Michigan Supreme Court Justice Corrigan bids state high court farewell

Justice Maura D. Corrigan, who left the Michigan Supreme Court Friday to serve as director of the Michigan Department of Human Services, will stand out in the Court's history for her "lasting achievements" as a jurist, administrator, and children's advocate, said Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr.

"Her record is one that few have or will ever equal," Young said. "Maura Corrigan has met head-on some of this state's most difficult challenges, and she has succeeded brilliantly."

As an example of Corrigan's leadership, Young cited the statewide conversion to the federally-mandated Michigan Child Support Enforcement System. In 2001, shortly after becoming chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, Corrigan learned that Michigan was facing enormous federal penalties if all the state's counties did not convert to MICSES. "There were many in the state who were ready to give up, who said there was no way this conversion could be accomplished by the federal deadline," Young said. "But Maura Corrigan had the will and vision to pull the state courts together. She not only brought the conversion to completion; she also averted about $147 million in federal penalties."

A member of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, Corrigan is nationally recognized for her work on foster care and adoption issues. She has received numerous state and national awards, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Award for Innovative Partnerships (2008), the Michigan Children's Award (2008), the Congressional Coalition on Adoption "Angels in Adoption" Award (2005), the Detroit News Michiganian of the Year Award (2005), and many others.

Young also commended Corrigan for her legal scholarship and leadership of the state's two appellate courts. "Maura Corrigan is that rare person, a top-notch lawyer who is also a gifted administrator," he said. "For example, as chief judge of the Court of Appeals, she was instrumental in eliminating a serious case backlog.

"Moreover, she has written some of the most influential legal opinions of the past decade," Young added. "She is a rigorous thinker and precise writer, the kind of colleague who spurs you to do your own best work. She raises the standard wherever she goes."

One of Corrigan's best-known opinions is Glass v Goeckel, a 2005 Supreme Court decision regarding the extent of the public's right to walk Great Lakes shores adjacent to private property. Corrigan, writing for the majority, said that the public had the right to walk between the ordinary high water mark and the water's edge, overturning a more limiting interpretation by the Court of Appeals.

"Maura has been a wonderful colleague and friend," Young said. "I will miss her dearly on the Court, but the children of Michigan will benefit from her passion to ensure that every child is well cared for. The children of this state could have no better friend or advocate."

Published: Mon, Jan 17, 2011