Judge Quist takes a ribbing at unveiling of official portrait



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

From courtroom to comedy den ... speakers honoring United State District Court Judge Gordon J. Quist on the occasion of the unveiling of htis official portrait had audience members roaring with laughter.

Several of those making remarks expressed a sense of justice served, since apparently Judge Quist has not been especially reserved in humorous commentary at similar occasions.

At least three of the speakers reminded the judge of his oft-repeated dictum: “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

But in between the jokes and teasing, a verbal “portrait” emerged of a well-liked but studious judge committed to high ethics and civility.

Judge Gordon Quist was born in Grand Rapids, but after attending Calvin College for two years and graduating from Michigan State University, he left the area for a while. He graduated from George Washington University Law School with honors in 1962, and has since been awarded the school’s distinguished alumnus recognition.

He stayed in the Washington DC  area to practice for two years, and then moved on to Chicago to work for a law firm there.

In 1967 he came back home, joining Miller, Johnson, Snell and Cummiskey as a civil litigator. He served as Managing Partner from 1986 until 1992, when President George H.W. Bush appointed him Federal judge for the Western District of Michigan.

He actually took senior status in 2006, but has continued to work.

During his judicial career, Quist served on the Judicial Conference Committee on Codes of Conduct, and chaired it from 2004-2008. When he was chair, Judge Quist explained in an interview, “The Committee on Codes of Conduct helps judges and other employees of the Judicial Branch by advising them regarding the principles in the Codes of Conduct and how, in our judgment, to conform to the Canons within the Code... We do not engage in, or assist in, disciplinary proceedings. That is the responsibility of ... the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability,... governed by federal statute, 28 U.S.C. §§ 351-364.

“We also make recommendations to the Judicial Conference regarding the Code and the regulations regarding gifts, outside employment, and honorariums. We are also proactive in that we publish advisory opinions on a broad range of judicial and employee issues.”

Another area of focus has been serving in the Open World Program, as part of which Judge Quist has welcomed Russian judges to this area three times, and himself gone to Russia three times, not including one additional time to visit friends there.

After Robert Holmes Bell’s welcoming remarks, only Robert Hooker, philanthropist and former client, gave fairly serious and straightforward comments. He attested primarily to Judge Quist’s excellence and high standards while an attorney at Miller Johson.

Then newly-appointed Kent County Probate Court Judge George Jay Quist rose to make remarks about his father. One of five children, George Quist had unstinting praise for both his father and his mother, Jane, though he admitted she still called him “Georgie.”

The younger Quist did, however, tell some of the family secrets. It was difficult to tell where the truth left off and the humor began, since he admitted that he was taking his father’s advice seriously and not letting facts get in the way.

Though a tough act to follow, he could not outdo Jon Muth, the elder Quist’s long-time colleague at Miller Johnson and a highly-honored attorney himself. After much teasing based on their enduring friendship, including possibly apocryphal stories about dancing on tabletops, Muth honored Judge Quist as one who “is fair but considerate, firm but allows lawyers to try their cases.”

Then came the turn of the Hon. David W. McKeague, Judge at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Brandishing a CD of remarks Judge Quist had made at a recent ceremony for McKeague, he said it was time to turn the tables, and proceeded to share hilarious stories of their work together. McKeague claimed that when they first met, Quist told him, “I would’ve gotten your job if I’d wanted it, but I didn’t want to commute to Lansing,” an allegation Quist later denied.
After Chief Judge Paul Maloney and Federal Bar Association President Scott Brinkmeyer unveiled the beautiful, almost lifelike portrait created by LeClaire Studios, Quist himself spoke. He displayed the same wicked sense of humor as previous speakers, including telling tales on himself, as he sincerely and deeply thanked his wife, his family, and everyone who participated.