Special Opening Ceremony Of The Michigan Supreme Court

OCTOBER 8, 2002

 WALLACE D. RILEY: May it please the Court, Madam Chief Justice and Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court. Members of the bar, ladies and gentlemen.

We are assembled for the beginning of a momentous day in Michigan history. When this Court adjourns after its first oral argument of this, the 2002-2003 term, we will all go in procession to the new Hall of Justice, there to dedicate and open the building.

This is a long-awaited occasion. The last regular session of this Court in these chambers took place on March 3, 1970. At that time, the Court was about to move to the newly completed Law Building. That was also an historic day for this Court.

That historic day was recognized in a formal session of this Court on April 28, 2988, for the dedication of a bronze marker commemorating these Old Supreme Court Chambers.
These chambers were the home of sixty justices who served on the Court from January 1, 1879, when this Capitol building was completed, until January 6, 1970, when the Court moved to its present quarters in the Law Building. During that time, nearly 38,000 cases and almost 10,000 oral arguments were heard in this room.

At the dedication of the bronze marker in 1988, Governor (then Senate Majority Leader) John Engler said, “We hope that someday this building will be suitably restored so that this marker can appropriately and proudly be displayed, and that this room itself can be restored to the grandeur that made it acclaimed architecturally as of the finest in the United States.”

These words turned out to be prophetic and by the time Chief Justice Riley gave the State of the Judiciary message in the newly restored House Chambers on April 26, 1990, the Capitol Building restoration was well underway. In that message, the Chief Justice congratulated the legislature for the restoration of the Capitol Building, and then added, “And we hope that someday soon, with your help, we shall be able to invite you to the dedication ceremonies of our new chambers in Michigan’s first Hall of Justice.” That likewise turned out to be prophetic.

Since the restoration of the Old Supreme Court Chambers, the annual tradition has been that this Court has graciously shared the annual opening of court with the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, giving us a brief ceremony to mark the occasion and also to report to you on the Society’s recent accomplishments.

What you do today at the new Hall of Justice is clearly “center stage” and so in deference to that event I shall simply list the ongoing activities in which the Society is engaged:

  • First and foremost, the Gala this coming Saturday evening at the Hall of Justice
  • Portraits, as always, we are moving and painting
  • Oral Histories of former Justices Boyle and Levin
  • Website is up and running and constantly being updated and improved
  • Publications are continuing in the form of the newsletter the “Society Update” and distribution of the “Reference Guide” and “A Brief History of the Michigan Supreme Court”
  • Education Pilot Program to over 60 middle school and high school teachers (close tie-in with the new Learning Center)
  • Presented first “Legal History Award” to Governor Engler at Annual Luncheon meeting last April

So here we are on October 8, 2002:

  • 167 years after the Michigan Supreme Court was created by the 1835 Constitution;
  • after four Constitutional Conventions;
  • after 103 Justices of the then an now;

In a little over two hours, you will have the march across the “field of dreams” to the new Michigan Hall of Justice. May the wind be at your back!