Cornelia G. Kennedy, "First Lady of the Michigan Judiciary," was the first woman appointed to the federal bench in Michigan and the first woman to become a chief judge for a United States District Court. Judge Kennedy was nominated to U.S. District Court in 1970 and to U.S. Circuit Court (Federal Appeals Court) in 1979. Although never actually nominated to the Supreme Court, she was mentioned in connection with vacancies there during the administrations of three different U.S. Presidents. In addition to her court-related duties, the collection reflects Kennedy's service to the Judicial Conference of the U.S. and the Federal Judicial Center as well as the American Bar Association and other professional organizations. The collection also contains materials from Wayne County Circuit Court. This finding aid includes a Summary Contents List and expanded Scope and Content Note to provide a brief summary of the Federal Court System's structure and history as well as notes on some of the organizations comprising the context of a legal career that spanned more than half a century.
The Cornelia G. Kennedy papers span Kennedy's career as a judge, beginning with her election to Wayne County Circuit Court (the 3rd Judicial Circuit of Michigan, which includes the City of Detroit) in 1966. The bulk of the collection documents her service as an active federal judge, from the time of her appointment to Federal District Court in 1970 through her confirmation and service in Federal Appeals Court, until she assumed senior federal judge status in 1999.
The collection is valuable not only in that it documents the professional and some of the private life of a federal judge who achieved many 'firsts' as a woman but also for the collection's contribution to an understanding of the federal court system and the evolution of judicial ethical standards and practices, especially with respect to financial disclosure, confidentiality, and conflicts of interest.
To some extent, the history of information and communications technology during the period is also represented in the collection through its examples of different correspondence media in different eras and through materials pertaining to the advent of computer-aided legal research in court libraries and the use of new technologies in federal courtrooms.
Inevitably, Judge Kennedy's long family history in the practice of law coincided with significant milestones in American history and in the development of judicial administration organizations and policy. Kennedy's father had graduated from law school and begun his legal career with World War I on the horizon. Kennedy graduated from law school as the national economy was transforming itself after World War II, and as the federal court system was beginning a new era in judicial practice and in judicial review of administration.
Description of Series Content
This collection is divided into ten series: Personal and Biographical; Correspondence; Speeches and Writings; Wayne County Circuit Court; U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan; U.S. Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit; Judicial Conference of the United States; Federal Judicial Center; American Bar Association; and Other Professional Organizations and Meetings.
Of necessity, some series include materials of multiple formats, located together primarily with regard to conceptual content rather than format and some types of materials are found in multiple series. For example, correspondence can be found not only in the Correspondence series but also within court-related series to the extent that it relates to matters addressed there.
Throughout the collection, Judge Kennedy's own phrasing is used whenever possible to describe file folder contents. Some examples of her original file folders of administrative papers and office files also contain handwritten notes and have been retained in the collection to provide additional information to the researcher. These original folder labels and notations also help to illustrate the use of different terminology in different time frames.