Swearing-In Ceremony For Justices Mary S. Coleman And Charles L. Levin

JANUARY 2, 1973

CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS M. KAVANAGH: The Court is opened in special session for the purpose of conducting the swearing-in ceremonies for the two new Justices-elect. At this time I understand, Judge BASHARA, you have some remarks to make to the Court.

 JUDGE BASHARA: Mr. Chief Justice, Honorable Justices, Mr. Chief Judge and fellow Judges of the Court of Appeals of the State of Michigan, Judge FEIKENS, friends and relatives of Judge COLEMAN and Judge LEVIN. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to present to you Justice-elect COLEMAN. I think it is fair to say that Judge COLEMAN was urged most vigorously by her fellow judges of the probate bench of the State of Michigan to consider running for the high and distinguished office as Justice of the State of Michigan. When she undertook this venture she did so with the blessings of all the probate judges in Michigan and all of her friends throughout the State of Michigan. She has brought honor and distinction to her bench. Not only is she the first woman to be considered for this high position in the State of Michigan, but she comes here with the credentials that will add luster to your esteemed Bench. In thinking of Judge MARY COLEMAN we not only see a beautiful woman, a charming mother, and devoted wife, but a person who has dedicated herself to the principles of law and order and justice throughout the State of Michigan. I can think of no finer person who will join this Bench who is steeped in the constitution and the statutes of the State of Michigan. It would be easy to end this by saying that she is compassionate and that she is a warm, friendly human being but I think more importantly to the State of Michigan and to you, she is first and foremost a judge and carries that with her wherever she goes. I commend her to you, the probate judges of the State of Michigan, and all of the lawyers who have practiced before her commend her to you, and I only wish her Godspeed and as someone said today, “The tides and the winds are with her,” and may God grant her good health and a happy accession to your distinguished body. Thank you very much.

CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS M. KAVANAGH: It is entirely proper that representing the other branch of our court system that we would have today with us a member of the Federal judicial system and I recognize the Honorable John Feikens, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan.

 JUDGE FEIKENS: Mr. Chief Justice, Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court of Michigan, Madame Justice, Judge BASHARA, Mr. Justice-elect, and loved ones and friends of both the Levins and the Colemans. Mr. Chief Justice, it is an honor to be here representing as I do a sister court, but it is doubly an honor to be here on a day when I can introduce to you a very dear friend of mine, CHARLES LEVIN. You will forgive me if I use the occasion first to speak of his father. It was through Theodore Levin that I became acquainted with his son Charles and the rest of his loving family, and one cannot help but note, Mr. Chief Justice, that it is almost two years to the day when Theodore Levin, his father, passed away. How proud he would be of this occasion. May I also say that CHARLES LEVIN comes to this Bench in a way in which perhaps you can best judge since he comes from the Court of Appeals and you have seen the excellent work he has done there. But he also comes to this Bench blessed with a solid education, and in my view he possesses two of the necessary qualities of a good judge, intelligence and compassion. You will find I am sure, Sir, that this colleague will be a worthy addition to this Honored Court.

And to my friend CHARLES LEVIN I say, as he stands here in the full prime of his life surrounded by his friends and his loved ones, that the challenge that he faces on this Bench is awesome indeed. We wish him well and, in the words of a great man who has gone before, it is our prayer that he will continue to grow in grace and in favor both with God and man. Thank you, Sir.

CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS M. KAVANAGH: Justice-elect COLEMAN has been previously sworn in by her husband and at this time I will ask the clerk to render the oath to Justice-elect LEVIN.

CRIER: All rise.

CLERK: Place your hand upon the Bible and raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of this state and to faithfully discharge the duties of Justice of the Supreme Court, so help you God?


CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS M. KAVANAGH: At this time we would like to proceed with the robing and I ask Judge Creighton Coleman to present to Justice-elect COLEMAN the robe of her office. And Justice-elect LEVIN will be robed by his brother Joe.

It is my great pleasure and honor, on behalf of the Supreme Court and the people of the State of Michigan, to welcome to the Court Justice COLEMAN whose many attributes have been described. Not the least of these is the fact that Judge COLEMAN has set a precedent which cannot be overruled. She is, and ever shall be, the first woman Supreme Court Justice in Michigan. This is obviously a change, a delightful change in what has traditionally been an all-male world. But then the Michigan Supreme Court has never been resistant to change and in this instance looks forward to it. And, to Justice LEVIN, who has served with distinction on the Court of Appeals, I give a warm welcome. We are well aware of his scholarly appellate opinions. We have studied many of them and eagerly anticipate Justice LEVIN’S participation in the cases to come before this Court. We are also pleased to have so many members of the new Justices’ families and friends here today for this occasion. This is an event which has occurred more than once for some of us here on the Bench. Some, indeed, have participated several times in this ceremony but it at all times continues to hold special significance. It never ceases to be a time not only of reflection on the past record of this Court, but it serves as a time for a public commitment to the future.

First, a brief look at the record. The Supreme Court in 1971 issued 133 opinions and in 1972, 107 were filed. All of these 240 opinions have held intense interest to the parties involved. All had significance in the rule of law and the rights of individuals or groups of individuals in Michigan. I suggest that the full measure of this Court is full consideration of the full 240 opinions. The true measure is not to be found in a half-dozen opinions which happened to strike the fancy of the news media. Nor is it to be found in controversy which sheds much confusion but very little light. When individuals or groups of individuals are deprived of their rights, either by design or by default, the courts are the source for redress of these grievances and when the courts act to protect these rights, frequently judicial rulings run against the tide of popular opinion, emotion, individual prejudices, or special interests.

The judiciary has imposed upon it the duty to interpret the laws in the last resort. We do not have the luxury of ignoring this duty or abandoning it. Neither is the judiciary allowed to take the easy popular route. We are not expected, in fact, to win popularity contests, and so be it.

While the greatest amount of public attention is focused upon opinions by this Court, a vital responsibility exercised vigorously in the past years by the Supreme Court has not received notice commensurate with its importance to the people of this state. I refer, of course, to the constitutional mandate requiring superintending control of all courts by the Supreme Court. Justice COLEMAN and Justice LEVIN will find that a considerable portion of their time and efforts will be expended in meeting this responsibility.

This Court two years ago committed itself not only to grappling with current critical needs of the entire court system but to comprehensive planning and implementation of long-range goals. The Court has initiated many new programs and results have been gratifying in most instances. The Court has amended many court rules and procedures, and has completely rewritten others. The Court has done so with only one objective—that of a more just and efficient court administration for the citizens of this state. This Court has extensive plans under way for even greater changes, greater refinements and improvements in the judicial process. The Court remains committed to seeing that these refinements and improvements, both immediate and long range goals, become realities.

I will not take time to enumerate the specifics of administrative action over the past two years except to point out that the Legislature in most instances approved the Court’s recommendations for new judgeships. The Court’s crash program, combined with mediation and other improved procedures, has decreased the lag time by many months in adjudicating civil cases in Wayne County Circuit Court. The crash program and other projects in Detroit’s Recorder’s Court, despite a continuing climb in cases filed, have cut the backlog in that court and helped to improve the deplorable jail conditions.
The Supreme Court’s active participation and support aided in the establishment of the Center for the Administration of Justice at Wayne State University. The Center has been cited by Judge Winslow Christian, Director of the National Center for State Courts, as a Michigan model for other states to follow.

The Court authorized and the Court Administrator’s office completed a statewide study of court costs, personnel and needs, the first such survey ever done in Michigan. From this and other factors came the Court’s recommendation that the state assume full financing of all court operations and you will hear more of this in the near future.

With the help and recommendation of industry’s top data processing experts, the Court embarked on priority computer projects in Detroit with the ultimate objective of a state judicial computer center which we hope will provide the best court management in the nation.

These are just some of the Court’s activities over the past two years. We expect activities in the next two years will even be more concentrated in administrative matters. There is also every indication that more citizens and more groups of citizens will continue to test the laws in the courts when they consider the laws unjust. The Court can expect citizens to continue to challenge governmental action or inaction. The Supreme Court must fulfill its duty as the final arbiter in Michigan and this Court will continue to act in conformity with the fundamental principles of constitutional guarantees.

There is no other way to go if we are to uphold our constitutional responsibility and that of our conscience. An unknown author in the 1700’s perhaps said it better this way, and I quote: “We owe it to our ancestors to preserve entire their rights which they have delivered to our care; we owe it to our posterity not to suffer their dearest inheritance to be destroyed.” And so it is in that spirit that I welcome these two Justices to this Court today and say to you, their many friends, that we appreciate your being here for this special ceremony for their installation. Very shortly they will be relieved so that they may join you here in the courtroom and for the rest of the day. The Court will now recess.
Just a moment, please. I certainly overlooked the opportunity that I know all of you want to have and that is to give the Justices an opportunity to speak, and I will call upon Justice COLEMAN first.

 JUSTICE COLEMAN: I will not speak long but I have been very much inspired by what I have heard today, what I have heard my good friend Judge GEORGE BASHARA say, and I would point out that he has taken the oath of office for the Court of Appeals just prior to coming here. I have been inspired by what Judge FEIKENS has said and what Chief Justice KAVANAGH has said and I would assure you that throughout this entire experience—the campaign of running for office, and of being indoctrinated, if you will, for the office— the tremendous responsibility of this office has more and more settled on my shoulders. I assure you that I do not assume it lightly but I will give it all that I have in the way of good conscience, hard work, and certainly in love and gratitude for all of my family and friends and co-judges who have helped me and who are supporting me so well. Thank you so much.

CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS M. KAVANAGH: I would like at this time to present a distinguished jurist in his own right, the Honorable Creighton Coleman, Judge of the Calhoun Circuit Court.


 JUSTICE LEVIN: Mr. Chief Justice, Associate Justices, I am deeply conscious of the extent to which this Court, which stands at the top of the profession in the judicial system, is playing an ever more important role through the exercise of its supervisory power, as you have described, and in the evolvement of precedent in the administration of justice and as the head of one of the three branches of the government of this state.

I have sought and welcome the opportunity to work with the men and now a lady of this Court in the ongoing effort to improve the quality of justice. I shall strive to justify the confidence placed in me by those who have worked and voted to put me here.

I wish to express my appreciation to all who are here, to you Mr. Chief Justice and the Associate Justices for their presence in this impressive ceremony. I look forward to working with you.

To my colleagues of the Court of Appeals and the other judges, and the Attorney General who are here today, to my friends and members of my family who have made the long trip to Lansing to be with us on this day, which has so much meaning to all of us, to Judge FEIKENS, who has counseled me and has spoken with such kindness, thank you for your friendship.

To my wife, Pat, and principal campaign worker, Pat will you stand? And Arthur, Amy, and Fredrick who worked hard in the campaign, would you stand? I would also like to introduce my mother, mother would you stand? And my brother and sister, Mimi and Dan (you have met my brother, Joe), would you stand? Thank you all.

CHIEF JUSTICE THOMAS M. KAVANAGH: Before closing, I would like the record to show that Chief Judge LESINSKI of the Court of Appeals and ten additional members of that court are present, and the Attorney General of the state of Michigan Frank Kelley.

CRIER: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, the Supreme Court of the State of Michigan now stands adjourned until 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.