Mrs. Boyle )
Patricia Boyle was committed to many things but she held two things above the rest: her family and, as a jurist, to improving Michigan’s criminal justice system, according to relatives and colleagues.
“She dedicated her life to the law, professionally,” her son Jason Pernick said. “She authored some of the most important modern opinions on criminal justice issues.
“In her private life, she was as humble, as gentle a soul as you could hope to meet.”
Mrs. Boyle, a former judge on the Detroit and federal bench and Michigan Supreme Court justice, died Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, of respiratory failure while visiting a relative in Florida. She was 76.
A Detroit native, Mrs. Boyle came from a working-class family. Her father worked at Ford Motor Co. and her mother was a nurse. She became the first member of her family to attend college, graduating at the top in her class from Wayne State University Law School in 1963 after giving birth to three of her four children.
“She never lost sight of those humble beginnings,” Pernick said. “Even when she rose to one of the most important positions for law in state and in the nation, she never forgot where she came from.”
Despite her academic achievements, Mrs. Boyle had a difficult time getting a job because of sex discrimination, Pernick said. She began her first job as a legal clerk.
In 1965, Mrs. Boyle became an assistant U.S. attorney for the Department of Justice in Detroit, where she served until 1970.
But some of her most important work, she felt, was as a county prosecutor, her son said, where she developed a victim’s program with emphasis on the treatment of rape victims. Mrs. Boyle served on the Michigan Women’s Task Force on Rape and, along with her husband Terrance Boyle, she helped reform Michigan’s law on criminal sexual conduct, which was a model for many other states.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Mrs. Boyle’s legacy paved the way for women in the legal profession.
“I adored Justice Patricia Boyle and will miss her,” Worthy said in a statement. “But more importantly, the legal profession will miss her. She was a pioneer for women lawyers and opened doors in our profession. She was the smartest lawyer in the room and conducted herself with dignity and grace. She was just a wonderful person.”
Mrs. Boyle was named to Detroit Recorder’s Court in 1976. Within two years, she was rated the best of 20 judges in Recorder’s Court by the attorneys who practiced there.
In 1978, Mrs. Boyle was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. After five years, Boyle left that lifetime appointment to become a state Supreme Court justice, a post she held for 15 years until retiring at the end of 1998.
“She knew she could do more for the people of Michigan with the Michigan Supreme Court than as a federal judge,” Pernick said. “I don’t think she hesitated for a moment.”
For Pernick, an assistant prosecutor for Oakland County, it was comforting to be only one call away if he ever needed legal advice.
“After she retired, I would call her on the phone with whatever case I was working on to get her opinion see what she had to contribute,” Pernick said. “I felt I had distinct advantage having one of the finest legal minds ever to come out of state. All I needed to say was, ‘Mom, I need some advice.’”
During her retirement, Boyle enjoyed spending time with her family, especially attending performances and athletic events for her grandchildren.
Visitation for Mrs. Boyle will be held 2-8 p.m. Saturday at Lynch & Sons Funeral Home, 404 E. Liberty, in Milford. The funeral will be held at Milford Presbyterian Church, 238 N. Main St., in Milford on Sunday with family hour at noon. The service begins at 1 p.m.
Mrs. Boyle is preceded in death by her husband, Terrance; and grandson, Nathan Pernick. Other survivors include sons Jeffery Pernick, Kurt Pernick, David Pernick; daughter Katty Kerst; sister Linda Gillespie; grandchildren Brian, Sarah, Riley and Kerry; as well as her special canine companion, Mandy.