Governor Snyder shakes up Supreme Court composition


by Cynthia Price

In the blink of an eye, Maura Corrigan is gone from the Michigan Supreme Court and Brian Zahra has taken her place.

New Michigan Governor Rick Snyder tapped Corrigan to head up the Department of Human Services in his administration.

Referring to Corrigan’s “unwavering commitment to children and families and her unstoppable determination,” Snyder also appointed Corrigan as Group Executive for the “People” group. The governor has clustered different Michigan departments to make sure there is open communication between jurisdictions that serve common interests, and the “People” group includes  the departments of Human Services, Community Health, Civil Rights and Education.

Said Justice Corrigan, whose Supreme Court resignation will take effect Friday, “My passion has been protecting children and the vulnerable.  I started the first Michigan Adoption Day seven years ago and last year we finalized the greatest number of adoptions in our state’s history... We have made great progress, but much work remains and I look forward to this amazing chance to serve the people of Michigan in this new capacity.”

On Monday, Gov. Snyder made his appointment to replace Corrigan on the highest court of the state.

Brian Zahra is a well-respected jurist, a 1977 graduate of Dearborn Divine Child High School who graduated cum laude from the University of Detroit Law School in 1987. He was law clerk to Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, and then joined the Dickinson, Wright law firm, becoming a partner. In 1994, Zahra was appointed judge of the Wayne County Circuit Court, and won an election to the position in 1996, but then was appointed in late 1998 to the Court of Appeals, where he has served ever since.

Zahra attempted to become a Michigan Supreme Court justice before, but was defeated in 2004. He is strongly opposed to domestic violence and has served on several bodies addressing that issue.
Said Zahra, “I am honored and humbled...I intend to follow in the tradition of Justice Corrigan – a tradition of following the Rule of Law and respecting the principles of limited government laid out in our state and federal Constitutions.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young issued the following statement, quoted in part:

“I have known Justice Zahra almost since he began practicing law.  He has had a remarkable career as a lawyer and as a judge; he is widely recognized as one of the state's top jurists.  I believe that this Court has adopted more of his decisions than those of any other sitting lower court judge. 

“Justice Zahra will bring not only his considerable intellect but also his experience as a judge at all levels of our system.  As a jurist committed to following the rule of law, he is a worthy successor to my dear friend Justice Corrigan, who is departing to take on the challenge of protecting Michigan's abused and neglected children.”