Michigan Lawyers in History

Michigan Lawyers in History--The Honorable Dennis W. Archer, Mayor of the City of Detroit: The Lawyer as Public Servant


by Elizabeth A. Baergen

Dennis W. Archer’s career demonstrates the many and diverse ways in which a person who is a lawyer can serve the public interest. Currently, he is serving his second term as the mayor of the City of Detroit, guiding the City through a major economic turnaround, which has received commendation nationwide. Dennis Archer previously served as associate justice of the Michigan Supreme Court from 1986 through 1990 and practiced law with several premier law firms in the Detroit Metropolitan area. He has also served as president of the State Bar of Michigan, the National Bar Association, and the Wolverine Bar Association and in over 40 different capacities on various sections, task forces, committees, and assemblies of the American Bar Association alone.

Outside of the strictly legal arena, Dennis Archer has served on many national, state, and local bodies, including current and past service with the Economic Club of Detroit, the YMCA of Detroit, the Michigan Cancer Foundation, the Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, and the United Way of Southeast Michigan. In this interview, which took place in early December 1999, Mayor Archer shares some reflections on his career as a lawyer.

Ms. Baergen: Mayor Archer, let’s start at the beginning of your career as a lawyer—when did you first decide to be a lawyer?

Mayor Archer: I didn’t make that decision until after I started graduate school at the University of Michigan. Back then the University of Michigan had graduate classes at the Rackham Building on Putnam and Woodward Avenue. I had just started teaching and my principal suggested that I would make an outstanding principal. But to do that, I had to get a masters degree in education. I was dating a teacher named Trudy DunCombe who suggested that I ought to consider law school. I said I didn’t know anything about law, and her comment was, "Well, you know how to run your mouth and you would probably be a very good lawyer!" So I started looking at the issue. It was the first year that the LSAT was administered. I passed the test, or let me put it this way, I had a score that was high enough to be admitted. Also, I could not afford to go full-time. I had worked my way through college and I was going to have to work my way through law school too, which meant I needed to go to law school at night. So, I enrolled in Detroit College of Law. I graduated after four years. Then I took the bar exam, passed it, and started the practice of law.

Ms. Baergen: Is that when you gave up sleeping at night?

Mayor Archer: Well, I will tell you, the great thing about teaching was that you could plan each day by doing lesson plans and then put your whole week’s lesson together, which helped me track the students I was teaching and adopt a lesson plan for the week that had continuity. Because I had been so well-educated at Western Michigan University, I found teaching to be fairly easy. I also had two very good lead teachers when I was student teaching at Bunche Elementary School. As a result, I found teaching to be a kind of exciting challenge that sort of came naturally. On the other hand, law school was very time-demanding. I remember that in my first semester it seemed like I couldn’t read a paragraph without going to Black’s Dictionary, because there were no classes at the time that would prepare you for law school.

Ms. Baergen: What was your undergraduate major?

Mayor Archer: My undergraduate major was in education.

Ms. Baergen: What age group did you teach?

Mayor Archer: I started out with a group of students that was referred to at that time as "special ed" students. These were educable mentally retarded students. They are now referred to as students with learning disabilities. These were the early elementary students who were generally referred into special education after their first or second grade. My age group was, I think, about seven through thirteen.

Ms. Baergen: That is a big age range!

Mayor Archer: Yes, it was. We had about 15 students, and within that age range you had varying degrees of ability. And, surprisingly, many were in the same reading category. The earlier you could catch them, the better off you were in terms of helping them meet their maximum potential as a learning disabled student. What I found, frankly, in some cases was that the student’s learning was disrupted because of the class size. The teacher didn’t take the time, or didn’t have the time, to work with the student. But because I had a smaller class size, I was able to get several of my students back into their regular grades. It sort of ran the gamut. After I taught for about two and a half years, Trudy and I were married. She stayed at Bunche and I went to a new school, Duffield Elementary School, where I taught junior special ed. These were students that were approximately 14 through 17 years of age.

Ms. Baergen: When you attended law school, were there many minority students?

Mayor Archer: Very few of us, although I will tell you that at Detroit College of Law, I think we had the largest enrollment of African-American students of any law school in the state. It was minimal by today’s standards, but there must have been 12 or so African-American students in my class. There might have been 20 or 30 in the school. We started the Wolverine Law Student Association at DCL. It was challenging because we didn’t have the same opportunities when we were in law school to clerk in law firms or for judges. Even when we were looking for jobs, I can remember going to one law firm looking for employment, either as a clerkship or upon graduation, and was told they didn’t hire DCL students. For some of the local law firms, you had to graduate from at least the University of Michigan. They weren’t taking Wayne State students either, or if they did, it was very few. They were always looking at the East Coast schools, and if you happened to be a person of color, they didn’t look at you either. So we didn’t have many options.

Ms. Baergen: Justice Boyle said that when she graduated from law school, she was the first in her class, but the last to be hired.

Mayor Archer: That was entirely consistent with when she was graduating as well. We have a very sexist profession, at least at the time when she was graduating. And if you think times were tough for her, imagine what it must have been like for Madam Chief Justice Dorothy Comstock Riley and the other women who came around her time, like Geraldine Bledsoe Ford. Law was considered to be a male profession. There were challenges for women, and those challenges were as tough as they were, in many instances, for lawyers or law students of color. However, when affirmative action came into vogue, it was so much easier for the law firms and the white male-dominated profession to hire look-a-likes than it was to hire persons of color. There was a large spurt of women in law school finding jobs in large firms, in corporate America, even in tenure-track positions in law school, larger than for persons of color. We still have more women deans, for example, than we have deans of color, male or female. It wasn’t until about 1983 that the American Bar Association appointed its Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession, on which I served as co-chair. The goal was to identify the myths and the realities of what suppressed equal opportunity for persons of color to be successful in the practice of law.

Ms. Baergen: Did the task force come to some conclusion as to what the major problems were?

Mayor Archer: I don’t think there was any question about that. We were not admitted to law school, first of all, and when in law school, we did not find tenure-track professors of color that could be advisors or mentors and the like. We were not hired in the large law firms, and we were not hired generally in corporations. You have to appreciate, from a historical point of view, that many outstanding African-American lawyers when they graduated from law school early on worked in the post office or in factories until they were able to build enough of a practice to be able to practice law full-time. Persons of color would go to lawyers of color to do the legal work that white lawyers would not accept. But if one of their children got hit by a drunk driver or somebody driving a Coca Cola truck or something like that, they would walk right past the lawyer of color’s office or home where they might have been the night before, and go to a lawyer that was white.

Ms. Baergen: Why did you get into personal injury law?

Mayor Archer: I got into personal injury law because I wanted to be in the court room. I felt that I could be a good advocate on behalf of my client. I felt that if I was prepared and worked with the facts and applied the law, or argued the law, on the points that were favorable to my clients, that I could be very successful on behalf of my client, whether it was a criminal or civil case. I started out with trial cases at the first firm I worked at, Gragg & Gardner. Sam Gardner went on to become chief judge of Detroit Recorders Court. In fact, I ran his campaign. J. Robert Gragg became a judge of Wayne County Probate Court. I left that firm with several other young lawyers after about six months, and we started our own law firm, named Hall, Stone, Allen & Archer. The name partners were Elliott Hall, who is now a vice president with Ford Motor Company; Alex Allen, who recently retired as chief judge of the 36th District Court; and Horace Stone, who is still practicing law, and doing a fine job on behalf of his clients (he does a lot of probate law). About three years later, I went to work for Charfoos & Charfoos, which later became Charfoos, Christensen & Archer, because I wanted to learn more about trial work, and we were not getting enough cases that would allow me to be exposed to the high-powered products liability and medical malpractice litigation.

Ms. Baergen: Were those your areas of expertise at that point?

Mayor Archer: When I first went over, it was to learn medical malpractice, but my criminal practice was so large that I sort of put the medical malpractice interest on the side.

Ms. Baergen: Did you say "criminal practice"?

Mayor Archer: Yes. I tried all kinds of criminal cases. I started out with anything from juvenile court to traffic court cases, to ultimately in 1977, murder in the first degree, armed robbery, and a lot of capital cases. After I ran Mayor Young’s first re-election campaign in 1977, I took a week’s vacation. When I came back, I decided to immerse myself solely in the civil side of law practice. So I started disengaging from criminal work at that point and Sam Simpson came into the firm and started handling the criminal cases.

Ms. Baergen: How did you get involved in politics?

Mayor Archer: I started in politics in 1969. It was just before I graduated from law school. I wanted to impress Robert Millender, who was the campaign manager for Richard Austin. Richard Austin was the first person of color to run for mayor of the city of Detroit. I figured if I could show Bob Millender how hard I was willing to work, [he would think] I would work equally hard in the practice of law. Dick Austin lost to Roman Gribbs, who served with distinction for one term, became a Wayne County Circuit Court judge, and has now joined our Michigan Court of Appeals. As a matter of fact, I didn’t get the job either! But I did enjoy politics, so much so that I’ve been involved ever since 1969, either running other people’s campaigns, being involved in somebody’s re-election, raising funds, or some combination.

Ms. Baergen: What draws you to politics?

Mayor Archer: Politics is in everybody’s life. If there are five people, whether they are secretaries, lawyers, or anything, ultimately, one is going to be the supervisor of the other four. Somebody’s got to make decisions. The hard work of politics is still involved. The reality is that our elected officials develop the law. Therefore, it is important that we have people who represent our views when decisions are being debated on the floor of the State House of Representatives or the State Senate, or on the floor of the United States House of Representatives or the United States Senate.

Whether they’re county commission members, members of city council, or township supervisors, people who serve as public servants, who put the people first, do an admirable job. It is one for which they don’t get sufficient credit. So I’ve always tried to be of help to them. It is very difficult to run a campaign, and it is very difficult to raise the funds that you need to be successful. If that kind of person was willing to serve, then I wanted to help good people be elected to office, and I still feel the same way today.

Ms. Baergen: Where do you stand on the question of elected judges versus appointed judges?

Mayor Archer: I come down on the side of the election of judges. I believe in the people in our respective cities, counties, and regions, in the case of the Court of Appeals, and in people of the state in the case of the Michigan Supreme Court. That same view, interestingly enough, was also shared by the first chief justice under whom I was privileged to work when I was on the Michigan Supreme Court, the former governor, Mr. Chief Justice G. Mennen Williams. I just have faith in people. What we see today going on in Lansing is the issue of term limits. Voters "term limit" people all of the time. If they become dissatisfied with the person representing them, they will not vote for them, and they will elect someone new. So I don’t think that judges should be appointed, other than to fill a vacancy. I believe in the elective process as opposed to a Missouri plan where someone is elected or appointed for 14 years and then stands for election, or in some cases such as in South Carolina, it goes back to the legislature for the determination as to whether or not to retain the appointed judge.

I served on the Judicial Qualifications Committee of the State Bar of Michigan for a number of years and then served as its co-chair. It is a process that works exceedingly well. Even that is political. What we do is rate candidates, not against other candidates who are seeking to be appointed, but rather how do the candidates rate with other lawyers. The Judicial Qualifications Committee has the responsibility for consulting other lawyers and judges and asking the questions: "What do you think of this person? What do you think of this person’s work habits, their intellectual ability, their judicial temperament, their knowledge of the law? Is there anything that would impact upon their ability to serve, do they have any bad habits, or anything that you know of that they may have done that is inappropriate in their life so that they should not be on the bench?" Lawyers are brutally honest in their responses. It was not uncommon for someone listed as a reference to honestly say, "I like so-and-so, but they’ve got a problem with [whatever]," and outline the problem.

So the process is to get that information and then give the candidate who comes before the Judicial Qualifications Committee an opportunity to respond. "They say that you are slow, or they say you don’t file documents on time, or they say that you drink too much, etc." You have to give them a chance to respond, because somebody may have seen somebody on only one occasion doing something inappropriate; no one is perfect in this world. If we were all perfect, there would be no need for churches, synagogues, or mosques, or whatever the case may be.

In the final analysis, it is up to the governor who to appoint to fill that vacancy. Then, once that vacancy is filled, that jurist has to stand for election at the next available election. Then it is up to the people, to either retain the appointee or to vote in someone else. It works! The process works! There is a downside, to be sure. The downside, quite frankly, is the financial cost of running, which continues to escalate. But everybody knows that going in. What makes it harder is that as a judicial candidate you cannot ask for money. As a mayor, you can ask somebody, "Would you contribute to my campaign?" As a jurist you cannot do that. I think that’s good, because then it’s the committee raising money. I know when I was on the Supreme Court, I never asked who contributed. Obviously I would see people at the fund raiser. We were limited to the amount of money that we could ask from a lawyer, which was a hundred dollars. I do think that the hundred dollar limit is ridiculous in these times, considering what it costs for a radio or television ad.

Ms. Baergen: You’ve now had many victories as mayor. You’ve got Compuware coming downtown, Campus Martius is being planned on the site of the old Hudson’s Building, GM has moved its world headquarters to the Renaissance Center, the stadia and the casinos are being built. You’ve made all those things happen. What do you want to see happen over the next few years?

Mayor Archer: A lot of current public announcements are things that are a culmination of a lot of hard work encouraging, promoting, asking, and demonstrating why it’s in someone’s best interest to be in the city of Detroit. The process, not just the end result, creates jobs and things of that nature. For example, people thought that about Comerica Park’s opening up this year. While it was being built, they could drive by and see the lights on. They could walk over, they could see where the grass has been laid and things are taking shape exceedingly well. What people don’t understand is that whether it’s a temporary casino or a stadium, jobs are created by the construction of the projects alone, not just when the projects are finished. Men and women are working to build the project, architects, engineers, electricians, not just to run it when its complete. [Author’s Note: Comerica Park opened to great fanfare on April 11, 2000, for the Detroit Tigers’ Opening Day.]

We’ve been very fortunate. What I would like to see over the next couple of years is for us to build out everything that’s been announced. It’s almost like we live in Missouri. Over the past years, so many things have been talked about but have never come into fruition that you have to show people now. So it’s nice to drive by and see the steel up at Comerica Park because, despite the special election that allowed the city to utilize public funds to help build the stadium, people said, "It’s not going to be built." Despite the commitment of the Ilitch family, the people thought that it was not going to be built. Now they see it up and now they believe it.

Well, we’ve laid bricks at the new Ford Field where the Detroit Lions will come back home and that stadium will be ready in 2002. But there are still those who say, "It’s not going to happen." But when they start seeing the hole being dug, and they start seeing the steel going up, and the whole skyline changing in that area, then they become believers. When we said the Hudsons Building had to come down, it took 11 lawsuits to finally get permission to implode Hudsons. When we started talking about developing a new office area, department stores, retail, etc., folks said, "That’s not going to happen." We now have a development agreement that would allow us to bring Compuware from Farmington Hills to downtown Detroit. When they are approved, and I believe they will be, that will give me the authority to enter into a contract to sign the development agreement with Compuware, and sign a development agreement for Campus Martius. [Author’s Note: Since the date of this interview, the development agreements for Compuware and Campus Martius have been approved and signed by all the parties.] We’ve also got a number of new housing developments and we’ve created new jobs in our empowerment zones, but we still have to build these things out.

Another challenge is to begin the process of substantially improving public education. Good public education is, I think, one of the critical points that every major city needs to have in order to keep its old residents and to attract new residents. Equally important, we need to have a quality work force for those employers who we want to keep in the city of Detroit. When a young person decides upon graduation from high school to enter the world of work, we’ve got to give an employer an employee who is educationally ready and whom the employer can hire without investing large sums of money to train. Right now, most of our employers spend money training employees to develop the skill sets that should have been learned in high school. That is money lost or not spent on research and development that could ultimately create a better product or even more jobs. So whether we want a youngster to go right out of high school and be ready to work, or to get into rigorous classroom training in college, we’ve got to substantially improve public education. I believe we’ve got the will to do that, and that will be a great start for us. We’ve already started a process, and I’ll be delighted to start seeing tangible academic scores improving for our students.

Ms. Baergen: What would you say in your work as a lawyer and as a judge helps you now in your day-to-day work as mayor?

Mayor Archer: The part of being a lawyer that is of the most assistance to me now is the advocacy that we, as lawyers, engage in on behalf of our clients. When I’m an advocate on behalf of my city, no one can sell my city better. If I were to go before a jury and talk about the city of Detroit, I could give a great opening statement, make my case, and give a brilliant closing argument in order to have a business move into our city or a foundation invest in our community. We’ve had the foundation community invest over $320 million in our city since I’ve been mayor. That’s unheard of. No city, I think, in the United States can match what we’ve been able to do in the six years since I’ve been mayor. Another thing I think has helped me immensely, and comes from having been on the Michigan Supreme Court, is the ability to listen. When the Court has oral arguments, the justices have read the briefs that have been provided to us, we’ve had long discussions with our law clerks, and we are well prepared to listen to the arguments and to ask whatever questions that we, as jurists, think should be asked to help us, or to help our colleague down the way come along to our way of thinking. As a judge at oral argument, you listen; as an advocate before the court, you speak. As a jurist on the Supreme Court you not only listen, but you also engage in researching the law and applying the law to the facts.

What we’ve learned, all of us, whether we’ve been justices on the Court, or law clerks, or commissioners, is that even though at the time that leave to appeal was granted everybody thought that some injustice had been done and that the case should be reversed, we might find, upon researching the law and applying the law to the facts, that the case was rightfully decided and we’ve got to affirm. I don’t engage in knee-jerk reaction. A lot of times you’ll read in the paper, especially in editorials, that I’m referred to as being judicial and not making quick decisions. I’ve found that when you make quick decisions, you make wrong decisions, and in the end it is better to gather the facts and do it right the first time than to hastily decide something only to find later that you were just flat out wrong and have to back up and reverse everything you thought was correct. Also, if you let your ego get in the way, you won’t allow yourself to admit that you have gone down the wrong path so you just multiply the problem.

Ms. Baergen: What would you tell a young man or woman who is thinking about going to law school?

Mayor Archer: I’d say that the law is one of the most outstanding professions that you could ever think about. The great thing about going to law school is that you expand your mind and open yourself up about how to approach things. You learn in law school to get the point. In circular conversations, you listen, but then you find out what the facts are. The beautiful thing about having graduated from law school and passed the bar is that you can engage in the profession—in many areas of your particular interest—you can be a trial lawyer or a mediator or negotiator, or you can engage in mergers or acquisitions. Or you may choose never to practice law, but to use the skill sets that you’ve learned and apply them in whatever occupation you choose.

A lot of folks do not know that Cardinal Adam Maida is a lawyer. There are a number of business people who are CEOs of companies who are trained as lawyers. They hire other lawyers to do the legal work, but they still use their legal skill sets. The vice chairman of General Motors Corporation is Harry Pearce, who is a brilliant lawyer. When I first met him, he was vice president and general counsel of General Motors. There are so many things you can do with a legal background that I would encourage anyone who has any interest to go to law school.

I would also admonish them that law school is a very jealous mistress or master, as the case may be. It is not something to treat lightly, as there is nothing that you’ve ever done in your life that prepares you for law school. You can take pre-law classes, but it’s not the same. The whole environment of law school is different. The competition is keen and sharp; you’ve got brilliant men and women who all want to be successful. You cannot blow off being prepared.

I would also remind them that the best way to be successful in law school is to continue to review the materials. Before you do your second day’s homework assignment you should review your case briefs and the notes you took in class from the prior class session because there may be something there that you don’t understand. If you don’t understand, write it down and ask your law professor while it’s fresh on the law professor’s mind and while it’s fresh on your mind. If you wait until the end of the semester and then start reviewing "cold" notes and something is not clear, it’s too late to go back. You can try, but it’s not the same. The law professor may have lost the train of thought, or you may not have time to track down the law. On the other hand, if you continue all along to review and build on what you’ve learned, then when you’re ready to start the final exams, it’s still going to be hard, but will not be as hard as if you just prepare for each class without reviewing the prior work. It’s all foundation. You build the foundation and it continues through law school. If you have Property I in one semester and you’ve got Property II in the second semester, it’s a presumption (and a correct presumption) by the law professor that you have learned everything that you should and that you have the predicates and foundations in Property I so that when Property II starts, the professor is not going to think about coming back and explaining things that were in Property I. That is your responsibility.

Ms. Baergen: What would you tell a young man or woman who said that they wanted to be mayor someday?

Mayor Archer: I’d say that being mayor is an excellent opportunity to serve. It is an opportunity in which, if your citizens believe that you merit the support and you’re actually elected to serve, there’s a lot of good that you can do. It’s important to be ethical. If you put the people of your city or your village first, you will generally never, ever do anything wrong. When you start doing things for political reasons, or doing them because you want to be re-elected, as opposed to doing something because it’s right, you wind up getting in trouble. If you start lying, it continues to escalate and, at some point, you are going to get in trouble. You should be prepared for everything you do to be on the front page of your daily newspaper. Despite all of your best efforts, some things over which you have no control will happen and, because you are the mayor, you’re going to get blamed for them. You might just as well stand up and say, "Here are the facts, here is what’s at issue, and here’s what we’re going to do to solve the problem."

While the trappings [of being mayor] may appear to be exceedingly great, the reality is that when you run for public office, you run because you want to do something good on behalf of the people you serve. If you get in that position, you need to put the people first. It’s enormously fun to be able to have someone share a complaint with you and then you solve it. When someone says the street light is out at such and such a place, you get on the phone and say, "Fix that street light." Or you drive down the street and you see something that’s not quite right, or you are at an event and somebody says, "My park where my kids play needs...." You drive by and see that yes, they need it. You pick up the phone and say, "Can we get this done?" or "Get this done right away." You drive back a day or so later and it’s done. Those are the nice things.

It’s fun being mayor. It is a responsibility that is generally a 16- to 18-hour day. There’s something you can do every day of the week. But you have to carve a little time out for sleep, and you have to carve out a little time where you sort of step away from what you’re doing so that you can think through issues and do some visioning in terms of where you want your city to go, or where your city wants you to take it.

Ms. Baergen: What are your personal plans for the future?

Mayor Archer: I don’t know what the future holds for me. I will tell you that when I was given an opportunity to join President Clinton’s administration after his re-election, I turned down three cabinet positions because I wanted to fill out my first term as mayor, because I had not accomplished what I thought I could and should, and because I wanted to run again. Of course, I didn’t know if I would be re-elected. Fortunately, I was re-elected by 83 percent of the vote.

In the next two years I will have finished my second four-year term. The option is to run again, and I’m working hard now to earn the right to run again, and to be successful if I run. If I did not run, I would more than likely return to the private practice of law. I don’t have any idea where that would be at this point, because it would be inappropriate even to pursue anything. I could work with a law firm or for a corporation, if that opportunity presented itself, or even buy and run a business. I have been running a business that has 17,000-plus employees with a $2.4 billion dollar budget, a business that I’ve been able to take from insolvency to an "A-" rating with Standard & Poors, an "A-" rating with Fitch and a "BAA" rating with Moody’s. [Author’s Note: The Fitch rating was raised to an "A" rating in March 2000.]

Frankly, I just don’t know what the future holds for me, but I will say that between serving in a cabinet position and being mayor, I’d rather be mayor. I’ve got so many good friends who have served in the Clinton/Gore administration who are cabinet officers and they come from different cities in America, but are now living in Washington. They’re never home. Home to me is Detroit, Michigan. It’s the same thing if you are governor—as governor you’ve got a responsibility to 83 counties. I’m working 16 to 18 hours a day now! At least I can come home and get in my bed at night. I may not be there long, but at least it’s my bed. And the same thing applies to the United States senators and congressional representatives. They are in Washington from Monday afternoon until Thursday evening, and when they come back, they’re not at home where they can hang out with their friends. A U.S. senator has to be all over the state making speeches at different events, at churches, and civic and governmental entities. The same thing with the United States Congress. When our two U.S. congressional representatives from Detroit come back home on Thursday evening, they’re all over the place. Thursday night, all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and then Monday afternoon they get back on the plane and go to Washington.

If I’m going to be in public office, for now I’d rather be mayor, because it’s closer to the people. You can see something once you get it done. Despite the fact that you might have 17,000 employees, if somebody does something inappropriate, although you have no direct control over that person, you still feel that. But you can at least make some changes and you can see the changes being made. So, I don’t know what the future holds. As long as the good Lord gives me good health, I want to do the very best at whatever it is that I do—whether it’s as mayor or as a lawyer, or as someone working with or for a corporation, or running my own business.

Ms. Baergen: You’ve been extremely active in bar activities throughout your career. Can you comment on that?

Mayor Archer: I am a devout bar "junkie." I stay active in the work of the organized bar. I go to the annual meetings of the National Bar Association, I go to the meetings of the American Bar Association, mid-year and annual. I am on the Board of Governors of the American Bar. I love the work of the bar. I loved being president of the Wolverine Bar Association and the National Bar Association and the struggles and the challenges that we undertook at the time. All self-development helps you grow, and being president of a national bar association was just a rare privilege and a treat. The National Bar Association is the nation’s oldest and largest predominantly African-American bar association. It was formed because lawyers of color, African Americans, could not even belong to the American Bar Association. Being president of the National Bar Association, and traveling the country and being with lawyers from all over America, is something I’ll never forget.

I do still have a burning desire to be president of the American Bar Association. That is something that I have deferred because of a higher desire to offer myself as mayor of the city of Detroit. Whether I choose to run again for mayor, or whether I choose to leave office, I would love to become president of the American Bar Association. I love our profession, I love the law, and I enjoyed being president of the State Bar of Michigan. I think that during the year in which I was president and the year leading up to it, I made a great contribution to the state. I loved working with Mike Franck and my fellow members of the Board of Commissioners, and the chairs of our sections within the Bar. If I can someday be president of the American Bar Association, that would be a capstone in terms of bar work.



Elizabeth A. Baergen graduated summa cum laude from Wayne State University Law School in 1985. She clerked for Justice Patricia J. Boyle from 1985-87, was a partner with the firm of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, and in 1996 established a "solo" law practice focused on commercial real estate law. Ms. Baergen first met Mr. Archer in 1986-87 while he was an associate justice on the Michigan Supreme Court and she was a law clerk for Justice Boyle. She contributes this personal "vignette" about Mr. Archer: "At dusk one evening in 1991 or 1992, after Mr. Archer left the Michigan Supreme Court, but before he ran for mayor, while stopped at a streetlight downtown outside Ham Heaven restaurant, I noticed Mr. Archer walking swiftly along the street, alone. A panhandler approached him, asking for a handout—Mr. Archer stopped, spoke with the person, handed him some money and clapped him on the shoulder before resuming his pace. For me, this brief interaction (unseen, for all Mr. Archer knew) demonstrated his genuine concern for the well-being of other people which is ‘lived out’ through his public service."


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