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Judge Richard M. Skutt 1947-2018 - Eulogy

Mar 01, 2018
Judge Richard M. Skutt 1947-2018
THIRD JUDICIAL CIRCUIT COURT

Richard M. Skutt

Sep 25, 1947 Feb 5, 2018
Obituary
 
The Honorable Richard M. Skutt of the Third Circuit Court, died February 5, 2018, at the age of 70. He was a resident of Plymouth, Michigan. He is survived by his beloved wife, Valerie Skutt; his loving daughter, Sabra Skutt-Morman; and his step-daughters, Candice (Kyle) Thom, and Shannon Penn; and his dear sisters, Patricia (Bill) Richert, and Pam (Ken) Bledsoe-Turner. Richard is preceded in death by his parents, Milton and Ruth (nee Kayner) Skutt.
Richard received his undergraduate degree from Eastern Michigan University, and went on to Wayne State University, where he received his law degree. He loved being a Judge in Detroit, Michigan, where he worked since 2004. Richard truly loved life, and when he wasn't working, he enjoyed his time hunting, fishing, and boating. He also enjoyed spending time at the Detroit Yacht Club, golfing in Arizona, and cruising in his Corvette. Richard was greatly loved by those who knew him, and he will be deeply missed.

Judge Skutt's chamber door and his bench were draped in black to mark his death. The Supreme Court adopted this tradition in the 19th century.
Eulogy for Judge Richard M. Skutt
By Judge Timothy M. Kenny

On behalf of all the judiciary present here and our entire Third Circuit Court family, we extend to Valerie, to Sabra, Candice, Shannon, and Judge Skutt's sisters Pat and Pam and other members of the family, including Jackie, his administrative assistant for the past 30 years, we extend our sympathy and our support to you during this very difficult time.
 
I want to take a few moments to share with you about my judicial colleague Judge Richard Skutt. Now we have heard this morning several references to Manhattans being consumed. I just want everyone here to know that at the Third Circuit Court we do not permit Manhattans to be consumed during Court hours. If we did, it may result in some very interesting decisions but we really discourage it.
 
There are many things that Law School does prepare you for in becoming a judge. First, you learn a secret language. You learn a language that is used only in the legal profession. Phrases such as res ipsa loquitor and the rule against perpetuities. These phrases make you sound smart and it may even make you sound elite.
 
Law School also teaches you a substantive knowledge of the law. For example, what constitutes a valid contract? What are the elements of murder in the second degree?
 
Law School also teaches you interestingly enough that being a judge is a pretty good gig if you can get it.
 
There are, however, many things that Law School doesn't teach. It doesn't teach one to be patient. It doesn't teach you to be fair to all. It doesn't teach you to be compassionate to those who have lost their way or those who are broken. It also doesn't teach you to be wise. These are the most important human qualities that one would hope we would find in a judge.
  
Our bench and our community was blessed to learn that when Governor Granholm appointed Dick to our bench in 2004, he brought with him all that Law School taught him and all the best human qualities.
 
Throughout his time on the bench and especially this week, the courtrooms and the corridors of the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice have resounded and have been filled with comments about Judge Skutt's fairness to all, his patience, especially with regards to things like the felony non-support docket. As you may or may not know, the parties who come before a judge on the felony non-support docket are either parties who are desperately needing child support funding, as well as those who either cannot or, in many incidences will not actually pay. This calls for an extraordinary amount of patience for someone to be able to resolve these types of disputes. Judge Skutt also never lost his temper with anyone. And for those of you who are the attorneys here in our audience, I just want you to know, that from the judicial perspective, we find that some of you are a little bit less charming than others. And also, Judge Skutt was a great listener. He was always willing to consider new and better ideas and better ways of resolving issues.
  
Judge Skutt was also a very valuable resource for our Court and I had assigned him to serve on a number of court committees. He had a passion for improving the Continuing Legal Education of attorneys who practice in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice and he was committed to making sure that indigent defendants received the quality legal representation that they deserved.
  
On a personal note, I'd like to make this comment, as we are in the midst of a harsh, winter spell we often wonder "When is spring going to come?" "What will be the first sure sign of spring?" "Will it be when the Tigers return?" "Will it be when we see the first robin?" For me the first sure sign of spring was when Dick's Corvette showed up at the back of the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.
  
We will miss seeing that Corvette this coming spring, but more than that, we will miss his compassion, his fairness, and his kindness.
 
We were richly blessed to have him as part of our court family for 13 years. We are diminished for losing him now.
  
Since I am Irish I wanted to close with this Irish humoral prayer for the family:
May you seek God's light on the path ahead
When the road you walk is dark
May you always hear even in your hour of sorrow
The gentle singing of the Lark
When times are hard may hardness
Never turn your heart to stone
May you always remember
When the shadows fall
You do not walk alone

Thank you.

By Shelly Payne
 
I first met Judge Richard Skutt and his family at the Detroit Yacht Club before he became a Judge.  Of course I didn't have a membership, but my friends did and they often took me and my daughter Shelly J to the Detroit Yacht Club with them and their children.  One day he was there while we were there and my best friend Judge Deborah Langston of the 36th District Court introduced me to him and his wife and his little girl Sabra.  That was many years ago when everybody's hair was long and thick without any hair color.  
 
I next met Judge Richard Skutt when he first came to the Third Judicial Circuit Court in the Family Division.  I called my friend Deborah and told her that we were getting a new Judge and that his name sounded familiar. She explained to me why it sounded familiar and tried without success to make me remember him but in the final analysis said that he would be a wonderful jurist.
 
Those were in the days where we had large jail calls at 2:00 p.m. before the Bench Warrant Judge; Friend of the Court Attorneys Amy McCarthy, (retired) Jeff Goldberg (retired) and I brought this large group of contemnors to his Court for failure to pay support.  The contemnors were placed in the jury box, the sheriffs were present and we were there.  Jeff always wanted to go first, Amy was still feverishly writing and arranging her files and tightening her arguments for contempt and speaking to house counsel.  I was sitting there realizing that I had the most litigants and I wondered where I could go to hide from the new Judge. 
 
When he came out we all stood up, I think I saw his jaw drop; and I wondered if it was allowable for me to crawl under the attorney table and call my cases from there.  I gave up on that idea and steadied my eyes on looking out of the window. I refused to make eye contact with the Judge.  Jeff went first, Amy went second and then it was my turn and the secret was out, I had the lions' share of the litigants.
 
While my legs felt like jello, I stood before Judge Skutt and called each case, ready at any time to be castigated for my zeal.  But instead I kept hearing mostly consents from the litigants' attorneys, some sentences for others.  At the conclusion of my portion of the hearing, I turned around and both Jeff and Amy were gone, so I had no cover.  Again, I wondered if I could complete my orders from under the attorneys' table with house counsel. Although I recognized that he had been merciful to the litigants in his rulings and merciful to the Friend of the Court Attorneys.
 
As I turned on my jello legs to go to the attorneys' table, I heard him call my name "Miss Payne" he said; "Yes Judge." I turned to him waiting for the tirade to come, still not making eye contact.  He said "Good Job!" to me; and that was the first time I looked and met his gaze. 
 
He showed himself to be a Just Judge and he had a wealth of legal knowledge that I listened to and gleaned from while in his courtroom as other attorneys argued their cases.  I never heard him yell at anybody!  Over time we'd talk and when I realized that we had the same set of social beliefs; I was always happy to be in his company. 
 
One day some years later, I was told that he was going to transfer to the Criminal Division. When I spoke to him about it, he said that it was true.  I assured him that the Family Division was a better place for him and I selfishly asked him not to go.  I assured him that he was at his best here with us; especially since he was so razor sharp intellectually without being vain.  I told him that he wouldn't know what to do with a litany of criminals.  He responded to me "Yes I will; because you taught me how to lock miscreants up for misdeeds."
 
I kept in contact with him after he left our Family Court Bench; but I will forever miss this very Just Judge, who was kind to me.
Consulting, LLC. Newsletter

I
In Our Hearts

We thought of you with love today,
But that is nothing new.
 
We thought about you yesterday,
And days before that too.
 
We think of you in silence,
We often speak your name.
 
Now all we have is memories,
And your picture in a frame.
 
Your memory is our keepsake,
With which we'll never part.
 
Although you are no longer with us,
We have you in our heart.


By Marsha Philpot
 
I remember Judge Richard Skutt "back in the day" when he was with law firms, first Glotta Rawlings & Skutt and then Glotta & Skutt, which were very involved in the defense of activists and for worker's rights in Detroit.
 
Consequently, I knew him, not as a staid and formal jurist, but in his earlier days, as an advocate for folks "in the movement," who needed assistance and counsel, and as a go-to lawyer for workman's compensation issues. He was even instrumental, during that time, in blocking attempts to tax injured workers, nationally.
 
There is much history to be written on the important role of the brave judges, lawyers, and activist firms who gave rulings and counsel in the efforts for racial equality and labor rights in Detroit and Judge Dick Skutt is one in that number. May he RIP.

By Cliff Woodards, II
 
Judge Richard M. Skutt: Uncut
 
With his colorful ties and his dry wit, Richard M. Skutt was the perfect fit, to be a judge I must submit.
 
Just a few days had passed since I saw him last. When I walked to the bench he looked aghast because I had arrived at quarter past, nine o'clock and he was in virtual disbelief and in utter shock.
 
That twinkle in his eye, and a joke he left fly with a smile across his face that could light up any place.
 
Judge Skutt would take the bench early each day, he always made sure everyone could have their say. Respectful, kind and always dignified, he was "judicial temperament" personified.
 
He was a model judge and a greater man, each lawyer who knew him became a fan. He had a wonderful disposition and a special touch, even defendants ended up saying "Judge thanks so very much."
 
So now the time has come to say goodbye. He earned his wings and had to fly. Helping the Lord to judge from beyond the sky, He couldn't have chosen a better guy.
 
Rest well Judge Skutt. You WILL be truly missed.
 
"From this time on, there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me as a reward in that day." - 2 Timothy 4:8