Justice Brian K. Zahra was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court on January 14, 2011, by Governor Rick Snyder. Prior to serving on the Supreme Court, he served 12 years on the Michigan Court of Appeals and 4 years on the Wayne County Circuit Court.
Justice Zahra received his undergraduate degree in 1984 from Wayne State University. To finance his education, he opened and operated a small health and personal care retail store in downtown Detroit, later opening a grocery outlet, also in Detroit, with two partners. In 1987, he graduated with honors from the University of Detroit School of Law, where he was a member of the Law Review. While in law school, he also served as Articles Editor of the State Bar of Michigan's Corporation and Finance Business Law Journal. He then served as law clerk to Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan for two years before joining the law firm of Dickinson, Wright, Moon, Van Dusen & Freeman in 1989. In 1994, Governor John Engler appointed him to the Wayne County Circuit Court. He was elected to a six-year term in 1996 and continued to serve on the Circuit Court until December of 1998, when he was appointed to the Michigan Court of Appeals by Governor Engler. He was elected to six-year terms on the Court of Appeals in 2000 and 2006. From December 2005 to January 2007, he served as the Court of Appeals' Chief Judge Pro Tem.
Justice Zahra has taught evidence as an adjunct professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. He 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 has also served on the Michigan Board of Law Examiners, which drafts and grades the examination that law school graduates must pass in order to become licensed attorneys.
Justice Zahra has been active in many civic and charitable organizations, including Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, Kiwanis Club International, Leadership Detroit, the Knights of Columbus, the Novi Youth Hockey Association, the Maltese American Community Club, and the Maltese American Benevolent Society, of which he is a past officer. He is a former board member and officer of the Catholic Lawyers Society, and he is a member of the Federalist Society, having served as secretary and vice-president of the Michigan chapter.
Justice Zahra frequently attends School of Law events and is quick to respond to requests for his assistance by the administration, faculty, and student organizations.
ALUMNI Award Criteria
Spirit of UDM: Alumni Achievement Award
On April 11, 2014, University of Detroit Mercy hosted the inaugural University-wide celebration, Spirit of UDM: Alumni Achievement Awards. The new event honored distinguished alumni with an Alumni Achievement Award. The 2014 award recipient on behalf of the School of Law is Brian K. Zahra ('87), Justice, Michigan Supreme Court. At the School of Law's Reunion on November 15, 2014, we will recognize Justice Zahra as the recipient of this tremendous honor.
The Spirit of UDM Alumni Achievement Award was established to recognize distinguished graduates, from the University's colleges and schools, who have excelled in their chosen profession, demonstrated outstanding leadership in their work, and benefitted the wider community through their support. Award recipients reflect the University's mission of excellence and service and bring pride to their alma mater.
This award is what we previously called the Law Alumnus of the Year Award. Previous recipients of that award are:
1985 Hon. James H. Brickley ('54)
1985 Nathan B. Goodnow ('30)
1985 Frank J. Kelley ('51)
1986 Donald H. Mitzel ('51)
1986 Hon. James L. Ryan ('57)
1987 Hon. Thomas G. Kavanagh ('43)
1988 Hon. George R. Deneweth ('42)
1989 John A. Kruse ('52)
1990 William L. Cahalan ('51)
1991 William D. Gilbride, Sr. ('50)
1992 James A. Courter ('61)
1993 Hon. Michael F. Cavanagh ('66)
1994 Hon. Joseph A. Sullivan ('48)
1995 Hon. Alice R. Resnick ('64)
1996 Hon. Louis F. Simmons, Jr. ('56)
1997 William D. Booth ('62)
1998 Thomas C. Mayer ('55)
1999 Charles R. Rutherford ('57)
2000 Hon. Roman S. Gribbs ('54)
2001 Eugene A. Gargaro, Jr. ('67)
2002 Hon. Peter E. Deegan ('66)
2003 Edmund M. Brady, Jr. ('66)
2004 Hon. Maura D. Corrigan ('73)
2005 L. Brooks Patterson ('67)
2006 Frederick W. Lauck ('69)
2007 Denise Ilitch ('80)
2008 Hon. Patrick J. Duggan ('58)
2009 Lawrence G. Campbell ('69)
2010 Joseph V. Walker ('72)
2011 Robert A. Ficano ('77)
2012 Hon. Michael J. Talbot ('71)
2013 Judiciary Honored
The 2014 Spirit of UDM: Alumni Achievement Award honorees on behalf of the other schools and colleges of the University are:
School of Architecture – Philip Kinsella '58, Architect and Managing Principal, KRJDA, LLC Architects
College of Business Administration – Emil Brolick '69, '72, President & CEO, The Wendy's Company
School of Dentistry – John DiBiaggio, D.D.S. '58, Former President of Tufts University, Michigan State University and University of Connecticut
College of Engineering & Science – William C. Young '64, CEO, Absopure Water Co. and Plastipak Holdings
College of Health Professions – Nancy Susick MSN, RN '86, Senior Vice President, Beaumont Health System and President, Beaumont Hospital, Troy
College of Liberal Arts & Education – Frederick M. Seibert '70, '73, Owner & President, Preece, Inc.