Michigan Legal Milestones
13. Improving Justice

The idea for the American Judicature Society was born in Manistee during a boat ride on Lake Michigan shared by founder Herbert Harley and benefactor Charles Ruggles on a hot summer day. Dedicated and placed on a boulder in a corner of the Manistee City Marina on River Street in downtown Manistee on May 30, 1991.

Complete Text on Milestone Marker

Improving Justice

One lazy summer day in 1911, Manistee residents Herbert Harley and Charles Ruggles discussed reform of the American justice system while floating in a skiff on Lake Michigan near here. That conversation led to the birth of the American Judicature Society, a national organization of more than 20,000 citizens—judges, lawyers, and non-lawyers—dedicated to improving the nation's justice system.

Ruggles was a successful lumberman who could neither read nor write, but had an innate sense of justice. Harley was a lawyer, editor, and reformer who helped make Manistee one of the first cities in the nation to adopt the city manager system. Ruggles provided the funding, while Harley garnered nationwide support for the American Judicature Society, established in Chicago in 1913.

Today, through its conferences, publications, research, and other programs, AJS works to assure an independent, responsive, and highly ethical judiciary, and exercises a profound and positive influence on the administration of justice in the federal courts and the courts of all 50 states.

Every American is a beneficiary of the legacy of that long ago boat ride by two Manistee residents.

Placed by the State Bar of Michigan and the Manistee County Bar Association, 1991.