Michael Zimmerman (jurist)

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Michael D. ("Mugaku") Zimmerman
Michael Mugaku Zimmerman & Diane Musho Hamilton.jpg
Michael and his wife, Diane Musho Hamilton
Former Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court
Born1943 (age 79–80)
SpouseDiane Musho Hamilton
ChildrenEvangeline Zimmerman Burbidge
Alessandra Zimmerman
Morgan Zimmerman
William Smith
SchoolZen Buddhism
LineageWhite Plum Asanga
EducationUniversity of Utah
Senior posting
TeacherGenpo Merzel
Based inTwo Arrows Zen
WebsiteTwo Arrows Zen [1]
Michael Zimmerman
Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court
In office
Appointed byGov. Scott M. Matheson
Preceded byGordon R. Hall
Succeeded byRichard C. Howe

Michael D. Zimmerman (born 1943) is a prominent attorney, a former justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and a Zen teacher at Two Arrows Zen (TAZ) located in Salt Lake City, Utah.

His legal career is notable in a number of ways. Zimmerman was the first graduate from the University of Utah Law School to clerk for the U.S. Supreme Court, working for Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. He was then an early hire at O'Melvany & Meyers LLP in Los Angeles, where he worked for prominent lawyers including former Secretary of State Warren Christopher. After returning to Utah, following the death of his father, Zimmerman worked as a professor at the University of Utah Law School, coaching the moot court team in written and oral appellate advocacy for half a dozen years. He later became special counsel to Utah’s Governor Scott M. Matheson, and was a participant in both public policy advocacy and decision making. In 1984, in his early 40s, Zimmerman was appointed to the Utah Supreme Court. During his 16-year tenure, he participated in the decision of several thousand cases, and served as chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court from 1993 until he stepped down to return to private practice.

In addition to being an accomplished attorney, Zimmerman is a Zen Buddhist teacher. He received shiho from his teacher Dennis Genpo Merzel in December 2006. Zimmerman, the former Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court, is married to Diane Musho Hamilton (also a sensei at TAZ). As a justice he was known for his ethics, receiving in 1994 the "Excellence in Ethics Award" from the Center for the Study of Ethics at Utah Valley State College.[1] Zimmerman had come to Zen Buddhism in 1993 seeking a support system for himself as his first wife Lynne battled terminal cancer.

Later, through his work in the courts, he met Diane and began sitting zazen at Kanzeon Zen Center with Merzel under Hamilton's suggestion. The two were married by Merzel in 1998. Zimmerman is currently a practicing attorney and partner at Zimmerman, Jones, and Booher in Salt Lake City. From 1984 to 2000 he served as a Justice for the Utah Supreme Court, and from 1994 to 1998 he acted as Chief Justice.[2][3]


Michael Zimmerman was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1943. He attended university at the University of Utah, entering its law school and graduating first in his class. He was also awarded order of the coif for his academic achievement. Following graduation, Zimmerman moved to Washington, D.C. and worked as a judicial clerk for Warren E. Burger, then the acting Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He then moved to Los Angeles, working as a lawyer for O’Melveny & Myers there. Zimmerman moved back to Utah to practice law for a short period, also serving as a special counsel to Utah Governor Scott Milne Matheson part time. At the time of Zimmerman's joining in the Utah Supreme Court majority upholding prayers at government meetings as long as there was no religious restriction on who could give the prayer, Zimmerman was still an Episcopalian.[4]

Zimmerman began a meditation practice in 1993 while his first wife, Lynne Mariani Zimmerman, was suffering a terminal illness. She died the next year, in January 1994, after a year-long struggle with cancer.[5] Zimmerman continued to serve as Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court during this time, while also raising their three daughters on his own. In 1996, at the suggestion of Diane Hamilton, he began sitting zazen at Kanzeon Zen Center.[6] In 1998 he received jukai and was given the Buddhist name of Mugaku ("no learning").[4] Later that year, he was married by his teacher, Dennis Genpo Merzel, to Diane Musho Hamilton. In December 2006 he received Dharma transmission from Dennis Genpo Merzel, giving him authority to teach Zen to others.[4]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UTAH JUSTICE SELECTED FOR ETHICS AWARD". Deseret News. September 27, 1994.
  2. ^ Zimmerman's bio at Snell & Wilmer
  3. ^ Zimmerman's bio at Zimmerman, Jones, and Booher Archived 2013-12-08 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b c Jarvik, Elaine (December 16, 2006). "Utah justice now Zen teacher". Deseret News.
  5. ^ "DEATH: LYNNE MARIANI ZIMMERMAN". Deseret News. January 31, 1994.
  6. ^ Jarvik, Elaine (April 24, 2004). "Sitting judge: Retired Utah chief justice finds his way as a Buddhist monk". Deseret News.