Judge E. Thomas Fitzgerald of Owosso, Michigan, passed away December 27, 2018, at age 79. He was a trial lawyer for 24 years before his election to the Michigan Court of Appeals in 1990. He served on the court for another 24 years before retiring in 2014.
Judge Fitzgerald's Final Precedent
Brief Award Recipient Becomes Chief Justice
One of Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School’s oldest and finest traditions is presentation of the Distinguished Brief Awards. Since 1985, Distinguished Brief Awards have been given in recognition of the most scholarly briefs filed in the Michigan Supreme Court, as selected by a panel of eminent lawyers, judges, and faculty members. Two or three briefs are chosen annually and are printed in their entirely in the WMU-Cooley Law Review. The award reflects the law school’s longstanding commitment to teaching and celebrating effective legal writing.
Specifics Make It Real
Strunk & White’s classic guide to good writing, The Elements of Style, urges writers to use definite, specific, and concrete language. “Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, the concrete to the abstract.” The goal is to write “with such accuracy and vigor that the reader, in imagination, can project himself into the scene.”
Will the Uniform Bar Exam Come to Michigan?
Last October the Michigan Board of Law Examiners posted the names of 451 law graduates who passed the July 2018 Michigan Bar Examination. Most of them probably hoped never to have to endure a bar exam again. But today’s reality is that more than one-third will likely change jobs within three years of law school graduation. And many would like to look for employment beyond our borders.
Beloved Storytellers (Part Three): The Appeal of Storytelling
On their respective sides of the Atlantic, both England’s Lord Denning and our own Justice Cardozo were beloved for their storytelling style of opinion writing. In his book Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, Joseph M. Williams explains the appeal and effectiveness of telling stories as a form of communication:
Beloved Storytellers (Part Two): Cardozo's Opinion Style
In England, Lord Denning was hailed at his death as "the best-known and the best-loved judge in the whole of our history." This tribute was due at least in part to his storytelling style of opinion writing. Are there American judges with a similar flair for storytelling? Surely one is Justice Benjamin Cardozo of the New York Court of Appeals (1914-1932) and United States Supreme Court (1932-1938).
Beloved Storytellers (Part One): Denning the Master Storyteller
Alfred Thompson Denning--England's Lord Denning to the legal world—died in the final year of the 20th Century at the age of 100. Before retiring in 1982, he had served on the bench for 38 years, the last 20 as Master of the Rolls, the head of England's Court of Appeal. At a memorial service held in Westminster Abbey, the Lord Chief Justice of England hailed Denning as "the best-known and the best-loved judge in the whole of our history." Lord Denning was most renowned for his clarity of expression. His judicial opinions (the English call them "judgments") were regarded as models of lucidity. He wrote in short, crisp sentences intended to make the law accessible to lay people. A biographer referred to his writing style as “pungent English." Many law students encounter their first Denning opinion in Contracts in a case involving Anglia Television's suit against the American actor Robert Reed for backing out of an agreement to star in a made-for-television movie. Lord Denning sets the stage in the opening sentences of his opinion:
The Adventure of the One-Dollar Diamond
Blog contributor Otto Stockmeyer is a WMU-Cooley Law School Distinguished Professor Emeritus. This is another in his series of posts offering a fresh look at famous cases.
Masterful Advice from Master Lawyers
The Master Lawyers Section of the State Bar of Michigan is composed of nearly 20,000 Michigan lawyers who have 30 or more years of practice experience. Its membership was surveyed in March of this year to help the Section’s Council set future priorities. The survey also asked Section members, as experienced lawyers, what words of wisdom they would share with a new lawyer. More than 650 respondents offered their thoughts, which ranged from the specific (“Shine your shoes and always be early.”) to the general (“Relax. You will make mistakes. They’re not fatal.”). Here are some pieces of advice of particular application to law students and new grads:
Contracts quintessential first-year course: Law school professor makes his case
Blog author WMU-Cooley Distinguished Professor Emeritus Otto Stockmeyer presented a paper at an annual conference of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts & Letters, which was held March 10, 2017, on the campus of Western Michigan University. He titled his presentation “Reflections on Teaching the First Day of Contracts Class.” Professor Stockmeyer offered his thoughts on why he believes Contracts is the most significant course in the first-year curriculum, why the study of contract law should begin with the subject of remedies, and why Hawkins v. McGee (the “hairy hand” case made famous by the book and movie versions of The Paper Chase) makes an ideal starting point.