On Monday, May 1, WMU-Cooley Law School celebrated Law Day 2023 with a virtual event, featuring Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Elizabeth T. Clement.
Clement, who was the keynote speaker for WMU-Cooley’s event, shared her perspective on this year’s Law Day theme, “Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility, and Collaboration,” and its importance in the legal community.
“When you’re talking about democracy, these are the three pillars – the foundation of democracy,” said Clement. “The key message I want you to take away from this discussion today and Law Day is that we can’t do any of this work without each and every one of you. We need all the stakeholders in Michigan’s justice system, including law students, future lawyers, and leaders, to be engaged, contributing your experiences, expertise and ideas. Whether it’s access to justice, data transparency or juvenile justice, my goal is for Michigan to be a national leader, and we need you to help us make that vision a reality.”
Clement spoke about how each pillar – civics, civility and collaboration – play an important role in today’s judicial system.
Pictured: Justice Elizabeth Clement
“Civics is about how we inform and educate Michigan residents about their constitutional rights, as well as the resources courts have to offer for everyone that interacts with the judiciary system, and the duties and responsibilities that go along with those rights,” she said.
When sharing about civility, Clement explained that civility is defined as a formal politeness or courtesy – treating one another with dignity and respect.
“For me, this applies to every aspect of court operations because courts always need to focus on treating the people we serve with dignity and respect,” she said. “People come to court on the most difficult days of their lives. They deserve not just a fair playing field, but one where they are welcomed, valued and supported. I really feel that civility in the judiciary system starts at the very top. We have worked very, very hard to improve the civility, not just on our own court, but in all of the courts around the state of Michigan.”
Clement said she looks at collaboration as the act of working together toward a common purpose.
“In the judiciary, we definitely know how to lead, but we also understand that we accomplish so much more when we collaborate with stakeholders,” she said. “We’re really trying to be thoughtful that what we’re here to do is to serve the public, and the best way to do that is to collaborate with everyone that’s involved in the judicial branch and make sure we’re responsive to what’s being expected and asked of us.”
On Law Day, students and staff at WMU-Cooley will join others throughout the country in rebuilding trust in the nation’s institutions, respect for one another, and demonstrate that WMU-Cooley is committed to being an agent for positive change in communities and the legal profession.
“Law Day is a national day set aside to celebrate the rule of law,” said WMU-Cooley Law School Associate Dean Tonya Krause-Phelan. “It provides us with the opportunity to understand how law and the legal process protect our liberty, strive to achieve justice and contribute to the freedoms that all Americans share.”