PICTURE PERFECT: Justice Mallett latest to join Historical Portrait Collection


By Roberta M. Gubbins
Legal News

Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. opened a special session of the Michigan Supreme Court for the presentation of the portrait of retired Justice Conrad L. Mallett Jr. who served on the Michigan Supreme Court from 1990-1999. The event was conducted Wednesday, April 25, in the Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing.
Young welcomed all to the ceremony, acknowledging some of the goals set by Mallett while acting as chief justice (1997-1999) such as “this magnificent Hall of Justice. What this did was bring together in one building the many disparate parts of our judicial family” including the Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals.
“In addition, under Chief Justice Mallett’s watch,” he said, “we saw the organization of the Family Court and streamlining operations of our trial courts.”
The Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society was founded in 1988 by Dorothy Comstock Riley during her term as chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. The Society preserves documents, records, and memorabilia relating to the Michigan Supreme Court, according to Wallace Riley, president of the Society.
“There are 88 portraits in our Historical Portrait Collection, “ he said. “This special session of the court is the 18th portrait presentation.”
Former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard, 1985-1991, said that he appointed Mallet because he believed that “people on the bench need varied experience. Conrad Mallett ‘understands the real world consequences of what they (judges) do’ and had the requisite experience.”
Janet Welch, executive director of the State Bar of Michigan, was working for the court when Mallett took the bench. She commented on his vision of shared responsibility with the other branches of government and “the size of his heart,” explaining that at the time the court was in process of change and he put out “the brush fires methodically.”
Alex Parrish, a neighbor, fraternity brother and partner at Honigman, Miller, Schwartz, & Cohn LLP and occasional legal adversaries said that Mallett is “smart, energetic, compassionate human being, courageous and brutally honest.”  Michael Duggan, president and CEO of Detroit Medical Center, was the last to speak. A member of Mallett’s media team when he was campaigning, he noted that Mallett was elected to the Supreme Court “confirming Governor Blanchard’s appointment of him to the bench.”
Following the presentation of the portrait, Mallett thanked the Society for the honor, and his family and friends for their support.
Mallett was born on October 12, 1953, in Detroit. He received his B.A. from the University of California-Los Angeles in 1975. He also received his M.P.A. and J.D. from the University of Southern California in 1979.
Mallett was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan in 1979 and immediately began his involvement in many legal organizations. He is a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Association of Bond Lawyers, the Wolverine Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan, the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and the Genesee County Bar Association.
His career in public service began when he served from 1983 until 1984 as the director of Legislative Affairs for Governor James J. Blanchard. From 1985 until 1986, Mallett was the director and executive assistant to Detroit Mayor Coleman Young.
In December of 1990, he was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court. Mallett was re-elected to a two-year term in 1992, and re-elected again for an eight-year term in 1994. Mallett was the first African American to serve as chief justice on the Michigan Supreme Court. He retired from the court at the end of 1998.
The portrait was painted by Washington, D.C., artist Simmie Knox, whose other commissions have included Martin Luther King Jr., former President Bill Clinton, Mohammad Ali, Bill Cosby, and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.