[Congressional Record Volume 161, Number 101 (Tuesday, June 23, 2015)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E953-E954]



                          HON. SANDER M. LEVIN

                              of michigan

                    in the house of representatives

                         Tuesday, June 23, 2015

  Mr. LEVIN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a proud son of 
Detroit, Michigan and a true icon in the law and in the civil rights 
movement, The Honorable Damon J. Keith. Judge Keith, a Senior Judge for 
the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, is the 
subject of a new film entitled ``Walk with Me: The Trials of Damon J. 
Keith.'' The world premiere of the film took place in Detroit on June 
17, 2015.
  It is truly fitting that Judge Keith's story be told, and that his 
contributions to our country be more widely known. The grandson of 
slaves, Judge Keith was born on July 4, 1922, in Detroit. Judge Keith's 
father worked in a Ford factory, and pushed his son to be the first 
person in his family to attend college. Judge Keith lived up to his 
father's expectations, graduating from West Virginia State College in 
1943. He was drafted into the Army during World War Two after 
graduating, and he served in a segregated unit in Europe. His 
experience in Europe as well as upon his return to the U.S. had a 
significant impact on him. As he told the Detroit Free Press in 2013, . 
. . ``after the war was over and I returned to the States, I could see 
white German soldiers riding in the front of the bus and going into 
restaurants in the States that said 'for whites only.' '' This spurred 
Judge Keith to pursue a legal career.
  Judge Keith attended the Howard University School of Law, where he 
was mentored by future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He 
received his degree in 1949 and returned to Detroit, where he later 
earned a Master of Laws from Wayne State University. In 1964, he 
founded one of the first African American law firms in Detroit. That 
same year, Judge Keith was elected co-chair of the Michigan Civil 
Rights Commission. The late Judge John Feikens served as the other co-
chair and my brother Carl as general counsel where he observed 
firsthand Damon Keith's exceptional dedication to civil rights for all 
Americans. Just three years later, at the recommendation of U.S. 
Senator Phil Hart, President Lyndon Johnson nominated him for 
appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of 
Michigan. After serving as Chief Judge of the District Court, in 1977 
President Jimmy Carter nominated him to the Sixth Circuit. He was 
confirmed, and he remains there today.
  His jurisprudence is notable for the number of landmark cases which 
came before him. Several of those cases had to do with issues of race 
and segregation, including Davis v. School District of the City of 
Pontiac in 1970, which was the first case in the North in which a 
federal court ordered integration, and Baker v. City of Detroit in 
1979, in which he ordered the Detroit Police Department to carry out 
Mayor Coleman Young's plan to integrate the department. One of the 
other cases for which he is known is U.S. v. Sinclair in 1971, in which 
he ruled that President Richard Nixon and the Attorney General had no 
right to wiretap individuals in domestic security matters without a 
court order. The Sixth Circuit upheld Judge Keith's decision, as did 
the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. U.S. District Court for the Eastern 
District of Michigan, which became known as the Keith case. And in 
2002, Judge Keith wrote the Sixth Circuit opinion upholding a lower 
court decision in Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft, which held that the 
Justice Department could not prevent the press and the public from 
witnessing deportation hearings of people suspected of having ties to 
  Recognizing his leadership despite a difference in judicial 
philosophy, in 1987 Chief Justice William Rehnquist named Judge Keith 
as National Chairman of the Judicial Conference Committee on the 
Bicentennial of the Constitution. In this role, Judge Keith led his 
colleagues throughout the country in efforts to promote the 
bicentennial of our nation's foundational document.
  In addition to his intelligence and his deep belief in the importance 
of equality for all people, Judge Keith is known for his respectful 
nature and his fundamental fairness. The director of ``Walk With Me,'' 
Jesse Nasser, recently told the Detroit Free Press, ``You're hard 
pressed to find anybody, whether he ruled for them or ruled against 
them, nobody will say a bad thing about him. Trust me, we tried. If we 
interviewed someone who was on the losing side of a case he ruled on, 
the first thing they'd say is, `Before we get started, let me go on the 
record saying Judge Keith is an incredibly fair judge and an incredible 
human being.' ''
  Just as the legendary Justice Thurgood Marshall mentored a young 
Damon Keith, so too has Judge Keith helped to guide many young people 
who, after having clerked for him, have gone on to achieve great 
things. Among those clerked for Judge Keith are Judge Eric L. Clay, who 
serves with Judge

[[Page E954]]

Keith on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals; former Michigan Governor 
Jennifer Granholm; Lani Guinier, the first African American woman to 
receive a tenured professorship at Harvard Law School; and Jocelyn 
Benson, the Dean of Wayne State University Law School, which is home to 
the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights and the Damon J. Keith 
Collection of African American Legal History.
  Mr. Speaker, perhaps the most quoted line of all of Judge Keith's 
decisions came from Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft, in which he wrote 
that ``Democracy dies behind closed doors.'' Judge Keith has devoted 
his life to opening doors for all in society, and indeed in ensuring 
that all who serve in government are accountable to the principles upon 
which our nation was founded, and which have been enhanced and enriched 
over time. I encourage my colleagues to join me in thanking Judge Damon 
J. Keith for his truly excellent and inspirational service to our