Michigan Supreme Court Justice Brian Zahra teaching UM-Dearborn course

Photo courtesy of zahraforjustice.com
Photo courtesy of zahraforjustice.com

BY COURTNEY MORRISON, Guest Writer

From Sheriff Deputies, to psychologists, to engineers, we have a diverse and impressive group of faculty on staff at University of Michigan-Dearborn. This semester, UM-Dearborn had the pleasure of adding a Michigan Supreme Court Justice to its faculty.

Supreme Court Justice Brian Zahra began teaching American Judicial Processes at the start of this semester. As a former lawyer and circuit court judge, Zahra offers students the opportunity to gain valuable insight from his past experiences.

Zahra graduated from Wayne State for his undergrad and the University Of Detroit School of Law shortly after. To get through law school, he partnered with another student and started a personal healthcare store. The store was successful and helped him finance his way through school.

The judge started his career as a clerk for Judge Lawrence Zatkoff, which he did for two years. Zahra considers Judge Zatkoff to be one of the most influential people in career and a close mentor.

A few years later, Zahra had made his way to partner at the law firm of Dickinson, Wright, Moon, Van Dusen, and Freeman. Zahra said he was “A bit frustrated with the functioning of judges he had seen in court as a trial lawyer.” So, when Governor Engler appointed Zahra to the court, he made the decision to become a “rule-of law judge”; to interpret the law as it’s written, not by his personal beliefs.

Zahra has been a judge since 1994, having served on the Wayne County Circuit Court, and the Michigan Court of Appeals. He says that the best part of his role is the intellectual challenges his colleagues pose and the debates they get into. However, the aspect he finds most rewarding is his ability to have an impact on the development of the law.

While Zahra enjoys most of the responsibility that comes with his position, stressful campaigning also comes with the territory. Since judges cannot ask for donations to their campaign, money has to be acquired through fundraising. His fundraising took place statewide during his campaign which he found both mentally and physically exhausting. Zahra compared running for office to trying a case in court.

“When I was a lawyer I couldn’t say during a case that I enjoyed trying it. There was anxiety, stress, sleeplessness, and always having to prepare.”
However, Zahra says the end result of elections is very rewarding, especially if there is a win involved. He had plans to run for Congress when he was younger, but when asked if he still had those plans, he replied with a definite no. Congressmen have to run for office every two years and that is simply too taxing for the judge.

Zahra is no stranger to the classroom, as he used to teach law at the University of Detroit Mercy. Judge Zahra enjoys interacting with students who have intellectual curiosity. He advises students to follow their passion in choosing a career path while also paying attention to the job availability in the field. His plans for the future are to continue with his eight year term in the Michigan Supreme Court and teaching on campus.

  • T Sparky

    Welcome abaord Justice Zahra. Who better to teach about the judicial process than someone involved in it every day.