Brian K. Zahra

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Brian K. Zahra
106th Associate Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court
Assumed office
January 15, 2011[1]
Nominated by Rick Snyder
Preceded by Maura Corrigan
Personal details
Education Divine Child High School
Alma mater Wayne State University (B.A.)
University of Detroit (J.D.)
Religion Roman Catholic

Brian K. Zahra is a Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. He was appointed to fill a vacancy by Governor Rick Snyder in 2011. Zahra won his bid for reelection in 2014 to retain his seat for eight more years, per the Michigan Constitution.

Personal life[edit]

Zahra attended Wayne State University where he was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity (PIKE) and worked his way through college by opening a health and beauty-aid store in downtown Detroit, which he expanded into a full grocery store. He subsequently graduated from the University of Detroit School of Law with honors in 1987. While in law school 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.[2] He is of Maltese descent.

Zahra currently resides in Northville Township with his wife Suzanne and their two children.[2]


Upon graduating law school, Zahra clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Zatkoff until he joined the law firm of Dickinson, Wright, Moon, Van Dusen & Freeman in 1989.[2] He also served as a Wayne County Circuit Court judge from 1994-98 and was appointed to the Michigan Court of Appeals by Republican Governor John Engler in 1999.[3] In 2004, he was nominated and ran for the Michigan Supreme Court. While losing that bid for election, he remained on the Court of Appeals.[4] Zahra then went on to serve as Chief Judge Pro Tem for the Court of Appeals from December 2005 to January 2007.[2]

On January 11, 2011, Republican Governor Rick Snyder appointed Zahra to replace Maura Corrigan, who was in turn appointed to head the Michigan Department of Human Services. Governor Snyder's appointment of Zahra maintained the Republican nominees' 4-3 majority.[5]

In naming Zahra, Governor Snyder stated "Brian has a tremendous record. He served for 16 years on the bench, both on the Court of Appeals and in Wayne County. ... He's a rule-of-law judge, which was one of our key criteria, and he's recognized for being one of the hardest working people in the state of Michigan with respect to the judiciary."[6] Former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, a Democrat, who worked with Zahra at the Dickinson Wright law firm called him an "outstanding and fair-minded judge" who is "going to follow the law."[5]

Zahra served as an adjunct professor at the University of Detroit law school, teaching evidence, and He has served on various bar and legislative committees, including the advisory committee for the Michigan Judicial Institute Domestic Violence Benchbook and the Domestic Violence Legislation Implementation Task Force. Zahra is currently a member of the Federalist Society, which he has served as secretary and vice-president, and he served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Catholic Lawyers Society.[4]

Judicial philosophy[edit]

Zahra characterizes himself as a rule of law judge advocating judicial restraint. In a 2007 forum, he spoke of his respect for the separation of powers, noting the importance of "leaving to the legislature the significant policy questions of the day."[7]

Notable court decisions[edit]

While on the Michigan Court of Appeals, Zahra joined Judges Kurtis Wilder and Joel Hoekstra in upholding a state constitutional amendment barring public employers from recognizing same-sex unions. In Pride at Work v. Granholm, the three judge panel unanimously struck down a ruling by an Ingham County court judge and ruled that domestic partner benefit plans were unconstitutional.[8]


  1. ^ Archived November 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b c d "Biographies of the Justices". Michigan Supreme Court. Archived from the original on 17 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012. 
  3. ^ "Snyder names Brian Zahra to Michigan Supreme Court". Battle Creek Enquirer. Retrieved 24 January 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "Judge Brian K. Zahra Named Chief Judge Pro Tem of Michigan Court of Appeals" (PDF). Michigan Supreme Court. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Snyder names Zahra to Michigan Supreme Court". Detroit News. Retrieved 24 January 2011. 
  6. ^ "Snyder names Brian Zahra to Michigan Supreme Court". Morning Sun News. Retrieved 24 January 2011. 
  7. ^ "Judicial Incumbents Seek Support On November Non-Partisan Ballot". Eastside Republican Club. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  8. ^ Egan, Paul (3 Feb 2007). "Court rejects same-sex benefits". Detroit News. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Maura Corrigan
Associate Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court