Thomas E. Brennan

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Thomas E. Brennan (May 27, 1929 – September 29, 2018) was an American lawyer who was the founder of Thomas M. Cooley Law School, the 81st Justice and Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, an attorney and educator in the U.S. state of Michigan.

Thomas E. Brennan
54th Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court
In office
Preceded byJohn R. Dethmers
Succeeded byThomas M. Kavanagh
81st Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court
In office
January 1, 1967 – December 6, 1973
Preceded byOtis M. Smith
Succeeded byJohn W. Fitzgerald
Personal details
Thomas Emmett Brennan

(1929-05-27)May 27, 1929
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
DiedSeptember 29, 2018(2018-09-29) (aged 89)
Lansing, Michigan, U.S.
OccupationChief Justice

Early lifeEdit

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., Margaret, John, William, Marybeth, 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 CourtEdit

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 SchoolEdit

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.

Later careerEdit

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 SchoolsEdit

Judging the Law Schools is a law school ranking using only American Bar Association (ABA) data, first published in 1996.[1] The rankings, also known as the Brennan rankings, are compiled and published by Brennan. 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. 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.[2] 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.[3]

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 number 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.[4] 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.[5][6]


He died in Lansing, Michigan on September 29, 2018.[7][8]


  1. ^ "ILRG: Brennan's Law School Rankings".
  2. ^ Cooley Rankings in 2009 Archived 2011-09-30 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Brian Leiter's Law School Reports".
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-16. Retrieved 2012-05-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Mystal, Elie. "Latest Cooley Law School Rankings Achieve New Heights of Intellectual Dishonesty".
  6. ^ "Thomas Cooley Law School's Reputation Is In The Dumps... So It's Thinking About Changing Its Name".
  7. ^ 3, NEWSCHANNEL. "Founder of WMU law school dies at 89".CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ House Concurrent Resolution No. 28 (2018): A concurrent resolution of tribute offered as a memorial for the Honorable Thomas Brennan, former Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court

External linksEdit