, encouragement, and trust shown me by that Court, it has been my great benefit to have received from every justice that served on that Court from that time through today; what good I may have helped accomplish, surely was due to that kind of support, and to them.

I am indebted as well to the bench of this state, and the practitioners of this state, and to those who have supported them. Their support was the same kind of support that I received from the Court. And my explanation of that fact is as follows. First, they want to be supportive of this state’s one court of justice, particularly this Court. Second, because I tried to carry out the charge given to me by this Court, which was: when you are asked for assistance by judges, or lawyers, other government offices, anyone, do your best to make certain that they know that it is this Court’s position that you serve it best when you serve them best. If I have been the cause to some degree of that support, it is in trying to carry out that charge.

I am indebted also to the superb staff of this Court, including those on the staffs in the personal offices of the justices, for the same kind of support that the justices have given me. And my explanation of the reason for that is first, that they are that kind of people, that is what they want to do and will do, their best, if given any reasonable chance. And second, because I did not manage them very much. They did not need management. I am not good at managing. I do not like to manage. And I don’t like to be managed. And I thought they probably felt the same. So I tried to carry out my role in the form of leadership. And to do that, it being perfectly obvious that they were people of superb skills, great dedication, and above all, complete loyalty, I tried, not often enough I know, but I tried to express to them my knowledge of those attributes they possessed. And to express appreciation for their work. And they gave me back an immediate recognition, and a continuing recognition of what I was trying to do, and they counted it as done. And then with superb skill and dedicated application they have made it seem as if it were done.

I am indebted finally, to my family for matchless love and ceaseless support. To my mother, Edith; my father, Gaius; my sisters, Dorothy and Doris; my brothers, Robert, Richard, Jerry; my daughter, Joan Barnett; her husband, Michael; my grandchildren, Michele and Harley; my son, John; my wife, Frieda. And I conclude my remarks now by asking them to stand as I introduce my son John, and my high-school sweetheart, and still my sweetheart, Frieda.

CHIEF JUSTICE FITZGERALD: This will conclude the formal portion of our ceremony this afternoon. I think if you will repair to the outer lobby you will find refreshment and enjoyment for all of us. Thank you all so much for coming, we all sincerely appreciate it on Hal’s behalf.