Prime time: Former U.S. magistrate judge receives coveted 'Woman of the Year' award

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By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

If former U.S. Magistrate Judge Mona Majzoub had her way, she would have become a race car driver, a career dream that she embraced as a teen-ager in Dearborn, where her father immediately put the brakes on such a fanciful notion.

Her dad, a prominent surgeon in the Downriver area, envisioned an entirely different type of future for his daughter, one far away from the high-speed life of an Indy or NASCAR driver.

“At the time I resented his veto power,” said Majzoub (pronounced May-Zoob).

But like any good and respectful daughter, live with it she did, electing instead to pursue a more conventional career path that would lead to eventual distinction in the legal profession, capped off on October 8 by her selection as the 2020 “Woman of the Year” by Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

The honor was accorded by vote of members of the “Women of the Year” class, a list of 30 honorees chosen by the weekly legal publication that is part of the national BridgeTower Media network.

Her father, Dr. Ahmad Majzoub, who died in 1995 at age 71, would have been beaming had he been on hand for the award ceremony, which was held in the virtual realm on account of the pandemic. His smile, said Majzoub, would have added even more significance to the award.

“I have spent my entire legal career loving him for his genuine interest in and enthusiasm for my career choice,” Majzoub said of her father’s emphatic veto decision.

“He was the best role model anyone could have. He was an elegant example of professional dignity, hard work, unending intellectual curiosity, and deep dedication, respect, and commitment to the people who sought his professional skills.”

In accepting the coveted honor this month, Majzoub praised the Class of 2020 honorees, saying they are among the “elite of our profession.” In short, Majzoub said she is “stunned beyond words that you would have voted me” Woman of the Year.

“There is nothing that really separates me from any of you,” Majzoub said. “We are strong distance runners by nature, we have all stayed in the game, taken our knocks, and we have all survived and thrived in a profession that was not always very kind to our gender.”

Majzoub also paid special tribute to – in her words – the “Woman of the Century,” the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“It is largely because of her vision, her intelligence, and her dogged determination, that doors opened for us that were not open for her,” Majzoub told those gathered for the awards ceremony. “And for that we owe her our deepest gratitude and admiration for her incomparable courage.”

An alumna of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, Majzoub holds bachelor and master degrees from the University of Michigan. As part of her master’s degree program, she spent a year abroad attending American University of Beirut in Lebanon, studying philosophy, Middle Eastern history, and the Arabic language.

Her mother, Mary Majzoub, and her father met as students at American University of Beirut before moving to the U.S., initially settling in Memphis, Tenn., where their oldest of three children was born.

Her mother, now 98 and a resident of Bloomfield Hills, has been a lifelong role model.

“She was the first in her family to attend college and she remains an intellectual force, reading three newspapers a day,” Majzoub said of her mother. “She also is as beautiful as ever.”

Majzoub attended public schools in Dearborn through sixth grade when she was admitted to an all-girls school, Kingswood, part of the Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills. There she sparkled academically and was chosen president of her class all four years of high school.

“My parents understood all too well the value of an education,” Majzoub said. “We, shall I say, were highly encouraged to do well in school, to pursue professional careers.”

And that they did. Her brother, Joseph, is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, doubling as vice chair for Research, Department of Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital. Her sister, Camille Jayne, recently retired as president of a major I.T. company in Southern California.

As the oldest of the three siblings, Majzoub set the tone, spending 27 years as a trial lawyer with the Kitch firm in Detroit, defending professional liability cases. She then served 16 years as a magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, retiring last January. In April, in the throes of the pandemic, she opened her own mediation and dispute resolution firm.

“I truly love my work, helping parties find common ground in settling disputes,” Majzoub said. “There is special satisfaction in helping find solutions to problems that otherwise seemed unsolvable.”

During her time in private practice, Majzoub devoted much of her free time to volunteer work, serving as a founding board member of the Michigan chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, treasurer and president of the Arab American Bar Association of Michigan, and board member of Family Services in Detroit and Wayne County. She also was a board member of the Eastern District of Michigan Chapter of the Federal Bar Association from 2007-16.

In 1999, Majzoub was married to the co-founder and president of the Kitch firm, Richard Kitch. Throughout their 21-year marriage, the couple has shared a love of travel to such places as Morocco, Antarctica, Turkey, Bali, and Fiji. And, perhaps most memorably for Majzoub, Germany.

“It’s a beautiful country and, of course, it has the Autobahn,” she said of the famed expressway that begs to be driven at high speed. “I got to drive it at speeds of 110 miles per hour and above. I was in heaven.”

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