Swearing-In Ceremony For Justice James L. Ryan

December 16, 1975

CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS G. KAVANAGH: Judge Ryan, as I’m sure some of you may know, was most recently a Wayne County Circuit Judge. I wish to thank the Governor and all of the Justices and Judges and the distinguished guests for adding special significance to these proceedings by your presence.

I might say that this is a special session of the Court, it is not a judicial proceeding. Accordingly, the normal rules of procedure will not be followed. You may take pictures. You may applaud if the spirit moves you. What I hope all of you will do is to join all of us in this very momentous and joyful occasion of welcoming a new member to our bench.
The Court now recognizes the distinguished President of Eastern Michigan University, former Lieutenant Governor James H. Brickley.

 JAMES H. BRICKLEY: Thank you very much, your Honor, and if it please the Court, I would like to, on behalf of JUSTICE RYAN and his family, welcome all of his friends and the friends of the Court who are here today. I don’t know how they all feel, but as a member of the Bar for 18 years, I am pleased to finally have the opportunity to come before this Court, I think under circumstances under which I cannot lose, your Honor. And I think before the day is out we will all agree that all of us in Michigan will be winners today.

We are here, of course, your Honors, to recognize the appointment, and I stress in this case, the appointment of a Justice to the Michigan Supreme Court. One who I understand is the 90 th person to serve in this capacity on this distinguished Court. Now I think, if I may, I would like to reflect just for a moment on the origins of this honorable and venerable institution and on the different ways that its distinguished members have come to this bench.

It’s interesting to that in 1835, under our first State Constitution, the Court was merely a four-man Court and those four men were circuit judges who often rode the circuit and, indeed, served in an appellate capacity over some of their colleague circuit judges. It’s interesting that they were appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.

In the Constitution of 1850, just 15 years later, that Constitution left the organization of this Court to the Legislature but provided— this time— for the election of Justices for eight-year terms. And, of course, as any followers of this Court know, that began what came to be the great and distinguished four-man Court Of CHRISTIANCY, COOLEY, CAMPBELL, and GRAVES, if my memory serves me correctly; and that Court individually and collectively distinguished themselves to the extent that they became an authority on various aspects of the law. Indeed, it was common for them as a Court to be quoted as authority by even the United States Supreme Court.

In 1908, the next attempt at revising the Constitution of this State, it provided for the election of eight judges. Also, again, by election. But this time it provided for the filling of vacancies by the Governor.

And then, of course, in 1963 the number of the Justices was reduced to seven and that Constitution continued the practice of electing our judges, but this time left out the provision for the filling of vacancies by the Governor. It didn’t take long for all of us in the state to realize that that was a mistake. And it didn’t take long to correct that mistake and it was corrected in 1968 with an amendment that was overwhelmingly passed by the people of this state to once again permit the Governor to fill vacancies by his appointment. We learned that any delay in the filling of a vacancy indeed impedes the administration of justice.

So, in addition to the four members of your Court, Mr. Chief Justice, who were chosen by the people on a nonpartisan ballot, Justice RYAN will become the third member to come here by gubernatorial appointment. I think it’s interesting to note that, of Governor Milliken’s three rather recent appointments to this bench, one was a distinguished practitioner of the law, one a distinguished appellate judge, and now we are about to install a distinguished trial judge. And by any standards, certainly in the law, that is very good representation for a court that is charged with the responsibility of such importance as is this Court.

So I think that the point I would like to make, your Honors, is that this mixture of appointment and election—somewhat altered over the years in the various Constitutions—has indeed served the state well, has served well the administration of justice, and is one of the reasons why we have such a fine Supreme Court in this state.

And now, your Honor, I would like to take a moment, if the Court please, to make some introductions. It’s my privilege, first, to introduce a man who had something to do with the events today and that’s the great Governor of this state, the Honorable William G. Milliken. Governor Milliken. And now, your Honor, it is my privilege to introduce what I think is probably the broadest array of judicial talent that has perhaps ever been assembled in this room. And I wonder if I could ask the audience to withhold their applause and I think, in the end, it will be more impressive, if I can ask each of those that I will introduce, each jurist who I will introduce, to remain standing until you are all introduced.

First of all, we are very privileged to have with us several former Justices of this great Court. The Honorable Justice PAUL ADAMS, the Honorable Justice THEODORE SOURIS, the Honorable Justice OTIS SMITH.


And from the Wayne County Third Circuit, Judge Thomas J. Brennan, Judge James M. Canham, Judge Horace Gilmore, Judge Roland Olzark, Judge Michael Stacey, Judge Joseph A. Sullivan, Judge Myron H. Wahls.

From the Recorder’s Court of Detroit: Donald Leonard, the Chief Judge of that court. From Oakland County’s Sixth Circuit: Judge James S. Thorburn. From Saginaw County: Judge Fred J. Borchard, also President of the Michigan Judges Association. From Bay County: Judge Leon Dardas. From Alpena County: Judge Joseph P. Swallow. Probate Judge from Grand Traverse County: Judge Kenneth Mackness. District Judge John T. Hammond from Berrien County. District Judge Albert P. Horrigan from Flint. District Judge John Dillon from the Seventeenth District. District Judge Michael J. Hand, President also of the Michigan District Judges Association and he is from Farmington.

And that is what I would consider quite an array of judicial talent.

CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS G. KAVANAGH: President Brickley, I think you missed John Kirwan [Wayne Circuit Court].

MR. BRICKLEY: I knew I would do that. Is he here? Where is John. I want the Court to know that he was a very good friend of mine.

CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS G. KAVANAGH: Well, just to show you how much trouble you’ve got yourself into now, President Brickley, you also missed Judge MICHAEL FRANCIS CAVANAGH of the Michigan Court of Appeals.

MR. BRICKLEY: Did I really? Another man who was a friend of mine. If I had gone by the faces I might have done better than by going by the list, but that has its risks too, as you know, your Honor.

We’re also privileged to have with us the President of the Detroit Bar Association, Charles Rutherford.
And we have several Legislators, who I have seen in the audience, but I would like to introduce the President Pro-Tem of the Senate, John T. Bowman. And the majority leader, William Fitzgerald. And Speaker of the House, Bobby Crim. And would the other members of the Legislature please rise. I saw Denny Cawthorne— .
And now it is my—

CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS G. KAVANAGH: The distinguished President of the Wolverine Bar Association, Mr. Bill Daniel, is here.

MR. BRICKLEY: I’m sorry. That’s what you get for being too far up front. I didn’t see you, I’m sorry.

And now it is my privilege to introduce, your Honor, some little Ryans. There is Daniel, James, Colleen and Kathleen. And last, but certainly not least, Jim’s very strong, very helpful, very gracious, very beautiful, partner of many years, one Mary Ryan. And the lady who will be on the program a little later, Mrs. Laurence Fitzgerald, Jim’s sister, Joan.
And now, your Honor, if the Court please, I would like to present the Dean of the Cooley Law School, a former Chief Justice of this Court, THOMAS E. BRENNAN.

 DEAN BRENNAN: Governor Milliken, President Brickley, Justice RYAN, Mr. Chief Justice and Justices, if it may please the Court. My assignment here today is most pleasant for two reasons. First, because the colleague you welcome today will bring important and vital qualities to this bench. Scholarship, diligence, responsibility, leadership.

Justice JAMES L. RYAN’ S scholarship is attested by his academic achievements. He is a member of the faculty of the National College of the State Judiciary in Reno, Nevada, where he has instructed other judges in the law of evidence and in the criminal law. He has lectured at the American Academy of Judicial Education in Washington, D. C., and at the Center for Judicial Administration in Detroit. He has served as an adjunct professor of law at both the University of Detroit and the Thomas M. Cooley Law Schools. His writings have appeared in scholarly publications, his opinions on the circuit bench are well regarded.

Justice RYAN’S diligence is seen in his tireless work on the Wayne County Circuit Bench and in his involvement in professional organizations: the American Judicature Society, the American Bar Association’s National Conference of State Trial Judges, the Administration, Probation, and Rules Committees of the Third Judicial Circuit, and this Supreme Court’s own Committee on the Rules of Evidence.

The attribute of responsibility is demonstrated by Justice RYAN’S effective membership on several boards of directors and trustees, including the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, the Donald M. Barton Memorial Foundation, and, formerly, Marygrove College in Detroit.

Qualities of leadership were particularly honed for the new Justice during his years in the United States Navy. He now holds the rank of Commander in the Judge Advocate General Corps of the United States Naval Reserve and is serving as commanding officer of a law company in the Ninth Naval District.

Justice RYAN’S well-deserved reputation has made his name a synonym for judicial excellence. His selection by Governor Milliken has been widely acclaimed. The circuit judges and the other judges who have come here to participate in these ceremonies, give eloquent testimony to the esteem in which Justice RYAN is held by his colleagues on the trial bench.

You know, as I look around this room and I see all these judges, I can’t help but think that these are not easy times, if the Court please, to be a public servant. The public mood falls somewhere between bland apathy and bitter cynicism. Indeed, I sometimes feel the average citizen has been so bombarded with bad news about his government that he has built a wall of indifference and alienation around himself and he refuses even to peek out to see if anything might have changed for the better.

Respect and confidence, whether in public or private affairs, are always hard to establish and easy to lose, but even more so in these days when people have grown weary of the opinion makers. Posturing and creating images are techniques soon to be relegated to the attic of our national experience. Performance, and performance alone, will rebuild the people’s respect for their institutions. Performance repeated, performance continued, visible, credible, and timely performance of the tasks imposed upon public officers by the Constitution and the laws of the state and the nation. That is the one sure path to restoring the trust of a disillusioned citizenry.

I believe that the Supreme Court of Michigan should be ready to follow that path. There is no want of brain power here, nor dearth of experience, nor lack of will. Whatever nostalgia commands my loyalty to other combinations of Justices seated here, I sincerely believe that this new Court, convened for the first time today, has the unique opportunity and the capacity to establish in the last quarter of the Twentieth Century, the same kind of national reputation and stature that CAMPBELL, COOLEY, CHRISTIANCY, and GRAVES achieved for Michigan over a hundred years ago. And I urge the Court to pursue that goal with confidence and with determination.

My assignment, as I said, is a pleasant one for two reasons. First because I take professional and civic pride in presenting a jurist like Justice JAMES L. RYAN to the Court. The second is more personal, for this new colleague of yours who I am privileged to present, has been my treasured friend for more than a quarter of a century. We have shared the heady cup of success and the bitter cup of sorrow. Yes, and we have shared many lesser cups too.

But if the Court please, I know this man. I know him and I like him and I respect him. He is a devoted husband and father. He is a steady and loyal friend. But the bedrock definition of the man is that he is a Christian. From the loving heart of a sainted mother, to the gentle discipline of the good nuns at St. Francis DeSales, to the firm guidance of the Basilian Fathers at Catholic Central High School and the wise counsel of the Jesuits at the University of Detroit, JAMES L. RYAN was prepared to be a Christian gentleman. And that is what he is today. If it please the Court, I commend him to you.

CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS G. KAVANAGH: Thank you very much, Dean BRENNAN. You’re up to your usual standards.

Now, JAMES L. RYAN, if you are prepared to take the oath of office as a Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, I will be delighted to administer it to you.

JUSTICE JAMES L. RYAN: I am, your Honor.
CRIER: All rise.

CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS G. KAVANAGH: Repeat after me. I do solemnly swear that I will uphold the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Michigan, and that I will well and faithfully perform the duties of the office of a Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court to the best of my ability, so help me God.

JUSTICE JAMES L. RYAN: I do solemnly swear that I will uphold the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Michigan, and that I will well and faithfully perform the duties of the office of a Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court to the best of my ability, so help me God.


JUSTICE JAMES L. RYAN: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice.

CRIER: Please be seated.

CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS G. KAVANAGH: Now, If I understand this program correctly, we’re going to have the very lovely sister of Justice Jim RYAN, Mrs. Laurence Fitzgerald, assist the Justice in donning his robe.

 MRS. LAURENCE FITZGERALD: Jim, it’s difficult for me to tell you how proud I am today. I knew that your hard work and great dedication to the law would bring you honor. I love you very much.

 JUSTICE JAMES L. RYAN: Thank you. It’s not fair to do that to an immigrant Irish girl from Fairfax, Virginia, I suppose.

Reverend clergy, Mr. Chief Justice, your Excellency Governor Milliken, Mr. Chief Judge, Judges of the Court of Appeals, Presiding Judges in the Circuits and Districts, Mr. Speaker, leadership in the Senate and House, my colleagues old and new, and my friends. I have just a few remarks. I am only capable of mustering a few. Before beginning them I want, however, with your leave Mr. Chief Justice, to recognize, and ask the Court to recognize the staff who have been with me for my nearly nine years in the Third Judicial Circuit. There simply is no more appropriate statement to make than that, without them, I would not have been capable of serving in whatever manner I have served. I would like to have you recognize, please, from the Third Circuit the Deputy Clerk of the Court, Henry Nikolai. Would you stand Henry? There are a couple of more so you can delay your applause if you like. Our Court Reporter, Mrs. Richard (Martha) Wise and my secretary Fran Orzell, who will come with me to the Supreme Court, I hope. And Baliff, Deputy Sheriff Alfred Fox.

Mr. Chief Justice and Justices, I pray that you will indeed permit me just a few fleeting moments of enormous pride. Not a pride, I hope you sense immediately, in any personal accomplishments of my own or any notion of any entitlement to be standing here this morning, but rather, Justices, professional pride in being afforded the rarest of privileges: the privilege of serving as a member of this great Court. In the mix of emotions which fill these few moments, I am principally conscious of the historic national stature the Michigan Supreme Court has and does enjoy. In the history of the developing jurisprudence of the states of our Republic, the Michigan Supreme Court has historically enjoyed justified pre-eminence. Comparatively speaking, its membership has been limited to a mere handful of lawyers and, so, to be afforded the privilege of seeing my name added as the 90th to a long list of distinguished, eminent lawyer-judges who have served here, I hope you will agree, justifies the sense of pride I have suggested. The pride, of course, as well as the humility and the joy which coalesce in these few moments, fill this Irish heart this noon. Those feelings are touched, nevertheless, with just a trace of the bittersweet. To assume these new duties it’s necessary, of course, that I leave the trial bench and, specifically, the Third Judicial Circuit of Michigan. That is accepted with just a touch of sadness. Never in my life, Mr. Chief Justice, have I been so happy, so professionally fulfilled, as during these past nine years. I’ve loved the Third Judicial Circuit and the men and women with whom I have served during my time there. While individuals all, they are the most deeply committed, the hardest working and the wisest judges I have ever known. I will cherish always the personal and the professional enrichment that working with these men and women has brought to my life. I have no doubt that my colleagues in the other circuits and in the districts are lawyers of comparable talent. But you will understand, Mr. Chief Justice, that my experience, as well as my heart, is in the Third Circuit. The men and women of this state’s trial judiciary are the cornerstone of our judicial system. In nine years among these judges it is inevitable that there is left upon my heart something of an indelible mark. To each of you laboring in the circuits and in the districts, I make just this promise. I will remember.have done my family and me is accepted for what it is—the highest public trust which can come to a lawyer in Michigan. Be assured, Governor, that my acceptance of your appointment is a public pledge to be the best lawyer and judge I know how to be and thus, hopefully, to vindicate your judgment.

As in the case of every man, I come to this great bench the sum total of all the influences which have touched my life— morally, intellectually, and socially— and dominant among them is the influence, of course, of my family. Both those here and those in Heaven. And of first significance in that regard is my utter dependence upon their love and support. Especially that of my life partner, Mary, whose gentle and loving steadiness continues to be my guiding star. All of them have had a part in shaping the life of the luckiest lawyer in Michigan. To them and to all of my family and friends and, most of all, to the people of Michigan, I promise just this— I will do my best. Thank you.

 CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS G. KAVANAGH: Well, congratulations, Justice RYAN, and welcome to this Court. Again, I want to thank the Governor, the members of the Legislature, the judges, the distinguished citizens— all who have joined today to make this such a memorable event.

Now the ladies of our Court have prepared a reception— coffee and pastries— and we would be most happy if you would partake of them. We have one more task to do. We are going to have our picture taken as a Court and, consequently, we will be joining you in just a few minutes. Thank you very much.

CRIER: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, the Supreme Court of Michigan now stands adjourned.