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United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Doctor of Humane Letters



In a judicial career that has spanned nearly half a century, the Honorable Damon J. Keith has established a legacy as a crusader for justice through his meticulously reasoned rulings.

A courageous defender of constitutional rights, Judge Keith, a son of Detroit, has been a major catalyst in the drive for civil rights in Michigan and the nation. His rulings have desegregated school districts and sought redress for systemic racism in the private sector. His landmark 1971 ruling, often referred to as the Keith Decision, prohibited the federal government from engaging in warrantless wiretapping. He and a panel returned a similar decision to another president in 2002 when the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals declared it unlawful to conduct deportation hearings in secret.

In these and countless other decisions, Judge Keith has opened previously closed doors, eloquently and forcefully defending the civil rights so often denied to the nation’s less fortunate citizens. Off the bench, he has fought for these same causes with just as much passion. He has brought his unwavering vision and leadership to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, the NAACP, and many other organizations and causes over the years, earning him the admiration of presidents, judges, business leaders and everyday citizens. He has received more than 40 honorary degrees and the prestigious Spingarn Medal from the NAACP. Recognizing his contributions to the fight for freedom and equality, Judge Keith was inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame in 2010 and the following year was honored by his alma mater when Wayne State University opened the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights.

In recognition of his tenacious dedication to social justice, his vigorous advocacy for civil rights, and his lifetime of leadership, University of Detroit Mercy is pleased to present the Honorable Damon J. Keith with the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Commencement, University of Detroit Mercy, May 9, 2015.


University of Detroit Mercy

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