Brian K. Zahra ’87
Justice, Michigan Supreme Court
School of Law
Michigan Supreme Court Justice Brian K. Zahra ’87 is respected not only as an arbiter of justice but also as a community leader. Zahra received his undergraduate degree in 1984 from Wayne State University and graduated with honors in 1987 from the University of Detroit School of Law, where he was a member of the Law Review and served as Articles Editor of the State Bar of Michigan’s Corporation and Finance Business Law Journal. He also taught evidence as an adjunct professor. After graduating, he became a law clerk to Judge Lawrence Zatkoff of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. In 1989, he joined the law firm of Dickinson, Wright, Moon, Van Dusen & Freeman.
Governor John Engler appointed Zahra to the Wayne County Circuit Court in 1994. Two years later, Zahra was elected to a six-year term on the circuit court. In December 1998, Governor Engler appointed him to the Michigan Court of Appeals, where he was elected to two consecutive six-year terms, beginning in 2000. From December 2005 to January 2007, he served as the Court of Appeals’ Chief Judge Pro Tem. Justice Zahra was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court on Jan. 14, 2011 by Governor Rick Snyder, and he won election to the Court in November 2012.
Zahra has served on many professional and legislative committees, including the Michigan Civil Jury Instructions Committee, the Circuit Court Appellate Rules Committee, the Domestic Violence Legislation Implementation Task Force and the advisory committee for the Michigan Judicial Institute Domestic Violence Benchbook. He also served on the Michigan Board of Law Examiners.
Zahra is active in many civic and charitable organizations, including Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, Kiwanis Club International, Leadership Detroit, and the Knights of Columbus. He is a board member and former officer of the Catholic Lawyers Society, and is a member of the Federalist Society.
Zahra resides in Northville Township with his wife, Suzanne.
Below is an excerpt from Brian Zahra’s remarks upon accepting his award at the Spirit of UDM: Alumni Achievement Awards, April 11, 2014. View a video of his remarks and those of the other awardees.
“President Garibaldi, Dean Harris, Assistant Dean Hickey, Mark Wisniewski and members of the Law School Alumni Board, thank you for this honor. And congratulations to the honorees from the other fine schools of the University. I am humbled to share this evening with you.
Nobody gets to their station in life on their own and I would like to take a moment to thank some of the people who have helped me along the way.
Much credit goes to my law professors, many of whom continue to educate at the law school. In particular, thanks go to Professors Abrams, Brown, Dubin, Hand, Goldman, Krisciunas, Lysaght and Mazurak. Thanks also to the beloved Professor Patrick Keenan, who left this world eight years ago at far too young an age. Time does not permit me to tell you how each one of these professors enhanced my life, but my heartfelt gratitude goes to every one of them.
In sum, I have been blessed to have the support and encouragement of many wonderful people with ties to the University. I am honored to receive this award, and I will always endeavor to make the law school and the University proud.”