Society presents historic artifact to state high court

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Pictured with the historic cup are (left to right) U.S. District Court Judge Avern Cohn, Society President Charles Rutherford, and State Bar of Michigan President Lawrence Nolan.
(Photo by John Meiu)


The Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society presented a historic cup that once belonged to Justice Samuel Douglass to the Michigan Supreme Court on Thursday, April 20, at the Detroit Athletic Club, during the Society’s annual membership luncheon.

The historic cup was first presented to Michigan Supreme Court Justice Samuel Douglass on May 15, 1857, by the Detroit Bar Association upon his retirement from the court. Douglass served as a justice from 1852 to 1857. Per the state constitution of 1850, this was a period during which the Michigan Supreme Court consisted of the elected circuit judges of the state’s eight judicial circuits. Douglass represented the Third Circuit. When the court reorganized in 1857, Douglass was nominated to run for chief justice; however, he lost in the April election and resigned from the court on May 18, 1857.

On May 17, 1857, The Detroit Free Press printed the resolution of the Detroit Bar honoring Justice Douglass. They reported that numerous speeches were made honoring Douglass as a judge, lawyer, and citizen, and the commemorative cup was procured as a “testimonial of the regard and friendly feeling of the bar of this city.” Inscribed in Latin upon the cup is this verse from Horace “vilius argentum est auro virtutibus aurum” or, “as gold is worth more than silver so is virtue worth more than gold.”

The cup was presented by Society President Charles R. Rutherford to U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn, who accepted on behalf of Stephen Markman, chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. The cup will be displayed outside the Supreme Court in the Hall of Justice in Lansing.

The Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society was founded in 1988 by then Chief Justice Dorothy Comstock Riley. A nonprofit organization, the society preserves documents, records, and memorabilia relating to the Michigan Supreme Court. It also produces publications, special events, and other projects consistent with its mission of promoting the study of the history of Michigan’s courts and increasing public awareness of this state’s legal heritage.

More information can be found on the society’s website at www.micourthistory.org.
 

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