Author Nelson Miller is Associate Dean and Professor at WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus. He practiced civil litigation for 16 years before joining the WMU-Cooley faculty. He has argued cases before the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals, and United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and filed amicus and party briefs in the United States Supreme Court. He has has many published books, casebooks, book chapters, book reviews, and articles on legal education, law practice, torts, civil procedure, professional responsibility, damages, international law, constitutional law, university law, bioethics, and law history and philosophy.
While the reference won’t make any headlines other than the one immediately above, alumni should be glad to note that the law school’s namesake Justice Thomas McIntyre Cooley continues, well over a century after his death, to impress members of the United States Supreme Court.
Justice Scalia’s dissent in the Supreme Court’s gay-marriage stand cites Justice Cooley at the head of the historical list of great legal luminaries, “minds like Thomas Cooley, John Marshall Harlan, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Learned Hand, Louis Brandeis, William Howard Taft, Benjamin Cardozo, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson, and Henry Friendly….”
That Justice Cooley continues to receive recognition as a leading member of the jurist’s pantheon should surprise no one. Over the past century and more, the Supreme Court has cited Justice Cooley and his opinions and treatises so many times that he will forever retain his status as a profoundly effective, even though unusually humble, guardian of the law and Constitution.
Yet this most-recent Supreme Court reference to the great jurist bears special note, placing Justice Cooley at the head of the list before Holmes, Hand, Black, and Brandeis. Chronology may have had something to do with that prominence, given that Justice Cooley is the oldest of the references. Yet Justice Scalia could have started his list of great jurists anywhere but decided to start with Justice Cooley.
We here at the great old jurist’s school celebrate Justice Cooley’s continued reputation as the nation’s premier jurist. Let us all hope that the Constitution that he so vigorously, effectively, and humbly defended will survive just as long as his enduring prominence.