Sunday, December 03, 2006

Hon. Merlin Wiley, Former Attorney General of Michigan

Merlin Wiley was a former Attorney General of the State of Michigan. He was executor of the estate of JAMES HORATIO SEYMOUR, brother of HELEN SEYMOUR SYLVESTER. When HELEN SEYMOUR SYLVESTER died, her brother inherited Seymour Point, with a life estate reserved to her husband WILLIAM BEDELL SYLVESTER. JAMES HORATIO SEYMOUR left the Seymour Point estate to HELEN SEYMOUR WILEY of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Here is an excerpt of an address of Mr. Wiley to the Michigan Supreme Court:

Hon. MERLIN WILEY, former Attorney General of the State of Michigan, addressed the Court as follows:
May it Please the Court:

I am sure I reflect the sentiments of the Michigan Bar when I say that it is a signal honor to have present this afternoon all of the former members of this Court now living, Mr. Justice MOORE, Mr. Justice CARPENTER, and Mr. Justice STEERE.

When the members of the committee, appointed in 1928 by Mr. HENRY C. WALTERS, then President of the Michigan Bar Association, to procure portraits of former members of this Court, expressed to Judge CARPENTER and Judge STEERE their earnest wish that their portraits be presented to the Court on this occasion and asked their permission to do so, they very graciously consented, and both of them generously offered to provide their respective portraits—which the committee was happy to accept.

We have also prevailed upon both of them to be present this afternoon, but in doing so they have placed me under orders that I dare not disobey, on the presumption, I assume, that some time within the next century, in the relentless course of events, someone will have an opportunity to say in this room the things I should like to say now.

I am sure, however, that I will not transgress if I refer briefly to the careers of these two jurists whose lives are so woven into the warp and woof of the legal and judicial history of this State as to have left an ineffaceable impression.

Mr. Justice CARPENTER came to this Bench after a service of eight years upon the Circuit Bench of Wayne County. He served here six years, and then voluntarily re-entered the practice of the law in Detroit. He is today the acknowledged Dean of the active Bar of this State.

Mr. Justice STEERE came to this Bench after a service of 30 years upon the Circuit Bench of the now Eleventh Judicial Circuit, and voluntarily retired from this Court after a judicial service of 46 years—a long time, your Honors, during which to be a chosen arbiter between one's fellow citizens.

May I digress to say that it is with unusual pleasure that I am here in this capacity today. Twenty-five years ago I commenced the practice of law in Chippewa County before Judge STEERE. When I tried my first case—as Prosecuting Attorney before him, I tried the first Circuit Court case I had ever tried alone. I needed help about as badly as any young barrister ever needed it, and I needed still more a full measure of sympathy. I received both from Judge STEERE in abundant measure.

I am not going to say anything about the service of these two men upon this Bench. That is spread upon the written records or this Court and is permanently woven into the juristic fabric that has made the Michigan Supreme Court one of the greatest Courts of this country.

It is a signal honor, may it please the Court, to be a member of this Bench. COOLEY, CAMPBELL, GRAVES, and CHRISTIANCY made it famous as well as first among the great State Courts of this country. This Court is today, gentlemen of the Bench, one of the recognized great tribunals of this country—and rightly so, and why? Because the people of Michigan have always regarded ability and character of the highest order a prerequisite to membership within its circle. Whatever errors of judgment they may have committed from time to time in the political field, they have approached this tribunal with an attitude of reverence, for this Bench has been, in a very solemn sense, the guardian of the people's liberties and the protector of their rights.

I wonder if we, Bench and Bar alike, realize to what extent this Court is trusted. This government of ours is a government of law. The order that expresses the divine law in the great cosmic universe finds its compelling reflection in the governments of men. This Court is, within its appointed jurisdiction, the final arbiter. When it speaks, lawyers and laymen alike lay down their weapons and accept its decisions upon the law as final—not only as it is—but as it ought to be.

Of this great galaxy of Michigan judges, may it please the Court, Mr. Justice CARPENTER and Mr. Justice STEERE stand in the front rank, in learning, in character, and in that vision that makes great judges. There are none above them. They have glorified the traditions of this Bench, and they have abundantly justified life.

It is a pleasure and a privilege, Mr. Chief Justice and gentlemen of the Bench, acting for the Michigan State Bar Association, to present to this Court the portraits of these two distinguished jurists.

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