Excerpt from Investiture Speech by Hon. Brock A. Swartzle, Michigan Court of Appeals (May 18, 2017)
“I’ve attended enough of these ceremonies to know that I am supposed to explain my judicial philosophy or, in other words, what kind of Judge I intend to be. I will do that, but my comments will be brief, because I’d rather talk about another matter. “Briefly, I intend:
- “To be a judge who is blind to the parties before the bench, one who favors not the plaintiff, not the defendant, not the prosecutor, not the criminal defendant, not the government, not the corporation, not the individual, but a judge who focuses solely on the facts and the law.
- “To be a judge who remembers that, for the parties before the bench, the lawsuit is one of the most significant events in that person’s lifetime, and to be a judge who treats each case with the gravity it deserves.
- “To be a judge who remembers that our court represents only part of 1/3 of the government, and to be a judge who respects and defers to the proper roles of the Legislative and Executive Branches, as well as the proper roles of our state’s trial courts and Supreme Court.
- “To be a judge who respects the Federal Government, but who also remembers that the State of Michigan is a separate sovereign, and that we are deserving of equal respect from our federal counterparts.
- “To be a judge who respects his colleagues, who offers to help his colleagues whenever possible, who offers a friendly comment, and who, when disagreeing with colleagues, does so with grace.
- “Finally, I intend to be a judge who does his level best, each and every day, to achieve practical justice in every single case, but a judge who also understands that perfect justice is our North Star rather than our regular port.
“Now, as I mentioned, I want also to talk about someone else today. I don’t know that there will ever be another stage that I will share with Commander Eric Decker, so I want to take advantage of it while I have the chance.
“As he mentioned, Commander Decker and I have been friends since the first day of kindergarten. For as long as I can remember, he has wanted to be a cop, and I have wanted to be a lawyer, and yet neither of us came from households of cops or lawyers. Frankly, I don’t recall ever meeting a lawyer or judge before I went to law school, and I don’t remember Decker or I knowing any cops growing up either. Who knew those 40 years ago that he would become a Commander in the State’s largest police force, and I would have the opportunity to sit on the State’s court of appeals? Something greater than ourselves has led us both here today.
“Decker and I went to UofM football games together with my Dad. We fought over the same girlfriend. We played high school football together, and we were fiercely devoted to the same football coach. We committed together violations of Michigan’s vehicle code, including driving from Holland to Athens when we were 15 year olds without a license. But, we had 2 driver’s permits, and 2 permits equaled a license in our minds. We grew up together, drifted apart, and came back together when life permitted.
“Why do I mention these memories today? Because whenever I hear about a police officer being shot, I admit that I and my friends from high school like Johnny, Todd, Mike and Yole, we all catch our collective breathes a bit. I can only imagine how it must feel to be the spouse or parent of a police officer, a sheriff, an FBI agent, a Sergeant at Arms, a court security officer. So, to the spouses, parents, family, and friends of first responders, I also intend to be a judge who never forgets for a single second the sacrifices of those who put their lives at risk to keep the rest of us safe and secure.
“That is the least I can do for the boy who offered to become my pal 40 years ago.