JANUARY 6, 1986
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: Good morning. This is a very important occasion for the administration of justice in the State of Michigan, as we welcome a new justice to the Supreme Court. We’re delighted that this occasion has evoked such a fine response, so that the new justice will feel the interest of the people of Michigan in him and what he has to do.
I’ll begin by calling upon George E. Bushnell, Jr., who is a member of the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association and a past President of the State Bar of Michigan.
MR. BUSHNELL: It’s only meet and right that the American Bar Association is present today to do honor to Justice DENNIS ARCHER. His outstanding leadership of the National Bar Association, Wolverine Bar, the State Bar of Michigan will be recounted by others.
My happy opportunity is to make a record of Denny’s great contributions to the American Bar Association, and thus to the profession. A recounting of our new justice’s work with committees, sections, special commissions and the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association would be significant in and of itself. But the unique contribution that Denny has made, and I pray he will continue to make, has been to be the voice of the disenfranchised. The force to make the profession face its obligations and responsibilities to those unknown and uncared for. His dignified, but forceful demands, always fully documented, factual and with just enough fire to emphasize his arguments have left his colleagues with no option but to follow his leadership. And this we will continue to do.
As a consequence, we, the American Bar Association, are extraordinarily proud of DENNIS ARCHER. We sincerely congratulate Governor Blanchard for making this appointment. We congratulate the people of Michigan for the benefits that they will receive through the years of judicial service that lie ahead. And we congratulate the Court on its newest colleague, who’s alternatively a hard worker, a wonderful friend with whom to be associated, and, above all, a leader. Justice ARCHER, congratulations.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: It’s now my pleasure to call upon the President of the State Bar of Michigan, another very eloquent lawyer, a person who has been very active in promoting the best interests of the judiciary. So it’s with great pleasure that we call upon George T. Roumell, Jr.
MR. ROUMELL: May it please the Court, after ten years of teaching, about twenty years ago the invasion of the Michigan judiciary began. I now count at least twenty-five former students sitting on the bench of Michigan. And today, I am as proud as the day that my first daughter was born. I now have a former student on the Michigan Supreme Court.
DENNIS ARCHER graced my classroom in 1969, on one of those cold evenings in Detroit on Elizabeth Street at that famous little college of which Daniel Webster might say, She’s “a small college, and yet [we] love [her],” the Detroit College of Law.
I had the occasion, as do all teachers, to mark, to appraise, what type of lawyer that student would be. I am pleased to tell you that I thought DENNIS ARCHER would be a credit to the bar. I was not wrong. An outstanding practitioner, he is a man who has devoted as much time as any person to the affairs of his profession as a member of the Board of Directors of the Detroit Bar Association, President of the National Bar Association, President of the Wolverine Bar Association, for ten outstanding years a member of the Board of Commissioners of the State Bar, and, finally, as our president.
Now you ask me, do you teach a course in Supreme Court justice? No, I don’t. But if I did, what mark would I give DENNIS ARCHER? What would be my prediction? The answer is of course, A+. He’s a trial lawyer. He has tried cases throughout the state. He grew up in southwest Michigan. He’s traveled as President of the State Bar, throughout this state. He knows Michigan. He is a person of Michigan. He is an excellent legal scholar, and has a tremendous analytical mind. Equally as important, as I was thinking about it, there have been many charming people on the Michigan Supreme Court, but I think DENNIS ARCHER will continue the great charm of George Bushnell.
Now I’m going to warn the justices, when you are in conferences you’re going to see things happen, because I saw them happen when he was on the commission for ten years. I’ll give you the code words. If he calls you chief, he’ll call all of you chief, that means you’re coming. If he calls you buddy, and slaps you on the back, you’ve arrived. He has body language, he has code language, and that makes him a very unusual individual.
I think DENNIS ARCHER will continue the great tradition, the tradition of his friends: Thurgood Marshall, Damon Keith, Wade McCree, the tradition of such men as A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., and of course of Otis Smith. But Dennis would be very disappointed if I didn’t mention to him my hero, my judicial hero, and a man that I shared with him for a minute in the last moments of his presidency. If you recall Dennis, I gave you the biography of the Honorable William H. Hastie, Judge of the Third Judicial Circuit. A great judge, a great human being. And I’m going to read to you the last two sentences of that biography, because I think they apply to DENNIS ARCHER. The name of the biography is Grace Under Pressure [by Gilbert Ware (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), p 241], and sometime in the future somebody is going to write a sequel called GRACE UNDER PRESSURE II, THE STORY OF DENNIS ARCHER. Let me read it to you: “William Hastie thought of himself as just another soldier in the bittersweet war against bigotry. But was he? He enlisted, he excelled, he inspired. And the beneficialness of his greatness transcends race and place and time.” Now if you want me to describe DENNIS ARCHER, that’s him. He is a new William Hastie. I am proud. Congratulations, Dennis.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: It’s my pleasure next to call upon Fred D. Gray, President of the National Bar Association. He’s from Tuskegee, Alabama. He is very close to us here in Michigan, and to those who love justice, because he was lawyer for Rosa Parks and for Dr. Martin Luther King, following Mrs. Parks’ refusal to move to the back of the bus. And so it is an historic occasion, and a very sympathetic one for us, to have Fred Gray here to speak.
MR. GRAY: May it please the Court, other members of the judiciary, the Honorable DENNIS W. ARCHER, ladies and gentlemen. As President of the National Bar Association, the voice of more than 20,000 black lawyers in the United States, I am very pleased to bring greetings and congratulations to the Honorable DENNIS W. ARCHER.
He richly deserves the honor of having been appointed as a justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Michigan, because he holds distinction as an eminent scholar of the law and as an eloquent advocate of diversity in the legal profession. Moreover, he has exemplified outstanding leadership skills in such roles as President of the Wolverine Bar Association, an affiliate of the National Bar Association, as President of the National Bar Association, and, as you know, most recently as President of the State Bar of Michigan. He has also served the American Bar Association with distinction in many important roles.
I will elaborate briefly only on a few of the qualities of mind and character that have led to his appointment to the Michigan Supreme Court.
He’s a scholar of the law, as can be seen in the number of articles which he has authored, or coauthored, that have been published in legal journals. I can personally attest to his leadership qualities. His impressive record in the presidency of the National Bar Association a few years ago influenced me more than anything else to seek the leadership position which I now hold in that organization. I worked closely with him during his presidency in initiating some of the plans and programs which we are bringing into fruition now in NBA. Most importantly, he has never waivered in his effort to combat discrimination that has haunted minority lawyers for decades. Last year, in my address before a number of groups, I stressed the point that Dennis so eloquently expounded about diversity in the legal profession when he wrote in the November, 1984, Michigan Bar Journal the following:
We will discuss and then seek solutions to the lack of equal employment opportunities for minority and women lawyers, and the problem of upward mobility once hired. We will repeat the process next month and later in other major Michigan cities. If we in the legal profession, who advocate equal justice under law and equal opportunity, do not encourage and promote diversity within our own ranks, then haw can we expect other professions, businesses, or other economic groups to do the same? [Archer, Diversity in the legal profession, 63 Mich B J 1008, 1009 (1984).]
The insightful manner in which he stated one of the more serious problems that face the legal profession today is but an example which predicts the forthright way in which he will seek solutions to matters that will come before him as a justice of the Supreme Court of Michigan.
As an Alabamian, I am happy to see the State of Michigan finally catch up with Alabama, for we have had a black person serving on the Supreme Court of Alabama for over four years. He was appointed, and later he ran and was successfully elected in Alabama to serve on the Supreme Court. And Dennis, I bring you greetings from the
Honorable Oscar W. Adams, a Justice of the Supreme Court; the Honorable U. W. Clemon of the Northern District of Alabama; the Honorable Myron H. Thompson of the Middle District of Alabama. All are able judges in the State of Alabama.
Mister Justice ARCHER, attorneys of all races have found in you a source of admiration and inspiration. We, your colleagues in the National Bar Association, are proud to salute you as a jurist who adorns with distinction the profession and the process of law for the State of Michigan. May God save this Honorable Court and you as a justice thereon.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: Thank you very much President Gray for that very eloquent and challenging address. I say challenging because I want you to take a look at that portrait over there of our friend, Otis Smith, whom my successor [as Governor] appointed to this Court in 1961. And I wish to note all of the black judges that have been appointed since 1950. We are very proud of what happened in Alabama. And we, in Michigan, remember that in the Democratic Convention in Chicago some years ago, when the progressive Alabamians were not being admitted to the Democratic Convention, they were invited to sit with the Michigan delegation. And we’re very happy to be here on this occasion, because you come with good strong words, and we just want you to know that we have the strength to go forward with you.
It’s now my pleasure to call upon Sharon McPhail, President of the Wolverine Bar Association.
MS. MCPHAIL: I’m very happy to be here today on behalf of the Wolverine Bar Association. We are justly proud of DENNIS ARCHER today. We were proud of him when he served as President of the National Bar, and we were proud of him when he rose to the presidency of the State Bar of Michigan. Now, again, we’re proud of him as he takes his place among the other parts of the rainbow that is now our Supreme Court.
Dennis has traveled far to come to this day. He’s truly an American dream realized. That is even more significant in view of the fact that Dennis has not forgotten who he is on the journey to become what he is. The American novelist, Thomas Wolfe, said, and I quote, “[T]o every man his chance—to every man, regardless of his birth, his shining, golden opportunity—to every man the right to live, to work, to be himself, and to become whatever thing his manhood and his vision can combine to make him—this . . . is the promise of America.” Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again (New York: Harper & Row, 1940), P 508. America has this day fulfilled its promise to DENNIS ARCHER and has moved itself one step closer to opening the doors for all of the black and white boys and girls of all of the Cassopolises of this nation. We salute you Dennis.
I brought with me, for Dennis, a gavel which has been inscribed, and which we hope will grace his new desk: “To DENNIS W. ARCHER, Justice of the Supreme Court of Michigan, From the Wolverine Bar Association.”
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: It’s my pleasure now to call upon the President of the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, Deborah L. Miela.
MS. MIELA: Good morning. Thank you. Good morning Justice ARCHER. As you go further on down the line, it’s really hard to come up with more new and amazing and wonderful things to say about you.
I can recall when you taught my evidence class at the Detroit College of Law, but I’m more recently impressed with your leadership when you were the President of the State Bar Association, and you did, as you’ve mentioned in the past, travel all over the state. At a number of the meetings, where you took the time to share yourself, the Women Lawyers Association meetings of our regions, Oakland, Wayne and others, you exemplified your leadership skills and tried to bring out leadership skills in our membership by encouraging women and minorities to involve themselves in the bar process wherever they found that bar process most in need of their individual and professional skills.
One of the most positive and factual things that I can say about you Justice ARCHER, is that I know for a fact that you are a member of an organization that is dedicated to securing the rights of women in society, to advancing the interest of women members of the legal profession. To promoting improvements in the administration of justice, to promoting equality and social justice for all people, and to improving relations between the legal profession and the public.
Everything that everyone has said this morning, and will continue to say about you, exemplifies your commitment to those goals, and your membership in the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan. We are very proud and happy to participate in your investiture today. It’s an honor and a privilege for me, as the President of Women Lawyers, to present to you this banner that we traditionally present to our members who attain the bench.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: It’s my pleasure now to call upon an old associate who was Chief Justice, and led this Court ably for a number of years. The gifted and eloquent THOMAS E. BRENNAN.
JUSTICE BRENNAN: Mister Chief Justice, I confess, if the Court please, that I feel very much this morning like the Ghost of Christmas Past, being removed from these hallowed precincts by the span of some twelve years. Seeing only two justices here whose opinions I signed, and occasionally dissented from, and considering the cadre of eminent jurists
who have come and gone since I sat where you are sitting Mister Chief Justice, I have the uneasy sense that if I should utter some long forgotten Latin phrase, or mention some unfashionable ancient doctrine like contributory negligence, the clock on the wall would begin to spin crazily at about 3,000 revolutions per minute, the pages of the Court’s calendar would flutter to the floor like leaves in an autumn wind, and I would suddenly vanish from behind this lectern in a puff of smoke. Before that happens, I want to have a word with the members of the Court about the Honorable DENNIS W. ARCHER.
I’ve known Justice ARCHER for a long time, and have worked with him on the Board of Commissioners of the State Bar and in various other professional, civic, and academic endeavors. He is a good man. Bright, capable, dedicated, experienced. But most importantly, DENNIS ARCHER is an advocate. He brings to the chemistry of this Court an element of passionate persuasion which only a trial lawyer of his eminence can exude. I suspect the Court’s deliberations will be livelier for his being in your midst. As anyone who loves the life of the intellect, I envy both the light and the heat that you will generate together in the conference room in the days to come.
So saying, I would add a word addressed especially to your new colleague. The transition from lawyer to judge, from bar to bench, from player to umpire, is never more stark than when a vigorous, ambitious, passionate young trial lawyer lays down his briefcase and puts on the robe of judicial authority. There will be times, and I speak from experience, when you will itch to get back in the fight. There will be times when the unrepresented, or the under-represented will by their very need be tugging at your heartstrings. And your instinct as an advocate, as a lawyer, as a trial attorney, will be to reach out that helping hand, to give your heart to the client, to take up his cudgel, to embrace her cause, and to put your head to work as you have done so often and so effectively during your years of practice in the service of those ends which your keen sense of loyalty and honor have set so clearly before you. I have no doubt Mister Justice, that you will wrestle that demon instinctively and successfully, and that you will be as fair-minded, and impartial on the bench as you have been honest and forthright at the bar. But I would not be a faithful spokesman of the justices of bygone days, or for the institution they served and loved, if I did not express the fond hope and wish that the judicial career which begins here today will be marked by forceful advocacy for wise public policy, fierce loyalty to constitutional mandates, and a fiery passion for truth and justice. This is my prayer for you Mister Justice ARCHER, for you and for your colleagues, and for all the people of Michigan whose good fortune it is to have you in their service.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: It’s my pleasure now to call upon Elliott S. Hall, President of the Detroit Bar Association.
MR. HALL: May it please the Court, Mister Chief Justice, the other judges here assembled, and the other dignitaries of this state and friends, all, of my long-time friend DENNIS WAYNE ARCHER.
The Detroit Bar Association will be 150 years old this year. The State of Michigan will be 150 years old next year. In these years of our state you’ve had two black justices on the Michigan Supreme Court. These justices are held in great esteem by the citizens of this state, and the lawyers who practice before the bar. To become a justice on this Court is a reality for few, a fond hope for many, and not even a consideration for thousands.
I’ve known DENNIS ARCHER for over twenty-five years, and my first remembered view of him is on the corner of Cass and Putnam, on the Wayne State University campus, with several volumes of English 101 under his arm. There was no passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. There was no passage of the 1968 Voting Rights Act. Two black judges sat on the bench of this state at that time. The hope for many of us on campus was dim. But Dennis saw the opening as the 60’s progressed. And he saw an undimmed view of opportunity, and ran to it, and has succeeded every goal that he has set for himself.
It is with a great deal of pride that I, as a personal friend, watched him over the years climb hurdle upon hurdle. And I’m reminded at this time of the reality that he lived in the first Psalms, which goes as follows: Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of the sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate, day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. [Psalms 1:1-3.]
My dear friend, congratulations on behalf of the Detroit Bar Association, and my personal congratulations.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: Next it’s my pleasure to call upon Joel M. Boyden, distinguished lawyer from Grand Rapids, a past President of the State Bar of Michigan.
MR. BOYDEN: Thank you Mister Chief Justice, justices; you deserve to know a little something more about DENNIS WAYNE ARCHER, who will soon be sitting in your midst, than might otherwise be the case.
January 1, 1942, in Detroit, Michigan, brought more than just the new year. It was that date which saw Justice ARCHER ushered into the world, a New Year’s baby. The same world has since been the decided beneficiary of Dennis’ presence. High school at Cassopolis, Michigan. Undergraduate college at Wayne State University, and law school at the Detroit College of Law has brought Mr. ARCHER into the practice of law and to this point where we stand.
In the whirlwind fifteen years that have flown by since his admission to the profession, the talents and the abilities and the work ethic of DENNIS ARCHER have culminated to produce exactly those achievements about which you’ve already been instructed by previous speakers. Such things as the fact that he has gained a position as a premier trial lawyer, that he served as President of the National Bar Association, and was fiftieth President of the State Bar of Michigan.
But lay all those and other accomplishments aside, and reflect instead, if you want a window to this man’s soul, reflect on his lovely and gracious wife, Trudy, and his two sons, Dennis and Vincent. And there, I think, if you look closely, you will understand the source of a large measure of Mr. ARCHER’S strength and inspiration.
You should know also that in welcoming DENNIS ARCHER to the brethren, you accept an indefatigable worker, a lawyer’s lawyer, a strong social conscience, and a person to whom the word “integrity” describes a way of life personally adopted. His intellect will assist you, his enthusiasm will buoy you, his persuasiveness will direct you, and his wit will entertain you. His love for, and reverence of, the law will benefit us all. I must confess that along with a ferocious pride I share in his elevation to your midst, I feel a twinge of envy. In personal bond that’s been welded by a decade and a half of hard work together, DENNIS ARCHER and I, tough to say, but now Mister Justice ARCHER and I, have become brothers. Now that previous chapter of Dennis’ life closes, and he has the privilege of forming a new brotherhood as he works with the outstanding men and women who comprise this Court, the Supreme Court of the State of Michigan. It will, I assure you, be a positive experience for each of you, and, knowing each of you, as we from earlier times this day, will regard DENNIS ARCHER and reflect that, there, right there, is a man by whom I am proud to be called “friend.”
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: Let me read a letter which Dennis shared with me. This is a letter to DENNIS ARCHER.
Laurie joins me in extending to you and Trudy our very warmest wishes on this historic occasion. Our prayers and best wishes accompany you as you assume these vital public duties. Your insight and wisdom and love of justice will distinguish your judicial career and every citizen of Michigan will gain in the process. Your keen knowledge of the law is a great strength. Yet an even greater strength may be your wisdom about injustice. We must understand injustice if we are to administer justice. I have every confidence that your careful judgment will see that justice is done. At this great milestone in your life journey, Trudy and your children share this achievement with you. That family love and strength will continue to be central in this new role. Let me close by wishing you good health and God’s blessing as you join the Supreme Court. The fondest wishes of your many friends accompany you.
United States Senator
And now I am honored to have been asked by our new justice to swear him in personally, and, if I may, will do so from here.
Do you solemnly swear to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this State; and well and faithfully perform the duties of Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court to the best of your ability, so help you God?
JUSTICE ARCHER: I do.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: I’d like now to call upon a former law partner of DENNIS ARCHER’S, David W. Christensen.
MR. CHRISTENSEN: May it please this Honorable Court, justices all, family and friends of DENNIS ARCHER. I bring a slightly different perspective to this ceremony. While all of you are celebrating the swearing in of DENNIS ARCHER to the Supreme Court, there’s a part of me that is naggingly aware of the fact that I am celebrating the loss of a law partner. That ambivalence gives way to pride and pleasure though, knowing that his ascension to the Supreme Court is good for him, and good for us.
Like all of the speakers before me, I thought that I would say something about Dennis at this time. And I worked over a lot of words. Most of them we’ve heard, the wisdom and scholarship, the leadership. And somehow or other, while they were true, I thought they were somewhat feeble because, and maybe it’s because for more than a dozen years Dennis has been a major influence on my life, I guess the words I use are goodness, he’s a good man; decency, he’s a decent man; and kindness, he’s a kind man. And these are good words to describe a man, and they’re certainly suitable words to describe a justice of the Supreme Court. Dennis is a product of his development. And that development has been tremendous. The qualities that I admire and that you admire in Dennis that were instilled in him I know by his mother and father, God rest their souls, have been encouraged and enhanced by his wife Trudy, have been nurtured and nourished by his distinguished and tremendous mother-in-law and father-in-law, James and Eleanor DunCombe, with an able assist from his sister-in-law Beth DunCombe. And probably to truly understand Dennis, we know that these qualities are then exemplified in his two children, Denny and Vincent. He’s a good man, a decent man.
I mean no discourtesy to this Court, but I will tell you that your institution will be enriched because Dennis joins it, and it will be better. You’ll learn over your years of association with him that you gain the advantages of sharing a considerable time with Dennis. We’re very, very pleased, and I’m very, very proud to present a robe. I’m going to ask Trudy, and Denny and Vincent to assist in the robing of Dennis.
[At which time JUSTICE ARCHER was robed.]
JUSTICE ARCHER: May it please the Court. As most of you know, I am not often at a loss for words. But I do find it difficult to find the words, the right words, to express all of my feelings at this moment on this occasion here in this room, in the presence of so many people whose friendship and love I cherish. I want to thank each of you for being here to share in this ceremony today, and for what each of you has done to make it possible. That means of course, Governor Blanchard, whose decision brings me here. It means my wife and children, and other members of my family. It means the members of my former law firm, and many, many other professional colleagues, and so many dear friends. Each of you had some part in shaping me into the person I am today, and shares with me the joy and satisfaction of this occasion. I have been afforded a generous share of honors and satisfaction in my lifetime, professionally and personally. But this surely represents a high point in my life as a lawyer. To be a judge is a single honor for any lawyer. To be a justice of this Court at the heart of our system of justice is an honor so profound that I am truly hard put to describe my feelings about it. It is a humbling experience. It brings with it an obligation which cannot, even for a short while, be deferred while I get used to the idea of wearing this robe. There are but seven justices of this Court, and the load of work it must do is heavy in both qualitative and quantitative terms, and in terms both of the substance of law the Court is called upon to pronounce and the administrative responsibilities placed upon it by the constitution and statutes. I am ready to assume my share of that burden now.
I am mindful that the Court is a unitary body in the formal sense that when the Court speaks, it speaks as one Court, without reference to any diversity of views which may have arisen among its members in the course of reaching a decision. Majority and dissenting opinions there may be, published for all to see, but the Court speaks as the Supreme Court of Michigan. At the same time, I know, as do all of you, that the Supreme Court is a collegiate body, composed of seven individuals, each a unique blend of background, experience, philosophy, viewpoint, interest, talents, and sense of priorities. Unlike a legislative body of 110 or even of thirty-eight, a judicial body of seven is inescapably and fundamentally altered when one of that small number leaves and is replaced by another. It is at once a continuing, and yet a new, entity. This small number places upon each member a particular obligation to seek not unanimity or homogeneity, but a principled meeting of minds, where possible. It also affords each member a substantial opportunity to make a unique contribution to the deliberations and the decisions of the Court. One part of what is new and different that I bring to this Court is obvious. Our state is blessed by a rich mixture of people of diverse origins, backgrounds, and experiences. We are all best served when all of that diversity participates directly in all of our great social institutions, most particularly, our institutions of government. And so that our society knows that it is acknowledged as an essential part of the whole, this diversity is now better reflected in our State Supreme Court. This cannot mean that I, or any other justice of the Supreme Court, sits as a representative, formal or informal, of any of the different elements in our society. Although it is a collegiate body, the Supreme Court is not a representative body, by the nature of its work and the role of our society it cannot be.
The Supreme Court is charged with interpreting the law and determining its application to situations that arise in the everyday lives of our people. The value of diversity in membership of the Supreme Court is not that its individual members are present to advocate the views or interests of any particular constituency. Rather, diversity in the Court’s membership means that each member brings to the deliberations a different blend of knowledge and experience of the society from which the law springs, and upon which it does its work. The more varied the fund of knowledge and experience available to the Court in its deliberations, the sounder its decisions are likely to be, and the more widespread their acceptance among the citizens of our state. By its formal assignments and its very nature, the Supreme Court is an active social institution involved in a variety of matters. Individual members of the Court sometimes have a strong interest in a particular aspect of the Court’s work and activity and tend to make it their specialty, so to speak. Two aspects of my own immediate background bear on that question. One is the fact that I join the Court fresh from active practice. It is no derogation of any member of this bench, or any other, to observe that the passage of time must tend to diminish in some degree that sharp, personal consciousness of what life was like in the trenches. Try as every judge does, I know, to keep in mind the view from the other side of the bench, nothing beats being there. Because I was there until just a few days ago, I’m acutely aware, right now anyway, of how symbolic the relationship is between the bench and the practicing bar. And I want to help foster the mutual accessibility and the communication that makes that relationship work.
The others that I’ve just completed, a most rewarding term as President of the State Bar of Michigan, leaves me very conscious of how important and potentially constructive is the relationship between the Supreme Court and our state’s organized bar. I hope that I can make a particular contribution toward continuation of the progress made to date in the direction of greater communication, access, cooperation, and mutual assistance between the Supreme Court and our state’s 24,000 lawyers and judges.
Important as the relationship is however, there is another public whose relationship with the Supreme Court is nothing short of crucial. I refer to the general public. The people of our state, in whose name the Court acts, from whom it derives its powers; upon whose lives the impact of its decisions falls, upon whose understanding and acceptance its authority ultimately depends. Without the support of the people, the Court’s work is, in the end, built upon foundations of sand. With it, the Court’s contributions to a society based on law and justice will endure.
For a variety of reasons the courts are not among our most popular institutions today. Many of the reasons may seem to be beyond our power to influence. But history will rightly condemn us if we fail to do all that we can do to alter the view of the moment, be it to change those things for which we are reasonably criticized or to provide persuasive answers to misconception.
I do not fancy myself as a Moses come down to lead us out of the wilderness. It will take the efforts of many with greater talents than mine. And it will not all be done in a few short months. The Court has already initiated significant efforts to make itself and the entire judicial system more accessible, better understood by the public. I will have an opportunity to further that effort. Under our state’s system of judicial selection I face an election in ten short months for the seat I assume today. I face the election gladly, for it means that the people of our state will have the opportunity to ratify the Governor’s judgment in appointing me to this Court. I will travel throughout our state in the next ten months, as far and as often as the duties of office permit. I want to meet the people. I want them to see me, to hear me, and to form some basis of judgment about me. In doing so I will represent the Supreme Court to the people I meet. I will articulate the nature of our system of justice and the role of the courts in making it work. In particular, the role of the Supreme Court, what it does, what it does not do, and the whys and the wherefores of both. I hope in some small way to dispel the myths and misconceptions and to help some people at least to understand what a marvel of freedom they have in a truly independent judiciary.
Drawing upon my background as a public school teacher and as an associate professor of law, I plan to make particular effort to bring this message directly to the young people in the schools of the communities that I visit. Many worthwhile curricular, and cocurricular programs touch upon such matters. The State Bar and judges of local courts throughout the state have devoted significant resources towards fostering a greater awareness of the judicial system among our young people. I believe that a real live Supreme Court justice, giving reality to the abstractions the students read and hear about, talking firsthand about the process and its meaning to them as citizens, can make a contribution. I plan, wherever possible, to visit a local school in every community where I make a campaign appearance. I realize that few in the audience will likely be able to vote for me in November, but, in all seriousness, I believe the truism that our youth are our future. It is they we most need to persuade that the courts and the system of justice are the keys to their future liberties. That they have a very personal stake in preserving and improving the legal system. And I am certain that my time in that effort will be well spent.
Finally, the Governor has my heartfelt thanks for the honor he has bestowed upon me by this appointment, and my personal gratitude for his expression of confidence in me as a lawyer, and as a person. But I cannot really be content until his judgment has been ratified by those whose office it really is to bestow, the people of our great state. This appointment will, under the law, be submitted to the people for their approval at the next general election in November, 1986. I will do my very best in the interim to earn their vote of confidence.
Permit me if you will the privilege of introducing my wife, Trudy, who is a lawyer and now can lay claim to being the best lawyer in the family. And my two sons, my oldest Dennis Wayne Archer, Jr., and Vincent DunCombe Archer. My mother- and father-in-law referred to earlier by David Christensen, Eleanor and James DunCombe. And my sister-in-law, C. Beth DunCombe. And I might also bring in my brother-in-law to be, Joseph N. Brown. And from Phoenix, Arizona my cousin, Eleanor Archer Lofton.
I would like to go through and just introduce everybody who’s made all of this possible for me, and I’d have to ask everybody to stand and have everybody’s name called, but time of course does not permit that. Each of you has made such a strong impact on me. The words that were spoken today I really appreciate. I’m going to try to live up to all of them. I’m mindful of the messages that were given, and I’m pleased to have the opportunity, and I feel very fortunate, to be a public servant. I look forward to serving you, and I hope that, along with my fine, outstanding colleagues on this great Michigan Supreme Court, we will make all of you proud to say there goes our Michigan Supreme Court. We will be a fine body, and I really am so privileged and pleased to work with my colleagues. Thank you very much.
CHIEF JUSTICE WILLIAMS: It’s the Supreme Court’s great pleasure to have had all of these distinguished speakers here today, and such an illustrious audience. And I don’t want you to leave here without recognizing that the Supreme Court is ready to learn. God bless you all, drive safely, and thank you for being with us on this great occasion.
[At which point the special session of the Michigan Supreme Court was adjourned.]