Higher calling: Inn of Court members admitted to high court


 By Tom Kirvan

Legal News
In legal circles, the U.S. Supreme Court rests on hallowed ground, a place where landmark decisions have been made and democratic principles upheld by some of the greatest minds in the nation’s history.
It was against such a backdrop that 18 members of the Oakland County Inn of Court were administered the oath March 10 to join the U.S. Supreme Court bar, the group of lawyers allowed to practice before the nation’s highest court.
While the swearing in was largely ceremonial in nature, it did serve to inspire those involved in the program, according to U.S. District Judge David Lawson, a veteran of the Supreme Court bar who helped coordinate the trip to Washington, D.C. with Oakland County Circuit Judge James Alexander.
“There is something incredibly special about walking into that building, seeing the portraits of some of the great justices and knowing the tradition and history of the court,” said Lawson, who serves as chancellor of the Oakland County Inn of Court. “It’s an experience that every lawyer should have at least once.”
According to reports, nearly 4,000 lawyers join the Supreme Court bar each year, obtaining an admission certificate that can be cherished for years to come while also permitting recipients the privilege of practicing before the nine-member court. While relatively few attorneys actually do appear before the court each year, the swearing in ceremony is more than symbolic, said Elizabeth Luckenbach, an attorney with Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer, & Weiss in Southfield and a past president of the Oakland County Bar Foundation.
“Being sworn in to the practice before the Supreme Court of the United States was truly the most inspiring moment of my professional career to date,” Luckenbach said. “We were lucky the Court issued a decision that day, so we had six of the nine justices on the bench. Just being in the courtroom was remarkable. I was awed by the grandeur, the history, and the tradition. It was an experience I will never forget. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to do this and can’t thank Judge Lawson, Judge Alexander, and the OCBA staff enough for putting it all together for us.”
Admission to the Supreme Court bar is reserved for attorneys who have practiced for a minimum of three years and have a spotless disciplinary record. Applicants also must be of “good moral and professional character” and must receive letters of support from two current members of the Supreme Court bar. Then, of course, there is a $200 application fee, the proceeds from which help fund improvements to the common areas of the Supreme Court while also supplying money for educational displays and projects.
Jody Aaron, a personal injury attorney with Johnson Law in Detroit, was among those admitted to the Supreme Court bar last week and she said the “experience was extraordinary” in every respect.
“In all honesty, I can say that it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced as a lawyer,” Aaron said of the swearing in ceremony. “I had been to the Supreme Court before, but this was the first time I had been in the courtroom and I was almost overwhelmed by it all. There is something special about looking up at the bench and knowing that legal legends that I’ve only read about sat there or that some of the greatest attorneys in history argued cases in that courtroom. 
“I’ve been around for 30 years and when you’ve practiced for that long, you can become somewhat jaded at times,” Aaron admitted. “But I was surprised how strongly I reacted to this experience. It was profound, and it seemed like everyone I talked to in our group felt the same way.”
Those sworn in included three members of the bench, Oakland County Circuit Judge Joan Young and Probate Court Judges Kathleen Ryan and Elizabeth Pezzetti. Others admitted to the Supreme Court bar included: Jody Aaron, Jacqueline Bammert, Tiffany Buckley-Norwood, State Bar of Michigan President Brian Einhorn, Mike Hamblin, Nadine Hatten, Gary Krochmal, Elizabeth Luckenbach, Tayna Lundberg, Megan McKnight, Kari Melkonian, Irika Mellin, Rob Morad, Gary Reeves, and Michelle Wezner.
Miller Canfield attorney Tom Cranmer, past president of the State Bar of Michigan, offered the motion for the group’s admission to the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts then administered the oath to the Oakland County group.
As a bonus, the group was on hand to hear the decision in Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States, a “case about who owns rights-of-way the government granted railroad companies, to facilitate railroad construction in the 19th Century, when a company abandons those rights,” according to Judge Lawson.
A day earlier, members of the group were treated to a tour of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, an air and space museum near Dulles International Airport.
“It’s a knock-your-socks-off kind of place, where the original 707 is housed, along with the Enola Gay, the Concorde, and the Discovery Space Shuttle,” said Lawson, a longtime pilot. “It’s a must-see museum that is part of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum downtown (Washington).”