Swearing-In Ceremony For Justice G. Mennen Williams

JANUARY 2, 1979

CHIEF JUSTICE: Welcome to all of you. This is a special session of our Court and our purpose is to share in the occasion of Justice G. MENNEN WILLIAMS’ second taking of the oath of office for an eight-year term as a Justice of this Court. Justice RYAN is also today beginning a new term of office as a Justice of this Court for a period of eight years, but he took his oath of office this morning, not, as was erroneously reported, in the inaugural ceremonies yesterday. Justice RYAN thought that inasmuch as he had been sworn in three times in three years in this fashion that it would be a little bit too much to do it again, and that Justice WILLIAMS had to wait for eight years for his second chance and it would be more appropriate to reserve this occasion particularly and especially for Mennen. This is not a judicial proceeding and the usual rules of procedure do not apply. You may take pictures and you may applaud as the spirit moves you and what I hope all of you will do is join with all of us to make this a warm and memorable occasion. I would like to introduce a distinguished member of the Michigan clergy, Bishop H. Coleman McGehee, Jr., Episcopalian Diocese of Michigan; and interestingly a former Deputy Attorney General of the State of Virginia. Bishop, would you proceed to the podium, please? I will ask Bishop McGehee to give the invocation and for that purpose I request that everyone rise and remain standing after the invocation.

 BISHOP MCGEHEE: Let us pray. Oh mighty God and heavenly Father, whose ways are just and whose judgments are true, God, we beseech you with your never failing wisdom, for the Supreme Court of this state, and other courts of justice in our states and nation, give to all judges and to those who assist them, patience, honesty and compassion. We would remember especially on this day your servant Mennen whose leadership, faithfulness to duty, integrity, and concern for all persons have been an example to see and follow. We ask your blessing upon him, Nancy, their children and their grandchildren as Mennen and the other Justices of this Court proceed to assume their responsibilities for the coming term; may they always remember that the people they serve are your people, that they may all the more readily discern the truth and impartially administer justice. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Thank you, Bishop McGehee. Now let us share a moment of silent prayer for the recently deceased former Justice of this Court, Federal Judge TALBOT SMITH. [Pause.] Thank you. Please be seated.

Several former Justices of this Court are here today. For my colleagues and myself I wish you to know that it is very, very nice to see you all. Your presence reminds us that the Court is a permanent institution and thereby we are also reminded not of our importance, but of the great importance of the offices we hold.

I would like to introduce first those Justices who have served on this bench with Justice WILLIAMS and then the Justices who preceded him. I ask that you rise as your name is called and remain standing for the applause which will come after you have all been introduced. I know there will be applause because I am going to lead it. Justice PAUL A. ADAMS, Justice THOMAS E. BRENNAN, Justice JOHN B. SWAINSON. I might explain that Justice LAWRENCE B. LINDEMER wanted very much to be here and attend this ceremony but he was unable to attend because of a previous family commitment.

Now the Justices who preceded Justice WILLIAMS to this bench who are with us. Justice OTIS SMITH, Justice THEODORE SOURIS. Now let’s hear it [applause].

It is my pleasure to introduce some of our other distinguished guests, and again I will ask each of you to rise as I call your name and remain standing until all have been introduced and the applause dies down. Again I guarantee the applause.

ROBERT J. DANHOF, Chief Judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals and immediate past president of the Michigan Judges Association; Ernest C. Boehm, Probate Judge and past president of the Probate Judges Association; MICHAEL FRANCIS CAVANAGH of the Michigan Court of Appeals; Albert P. Horrigan, District Judge and immediate past president of the District Judges Association; Gerald Graves, Mayor of the City of Lansing; John Kelly, Michigan State Senator; Edward Pierce, Michigan State Senator; Raymond Kehres, Michigan State Representatives; Joseph Forbes, Michigan State Representatives; William Ryan, Michigan State Representative; Edward E. Mahalak, Michigan State Representatives; Alice W. Tomboulian, Michigan State Representative; Jeff Dongvillo, Michigan State Representative. Oh, I’m sorry, Senator Jackie Vaughn. Now did I miss anybody? All right, now we can hear it [applause].

Now it’s a pleasure to introduce and invite to the podium the Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, Bobby D. Crim.

 REPRESENTATIVE CRIM: Chief Justice, members of the Court, former members of the Court, distinguished judges, my colleagues in the Legislature, family and friends, I have a very pleasant duty today saying something about a man that I have great respect for. How do you talk about Mennen Williams? What do you say? Former President Harry Truman once said, “I studied the lives of great men and women and saw that the men and women who got to the top were those who did the job they had in hand with everything they had of energy and enthusiasm and hard work.” This certainly applies to Mennen Williams. Throughout all those positions that he held, brilliant young lawyer, naval officer in World War II, six-term Governor, justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, United States Ambassador, Assistant Secretary of State. In each of these positions, he has distinguished himself as a person of tremendous ability and dedication. Few people have brought to the Court the distinguished background of Mennen Williams. And the Court is enriched and the people of the state blessed by the presence of this man on the bench of our highest Court. You cannot talk about Mennen without mentioning his partner Nancy. This committed and dedicated partnership has in so many ways made our country and our state a better place. No matter what occupation we are in we always look at people and pick out some ideals. A handful of people stand out in my memory in public service: Harry Truman, whom I had the chance as a young man to meet in my home state of Missouri; Phil Hart, the distinguished Lieutenant Governor to Mennen Williams and outstanding United States Senator; Bill Ryan, an outstanding man in the Michigan Legislature over the last decade and a half; and Mennen Williams. These are some of my political ideals. These are the people that I have great respect for. So Mennen, as you are entering another chapter in your life of dedicated service, I am especially proud and honored to be sharing this occasion with you. Thank you for your service, God bless you, and may this term on the Court bring you the pleasure and the award you so justly deserve. [Applause.]

CHIEF JUSTICE: Thank you very much, Speaker Crim, for those beautiful and well chosen words. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that I spotted in the audience a man who has made a great contribution to our judicial system over the years, former Juvenile Judge, now retired, Jim Lincoln. Jim would you stand up [applause]. I understand Ted Bohn is here. There he is, Ted Bohn [applause]. When you get to be my age your eyes fail you. I didn’t see Ted. Now, did I miss anybody else? Don’t be bashful. Now I’d like to introduce and invite to the podium the President of the Michigan State Bar Association, Leo A. Farhat. [Applause.] Leo, if you would be good enough to introduce the distinguished guests present who are the leaders of other Michigan bar associations then you are on your own and you can do anything you want.

 MR. FARHAT: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, I will do that. We have expected here today, although we haven’t been able to locate, the Honorable Craig Strong, President of the Wolverine Bar, Julia Darlow and Beverly Clark, past and present Presidents of the Womens Lawyers Association, and Gene Mossner, representing the Michigan Trial Lawyers. These associations indicated that they would be present but possibly for weather reasons have not been represented here today. But they did express to us and to Mr. Hoag that they wished to be present at the ceremony and I regret that they are not here but I will speak on their behalf if I may.


MR. FARHAT: Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. Justice WILLIAMS, Justice RYAN, members and former members of our one court of justice, the clergy, ladies and gentlemen. As a representative of the State Bar, I appreciate the privilege of participating in this installation service. To Justice WILLIAMS we extend our congratulations. His reselection by the Michigan community is a recognition of appreciation of his continuing service to this country and to this state and furthering during his time his legendary appeal to his fellow citizens and his great contributions to the law. His legendary reputation goes beyond the borders of this state. We look forward to another eight years of great contributions from him, not necessarily capping his brilliant career as a public servant. Justice RYAN we extend our congratulations and hope that having been required to stand at election twice within two years and privileged to be successful, you may now divest yourself of the role of politician and devote your full energies to the role of judge, a role that citizens and lawyers in this state have for long recognized as your forte and calling and, your Honor, to you and the other members of the Court on behalf of the State Bar Association and Mr. Michael Franck, Executive Director of the State Bar who is here today, whom I would like to introduce at the end of this comment, we pledge to this entire Court our respect and dedication to the principle that working together with the Court we work toward the public good. Thank you very much for this opportunity to appear. I would like to introduce Mr. Michael Franck of the State Bar.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Thank you. Where is Mr. Franck? There is Michael Franck. [Applause.] Thank you very much Leo. I might explain that Mennen and I have decided that we’re going to do this oath-taking up here and then Mennen will proceed to the podium to make remarks. So, Mennen, if you are ready we will now administer your oath of office.

CRIER: All rise.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Will you raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear that you will uphold the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of this State, and faithfully perform the duties of the office of Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court to the best of your abilities, so help you God?

JUSTICE WILLIAMS: I solemnly swear that I will uphold the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of this State, and faithfully perform the duties of Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court to the best of my abilities, so help me God.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Congratulations. [Applause.]

 JUSTICE WILLIAMS: Chief Justice, Bishop McGehee, Rabbi Fram, Father Kern, may it please the Court, my friends one and all. Perhaps I’d better begin by saying why I was able to repeat the oath of office. I used to be a notary public and had to swear in a lot of people when I was in Washington and so it came easily. Forty-one years ago it was my honor as an Assistant Attorney General to appear as of counsel before this distinguished Court. I am very proud that one of my colleagues of that period, John Panchuk, is sitting back there and I hope he’ll stand to be recognized. If anybody can stand me that long. Thirty-one years ago it was my honor to be sworn in by the Chief Justice of this Court as Governor of Michigan, which gave me the opportunity to appoint about half a dozen members of this Court including TED SOURIS who has been introduced here and PAUL ADAMS. I mention particularly PAUL ADAMS because when I cam to this Court eight years ago to receive me to the bosom of this Court and I am very happy for that. Before I make a few remarks of appreciation, I would like to say how happy I am that my friends and distinguished colleagues all today were able to come to this gathering to rejoice in the ceremony here as we pay tribute to the Court and its members as one of the three coordinate branches of our government that represents the people of this state. And I would like to recognize first of all my beloved wife Nancy, and I was going to say without whom none of this could have happened but we have a phrase for that, my sine qua non. Which, for my grandchildren, means “without which nothing”. Nancy, will you stand to be recognized. [Applause.] Our elder daughter Nancy Williams Ketter, will you stand [applause], and her husband Ted [applause], and Julie and Jenny and Lucy and our younger daughter, Wendy Williams Burns [applause]. I’ve debated a long time whether to tell this story or not but I can’t resist it. Thirty-one years ago when the inaugural took place in front of the Capitol and the National Guard saluted me with the firing of the cannon, everything went alright except that our daughter Wendy burst out into uncontrollable tears and I’m glad she is able to take this swearing-in without crying. And sitting next to her is her daughter and our granddaughter, Becky. Becky, will you stand up, you are about the size your mother was [applause]. And her twin brother Bradley [applause]. And they have a sister Nancy but we can’t drag this ceremony out forever and so she isn’t here, nor is our son Gary and his family, but the handsome member of our family, my brother Dick, is here. Dick, will you stand [applause]. With his wife Molly [applause] and Wendy’s mother and father-in-law Beverly and William Burns, will you stand [applause].

CHIEF JUSTICE: Mennen, I think Wendy is trying to get your attention.

JUSTICE WILLIAMS: Oh, I didn’t introduce Michael. Michael [applause]. I had to introduce the important Burnses first. Without them he wouldn’t be here. I’d like to have all of my staff stand. I was going to name them but I see that some of my— Barbara, Pat,— Pat McCauley, did you stand?

PAT MCCAULEY: No, I didn’t.

JUSTICE WILLIAMS: Pat was one of my earlier law clerks. He is now a distinguished partner in a firm so that may be why he didn’t want to come in under that title. Really, I am tremendously happy to have been returned by the people of this state to sit for another term on the Court because during the years that it has been my honor to serve on this Court I have come to know and appreciate my colleagues as capable, hard-working servants of the public, united in the cause of justice. And what this Court has accomplished in the last few years is to make the term “collegial” really meaningful because we have worked together as a team and I think that we have accomplished a great deal. As a matter of fact, it is difficult in these days when the Court seems to be running so far behind to recognize that we have been facing up to the challenges of a court docket which has tripled in the last ten years. And each year we have been able to do more than we had done the preceding year but because of the people’s desire to litigate we always fell further behind than we were were the year before. Now the Court took a solemn oath and I think they have performed really heroically. I think by the end of this month our Court is going to have its opinion docket current up until the present term and that I can assure you has been a tour de force, and something that hasn’t happened, I think, for a few years. But that isn’t the important point: this Court has bound itself together to make this not an extraordinary but the ordinary course of events, and not only to get the opinions out but to have the leaves, the applications for leave to appeal, processed in a similar prompt fashion. The Court indeed has made up its collective mind that the constitutional mandate of one court of justice really proceed to be realized as fast as possible and in that I am happy to have some of my friends from the Legislature here because that cannot be accomplished by ourselves alone. The Constitution has given us the mandate but it isn’t self-executing. It needs the assistance of the Legislature and of course the good will of all of the people and I say that with the knowledge that the Legislature has been very helpful to us and permitted us to work in that direction, in the last few years, and I am sure that with their continued cooperation the people of Michigan are going to have that one court of justice that the delegates to the convention in 1961 and the people in voting in that Constitution had in mind. And so in another second I am going to walk up to that bench to assume the responsibilities that my oath of office and the mandate of the people have given me and I want to express once again my appreciation to my colleagues in the Court for making it such a satisfying and meaningful experience and to all of you here who have come together to make this a really memorable start for me. God bless you all. [Applause.]

Excuse me, in the excitement of my talk I didn’t get to introduce another one of my law clerks who showed up who is also out in the wide world, Lynn Shecter, who is hiding in the back row there [applause].

CHIEF JUSTICE: Now it is my pleasure to introduce two more distinguished members of the Michigan clergy and to request that they give the benediction. First Rabbi Leon Fram of Temple Israel, Detroit, and Father Clement Kern of St. Johns Seminary, Plymouth, Michigan. I know that if you do this it will be fine. You haven’t had any experience in this, Rabbi Fram: I say that because the Rabbi informed me that this is the seventh time for him with Mennen. And Father Kern, I think, has been at one or two of these, too. If you will, please.

FATHER KERN: Rabbi and I are parlaying this, your Honor, and the Lord we figure, made race horses, will also bless all the members of this distinguished Court as winners. So I am going to say the first part and he is going to come in.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Do you want us to stand, Father?

 FATHER KERN: Please. This is a part of Psalm 119, verses 33 to 41. Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes and I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding that I may keep thy law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of thy commandments, for I delight in that path. Incline my heart to thy testimonials, and not to gain. Turn my eyes from looking at vanities and give me life in thy ways. Confirm to thy servant thy promise, which is for those who revere thee. Turn away the reproach which I dread, for thy ordinances are good. Behold, O Lord, I long for thy precepts: in thy righteousness give me life.

 RABBI FRAM: O God, our Father, bless this thy servant G. MENNEN WILLIAMS as he returns by popular mandate to yet another term of office as Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Michigan. And may the keen insights into the meaning of the law which he has already manifested continue with renewed vigor in the service of our state. May the dynamic sense of justice which he has already exercised continue to increase respect for our courts and to augment the effectiveness of our system of law and may his faithfulness to the principles of the dignity of the individual man and the equality before the law of all men continue with replenished strength to advance among us the cause of human freedom and the democratic way of life. Bless him then, O God, with that ancient threefold benediction recorded in thy eternal book of law, the Bible, which I now recite in the original sacred Hebrew tongue. [Prayer in Hebrew], May God bless you, G. MENNEN WILLIAMS, and care for you. [Prayer in Hebrew], May God smile upon you and give you of his grace. [Prayer in Hebrew], May God turn the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Thank you, Rabbi Fram, thank you Father Kern. These proceedings will be completed when the Crier adjourns this special session. At that time you are all invited to attend a reception in the foyer which has been prepared for us by the wives of the Justices. Justice WILLIAMS and Justice RYAN will be delighted to visit with you there. I want to add our thanks to all of you for participating in this ceremony. It is the first of a kind and I hope that it won’t be the last. I think that it is altogether fitting and proper and you helped make it most memorable. Thank you very much.

CRIER: Here ye, hear ye, hear ye, the special session of the Supreme Court of the State of Michigan now stands adjourned.