Cass County cuts ribbon at new law, courts facility

Published 11:00 am Thursday, July 24, 2003

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS -- Beautiful, it may be.
But this array of steel, concrete, wood and tile "isn't alive yet."
Cass County's new Law and Courts Building, 60296 M-62, "is going to come to life as all of you give it life," Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Maura Corrigan said at Wednesday's dedication on behalf of all 616 of the state's judges on an "extraordinary day in the history of Cass County."
The "energy, ingenuity and generosity of the people of Cass County is evident in every line of this beautiful new facility," she said.
Teter attended the dedication.
She invited the Building Authority and county commissioners "to go on the road with me. There are a lot of counties in Michigan that could use your ingenuity and dedication. You could teach a lot of lessons around our state. You have a can-do attitude."
Corrigan also had a point of reference for Building Authority Chairman G. Bruce Laing. His grandfather, U.S. Sen. Prentiss Brown, was a leader in the building of the Mackinac Bridge. "It's wonderful to see the reach of Cass County continuing," she said.
Corrigan closed her dedicatory remarks with this wish: "May the doors swing wide to let in those who seek justice, may the floors and walls be strong enough to carry the burdens of those who enter it and may all who come here depart in safety and in peace."
Its floors will be paced daily by citizens seeking justice in all sorts of cases -- criminal, civil, Family Court -- "and whether or not justice is done is going to depend on the work of the people in this courtroom now -- the three D's," Corrigan said in reference to Judges Michael Dodge, Paul Deats and Susan Dobrich -- "their staffs, the prosecutors, the defense lawyers and the juries. It's going to depend on their fidelity to their calling as members of our justice system."
The county's fourth courthouse since 1829, the $8.5 million Law and Courts Building, can serve as a reminder "that our institutions aren't stone monuments, permanent, invulnerable and unchanging…"
They need our care. The building that's here today reminds us that's what built can be destroyed if we aren't vigilant."
Terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, drove home "how very important and how very precious our democracy and our democratic institutions are. Any time you build a new building, it's a hopeful enterprise. Whenever you see a new house going up, you think about the people who will make their home there. When you see a new building going up, I think about -- and probably you do, too -- the new jobs and the better lives that are happening in the community. To build a new courthouse carries a sense of hope, too, but with an important difference. As (Pastor William Bruneau) said in the opening prayer, a courthouse is more than a physical structure. It is a symbol of ordered liberty, of justice. We here in the United States of America know how to resolve our disputes peacefully with one another.
Corrigan said, "I think today we understand that democracy and the permanence of our institutions depend, first of all, on our hearts. We know, since Sept. 11, that our democracy and our government last only as long as men and women of courage are faithful to their oaths of office and to our Constitution. Faith is really what it's all about. That is really what holds this courthouse together and every other such building in our country."
Most people who patronize courthouses are unhappy, she pointed out, creating the "popular perception that the courthouse belongs to the judges, the attorneys and, sometimes, to the criminals, but all of us know better than that. The courthouse is the people's building. It is here to do the people's business. To encourage and to facilitate justice.