James R. McCann Hall of Justice Courthouse named after judge's dad James R. McCann was 16th District Court's first judge

By John Minnis

Legal News

The courthouse of 16th District Chief Judge Kathleen McCann bears her name -- and her father's and her brother's.

That is no surprise since the newly completed courthouse was named after the chief judge's father, James R. McCann, who served as the court's first judge. The elder McCann will turn 87 this year.

The $10 million, 39,000-square-foot James R. McCann House of Justice on Five Mile Road in Livonia was dedicated Friday evening, April 30, to a standing-room-only crowd, the Livonia Police color guard, the National Anthem sung by retired Wayne County Circuit Chief Judge William Giovan's quartet, the ForumShoppers and speeches by the mayor and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan, among others.

"The James R. McCann Hall of Justice sounds pretty good. That's my name!" said the retired judge's son, James C. McCann, who emceed the dedication. The younger McCann is president of the Livonia City Council and an attorney in private practice.

Justice Corrigan spoke on behalf of the score of judges present at the dedication.

"I'm so honored to celebrate with all of you this great day in Livonia and in the state of Michigan," she said.

Corrigan said she first met McCann when she was just out of law school some 30 years ago.

"Judge Jim McCann's life and work are worth remembering," she said. "He is part of the Great Generation. Jim McCann, you earned this. It is everything you did."

Judge Sean Kavanagh, who was elected to the 16th District Court in 2008, said, "I would have run for the job even if they didn't build a new courthouse."

He met Judge McCann 28 years ago when he responded to job posting for a court officer.

"I didn't know it at the time," he said, "but the most important thing is that you had to have an Irish last name. Needless to say, I got the job."

Kavanagh went on to serve as magistrate for three years before going into private practice for 13 years. He served as Livonia city attorney prior to being elected district judge.

"He hired me right out of law school," Kavanagh said. "He took a chance with me, and I really appreciate that."

He thanked the mayor and city council for having the foresight to build the new courthouse.

Paid for out of a building fund and a city council-approved bond, the new courthouse features the latest electronic amenities, including flat-panel video display from police cruiser dash cams. Attorneys and clients can confer in private meeting rooms rather than cells. A sally port provides secure access to the court without police having to walk prisoners through public areas. Surveillance is enhanced with 54 closed-circuit cameras, and the courthouse's front counter is equipped with panic buttons in the event of a disturbance.

Chief Judge McCann could not have been more thrilled with the new courthouse and the fact that it was named after her father.

"This is an overwhelming day for me," she said. "It has so much meaning to me. It being dedicated to my father means a lot to me."

She thanked her family and supporters.

"They gave me the fortitude and chutzpah to believe this courthouse could be done," she said. "We love it, and we love you. We were in a month early and under budget. We believe we have function, form and aesthetics."

Looking up and down the row of seated judges, Livonia Mayor Jack Kirksey said, "My invitation said 'bring robe with you,' but I couldn't find a robe anywhere!"

After unveiling a dedication plaque naming the new courthouse in his honor, retired Judge James R. McCann kept his comments brief.

"All I can do," he said, "is say thank you and God bless you."


McCann plaque unveiling.JPG

Photo by John Minnis

16th District Chief Judge Kathleen McCann, back to camera, helped her father, retired Judge James R. McCann, unveil a plaque Friday evening, April 30, naming the new courthouse in his honor.

Published: Tue, May 4, 2010