Michigan’s role as America’s industrial heartland has assured that the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan would be the crucible in which important legal principles would be tested and applied. The need to understand that history of the law and its application in the industrial heartland has led to the formation of the Historical Society for the Eastern District of Michigan. As judges, lawyers and other citizens worked to apply and adapt the Constitution and the laws to the industrialization and urbanization of the United States, they gave fresh meaning to the principles on which the American Republic was founded. The emergence of lumbering and railroading followed by the production of railroad cars and engines and then the manufacture of automobiles tested the relevance of the law to the new industrial age.

Located on four of the Great Lakes and the Detroit, St. Clair and St. Mary’s Rivers, Michigan also developed as a major shipping center resulting in key admiralty decisions by the Court. With the rise of the trade union movement, the Eastern District played a vital role in the evolution of law governing the right of workers to organize themselves into unions. In the turbulent decade of the 1960s the Eastern District’s docket became an especially important focal point for the effort to protect the civil rights and civil liberties of Americans.

As one of the largest federal courts in the country, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan through its Historical Society seeks to nurture an awareness of its past and its historical significance.  It is the goal of the Historical Society to accomplish that purpose.


The Historical Society was formed in 1992 to preserve the history of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and the men and women associated with it. The goals for the Society include:

  • Assisting federal district judges in preserving their records and personal papers;
  • Continuing an oral history program to collect and preserve the reminiscences of current and former Judges, attorneys, court officials and others;
  • Promoting public education concerning significant cases;
  • Collaborating with other organizations in historical preservation projects;
  • Publishing periodic newsletters about the history of the court;
  • Sponsoring speakers at its Annual Meeting to discuss topics relating to the history of the Court; and
  • Maintaining a museum area in the Courthouse for displaying artifacts and presenting various historical exhibits.