Special Opening Ceremony Of The Michigan Supreme Court

OCTOBER 5, 2004

WALLACE D. RILEY: Madame Chief Justice and Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court assembled here today for the opening of the Court’s 2004-2005 term, Society board members, members of the bar in attendance, ladies and gentlemen.

We thank the Court for again sharing its Annual Opening Session with the Historical Society and for allowing us to report briefly on the doings of the Society in the past year.

A new director, to whom you’ve not been introduced, joined the Historical Society in April. Carl W. Herstein brings a great deal of enthusiasm to his position on the board and has spent the summer working on the Big Four Writing and Research Project.

The Society continues to focus on the distribution of its various publications, including the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Reference Guide, the Brief History of the Michigan Supreme Court booklet, and our quarterly newsletter The Society Update. We are pleased to announce that in the past year we distributed nearly 50 of our free lesson plan packets to social studies teachers and classrooms all over the state.

However, our biggest project of 2004 was the updating, printing, and distribution of the new Index to Special Sessions. The new book includes up-to-date indexes of all special sessions held by the Michigan Supreme Court since 1836 and lists the dates, honorees, and speakers of each session. The book also includes transcripts of all of the special sessions that have taken place since the Society’s inception in 1988.

In 2003, the Historical Society commissioned the oral history of Justice Patricia J. Boyle. That oral history was completed and we are now working with the justice on editing the transcripts.

In April, we hosted our Annual Membership Luncheon in Detroit. Nearly 150 members and friends joined us to hear about the trial of the last man executed under Michigan law.

As the Court is well aware, the Society co-hosted an event honoring the 50th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v Board of Education decision. We were very pleased to assist the Court in bringing Mr. Ernest Green to share his thoughts about the ramifications of the case and the future of civil rights.

The 2004 Coleman Intern, Heather Weeks, spent the first part of her internship updating the indexes which were published in the book and scanning and editing transcripts of special sessions. She spent the summer at the Library of Michigan and the State Archives creating an annotated bibliography of the research resources available there to everyone interested in the history of the Court.

In cooperation with Western Michigan University, the Society has established the Big Four Writing and Research Fellowship. The fellowship is designed to foster academic research on the history of the Supreme Court of Michigan and dissemination of such research. During the 2003-2004 academic year, Coreen Derifield researched and wrote a paper entitled “Prohibited From Using Peaceful Measures: The Michigan Supreme Court and Labor Injunctions in Detroit, 1897-1907.

The paper focuses on several turn-of-the-century rulings against labor unions. In the cases, the Michigan Supreme Court sanctioned the use of injunctions to prohibit boycotts and picketing, two of labor’s most effective weapons in disputes. The decisions coincided with the Detroit Employers’ Association’s drive to make Detroit an “open shop” town. The paper argues that the Michigan Supreme Court rulings on injunctions gave Detroit employers an important tool they could use against striking labor unions and that the injunctions greatly affected the ability of a union to successfully conduct a strike. The paper analyzes the important role of the Michigan Supreme Court in Detroit’s early twentieth-century labor movement.

Over the past year, we continued to update and improve our website. We added a “Homes of the Court” page, which features short descriptions and photos of the many meeting places of the Court over the years.

We continue to oversee and manage the Learning Center Fund and to accept donations on behalf of the Center and we are working on a holiday card fundraiser for the Center.

We are proud of the accomplishments of the Society and we continue to strive to make the work of the Historical Society something of which the Court can be proud. We are looking forward to the coming year and to celebrating with the Court the 200th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Michigan.