The Hon. Charles “Charlie” Joiner, former Thomas M. Cooley Professor of Law Emeritus at Michigan Law and a former federal district judge, died March 10 in Naples, Florida, at the age of 101.
Judge Joiner received his law degree from the University of Iowa in 1939. His professional career in the following years spanned the breadth of the legal profession.
He began his career as a trial attorney in Des Moines, Iowa. He also served in the Army Air Corps, volunteering as an aviation cadet. He went on to become a flight instructor, then a pilot and crew commander of a B-29 bomber squadron in the Pacific during World War II.
After discharge from military service, he joined the Michigan Law faculty in 1947. He also became active in both Rotary International and city government.
As a law professor at Michigan, he developed an innovative teaching method that involved filming a series of faux accidents from different angles. Moot courts in law schools around the country used the footage. “Charlie cared deeply about the courts and the practicing Bar of Michigan, and devoted great energy to their improvement,” says John Reed, the Thomas M. Cooley Professor of Law Emeritus. “True to his surname, he was indeed a ‘joiner’ of associations, commissions, and other bodies working to reform flawed procedures; but more, he was a leader and creator of new structures. His fingerprints are on numerous current elements of Michigan law and lawyers.”
Throughout his life, Judge Joiner had an abiding interest in continuing legal education. In addition to his passion for designing new teaching materials, he also was a key advocate for the first national effort to provide a continuing education program for lawyers returning home after the war. “Michigan’s preeminent Institute of Continuing Legal Education was his brainchild,” notes Reed, “as was the creation of Michigan’s district courts, replacing an antiquated system of justices of the peace.” His reputation as a gifted legal scholar attracted the attention of Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Earl Warren, who requested his aid in authoring the proposal that resulted in the Uniform Rules of Evidence for the federal court system. Later, the chief justice recruited him to serve on the Civil Rules Advisory Committee, the Standing Committee on Civil Rules of the Judicial Conference, and the Committee to Review Circuit Council Conduct and Disability Orders (Ethics). He served as associate dean of Michigan Law from 1960 to 1968 and then as acting dean for a year before he was appointed dean of Wayne State University Law School in 1967. “Charlie was an especially friendly and kind individual,” says Douglas Kahn, the Paul G. Kauper Professor of Law Emeritus. “In his year as interim dean, he made a number of improvements to the services available to the faculty, including the creation of a faculty room. Prior to that, there was no place for faculty to gather and talk informally.”
In 1972, President Richard Nixon nominated him to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan that had been vacated by the Hon. Talbot Smith, ’34. On the federal bench, Judge Joiner heard and decided a number of significant and landmark cases, both civil and criminal. Among them were some of the first cases involving the use of polygraph technology in the federal system. After taking senior status in 1984, he sat by invitation on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit until 1997.
Judge Joiner is survived by three children: Charles Jr. (Katherine), Nancy (Stan) Bidlack, and Richard; seven grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.