Thomas E. Brennan

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Thomas E. Brennan
Born (1929-05-27) May 27, 1929 (age 88)
Detroit, Michigan
Occupation Chief Justice

Thomas E. Brennan (born May 27, 1929) is the founder of Thomas M. Cooley Law School, the 81st Justice and Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, an attorney, and former jurist and educator in the U.S. state of Michigan.

Early life[edit]

Brennan was born in Detroit, Michigan, and graduated from the private Detroit Catholic Central High School, where he excelled in forensics. He attended the University of Detroit and earned a law degree from the University of Detroit Law School in 1952. In 1951, he married Pauline M. Weinberger, with whom he had 6 children: Thomas Jr., John, William, Mary Beth, Margaret and Ellen. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives from the Wayne County 1st District in 1952 and from the 6th District in 1954. In December 1955, he was the Republican Party candidate in the special election for the U.S. Representative from Michigan's 15th congressional district to fill the seat of John Dingell, Sr., who had died in office. Brennan lost to Dingell's son, John Dingell Jr.

In 1953, he joined the law firm of Waldron, Brennan, Brennan, and Maher, with whom he worked until 1961, when he was elected to a seat on the Common Pleas Bench. In 1963, he was appointed by Michigan Governor George W. Romney to the Wayne County Circuit Bench, and in 1964 he was elected to that same position.

Michigan Supreme Court[edit]

In 1966, at the urging of Governor Romney, Brennan, sought the nomination of the Republican Party as Associate Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. Brennan won the nomination, and the election. In 1969 and 1970, Brennan served as Chief Justice, the youngest Justice to serve in that capacity.

Founding the Thomas M. Cooley Law School[edit]

During his service on the Bench, Brennan received many requests for law school recommendations. This was the basis of his vision for a new, private, law school in Lansing, Michigan. In 1972, he incorporated the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Brennan left the Supreme Court on December 6, 1973, to dedicate his professional career to the newly formed law school.

Brennan served as first Dean of Cooley Law School until 1978, when he became its first president. Today, Cooley Law School has over 11,000 alumni, and has four campuses in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, located in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Auburn Hills. In 2010, Cooley Law School will celebrate its 32nd year of American Bar Association accreditation.

In 2012 Cooley opened a 4th Campus in Tampa Bay Florida.

Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society[edit]

Brennan is a charter member of the Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, and served as Treasurer until 2001. "My greatest joy is found with my family," said Brennan.[1]

Later career[edit]

Brennan was an unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Senator from Michigan in 1976, losing to Marvin L. Esch in the Republican primary election. In 1982, he was an unsuccessful candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, losing to Democrat Martha W. Griffiths in the general election.

Judging the Law Schools[edit]

Judging the Law Schools is a law school ranking using only American Bar Association (ABA) data, first published in 1996.[2] The rankings, also known as the Brennan rankings, are compiled and published by Brennan. Now in their tenth edition, the rankings are published in print form and online. They measure objective American Bar Association (ABA) statistics such as first time bar passage rates, course offerings, LSAT scores, tuition cost, academic facilities, employment, applicants, student and faculty diversity, as well as twenty other objective measures used by the ABA. In 2009 Harvard Law School and Georgetown Law School were ranked numbers 1 and 2.

Judging the Law Schools does not poll perceived reputation as do commercial publications such as U.S. News rankings, and no one statistic is weighted more than 3% in Cooley's ranking system.[3] Because large schools tend to be ranked higher in Judging the Law Schools due to wider course offerings, greater numbers of applicants, and larger academic facilities, critics have alleged that the rankings favor larger institutions such as Cooley.[4]

Cooley relies heavily on its library statistics in its own "Judging the Law School" rankings. Specifically, Cooley has 10 library-based statistics in its 2010 rankings, which included separate entries for the total square footage in the library, the seats available in the library, the amount of hours the library is open, the total number of volumes in the library, the total number of titles in the library, the number of librarians, the total hours that staff works in the library, and several other library-based criteria.[5] Cooley has been subject to intense criticism and backlash for assigning equal value of these library-based statistics to far more important factors such as bar passage rate and percentage of graduates employed following graduation.[6][7][8][9]


  1. ^ (Michigan Supreme Court. Michigan Reports: Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of Michigan. Rochester, N.Y.: Lawyers Co-operative Publishing Co., 1949--1998, Vol. 409.)[1]
  2. ^
  3. ^ Cooley Rankings in 2009
  4. ^ Brian Leiter's Law School Reports: The Cooley Law School Rankings
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^

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