Justice unveiled

The artist’s wife was the model for the Lady Justice statue that is on display in the Michigan Supreme Court’s Learning Center.
Becky Vargo
Apr 30, 2014

The mechanical model used for casting that statue now resides at the Ottawa County Courthouse in Grand Haven.

The statue will be unveiled during the Law Day celebration set for 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the courthouse.

A reception will follow in the courthouse’s ground level jury assembly room. Ottawa County Circuit Court Administrator Kevin Bowling will give public tours of the not-so-public spaces in the building following the reception.

A connection from the past helped pull together the art that sits in the clock tower lobby of the courthouse. Bowling said he worked with sculptor Jeff Bernstein to create the statue for the state building.

“Before I came to Grand Haven 11 years ago, I spent 20 years at the Michigan Supreme Court,” Bowling said. “When the new Justice Hall was built, I helped design the Learning Center.”

Four years ago, when working on plans for the Ottawa County Courthouse, Bowling learned that Bernstein still had the model used for the Lady Justice statue. That’s when talks began about bringing the statue to Grand Haven.

“It’s about 12 years old,” Bernstein said as a co-worker did some finishing touches on the statue last week. “It’s been in my studio since I created it.”

Bernstein said they didn’t like the schools of thought for Lady Justice statues already in existence throughout the country. One type is the Civil, which shows a very muscular woman, he said. The other is vamp-like – a slight figure with a loose skirt and somewhat revealing.

A search led them to a statue in an Indiana courthouse that showed more “innocence of youth.” That means that judging something would likely be less prejudiced, Bernstein explained.

The sculptor used his wife as a model for the piece.

“We found some material to drape on Jean and used several different poses before coming up with the one we liked,” Bernstein said.

When Bowling approached Bernstein about purchasing the model, he was told the cost to finish it and get it to Grand Haven was about $7,000. Bowling said he negotiated it down to $4,200, and then worked with members of the Ottawa County Bar Association to raise the funds. A $2,000 donation by the FTC&H Architects firm was added to the fund.

Bernstein said the statue is made of metal, wood, polyurethane and epoxy. It was bronzed and finished by Jim McIntosh.

Law Day

“Why Every Vote Matters” is the title of a talk planned by David Rhem, a member of the Ottawa County Bar Association, during Thursday’s Law Day ceremony. “Every Vote Matters” is also the theme of this year’s event, said local organizer Jennell Challa, director of Ottawa County Friend of the Court.

Staff members will be available in the county clerk’s offices in Grand Haven and West Olive (Fillmore Street site) to help people learn more about the election process, Challa said.

Assistance will also be offered in voter registration. Although 97 percent of Ottawa County residents are registered to vote, Challa said many of them do not know where to vote.

A display commemorating the life of former Ottawa County Circuit Judge Wendell Miles has been set up on the first floor of the courthouse, in cooperation with the Tri-Cities Historical Museum. Judge Jon Hulsing will remark on Wendell’s contribution to the county during the ceremony.

Miles, originally from Holland, served as an Ottawa County judge from 1970-74, when he became a federal district judge.

Several law professors, attorneys and students from Michigan State University’s Legal Clinic will be available at the Ottawa County Courthouse to provide free legal services from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Challa said. They are working in conjunction with the Legal Self-Help Center.

Challa said anyone seeking help should go into the courthouse and will be directed to the proper location — either the MSU Law Bus outside or one of the conference rooms in the courthouse.

Also Thursday, winners of the Law Day Art Competition will be announced.

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