Great Lakes Legal Conference 2023: Speakers
Aaron V. Burrell
Dickinson Wright PLLC, Troy
Aaron V. Burrell focuses his practice in the areas of complex commercial litigation, labor and employment law, appellate law, and minority business enterprises. Mr. Burrell is a member of the Board of Commissioners of the State Bar of Michigan (SBM) and the American Bar Association's Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. He is also a member of the boards of directors of Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School and the Oakland County Bar Association; a past president of the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association; a foundation fellow of the Oakland County, Michigan, and American Bar Foundations; and prior co-chair of the SBM's Equal Access Initiative. Mr. Burrell has been named a 40 Under 40 honoree by "Crain's Detroit Business," an Up and Coming Lawyer by "Michigan Lawyers Weekly," and a Michigan Super Lawyer. He is an active member of the Detroit Bar Association and the Wolverine Bar Association. In addition to his contributions to ICLE, Mr. Burrell is a contributor to "Employment Discrimination Law" (BNA 2015) and a coauthor of the "Michigan Class Action Compendium" (Defense Research Institute).
John G. Cameron, Jr.
Dickinson Wright PLLC, Grand Rapids
John G. Cameron, Jr., practices in the areas of real estate and construction law. Mr. Cameron is admitted to practice in Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, and North Carolina. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy, received his AB in economics and business administration from Albion College in 1971, and graduated cum laude from Wayne State University Law School in 1974. He has written numerous chapters and articles and is the author of the five-volume treatise "Michigan Real Estate Forms and Practice" (Aspen Publishers) and "A Practitioner's Guide to Construction Law" (ALI-ABA). He is also author of ICLE's "Michigan Real Property Law." Mr. Cameron is listed in "Who's Who in American Law" and "The Best Lawyers in America" and has been named a Michigan Super Lawyer annually since 2006. He is an elected member of both the American Law Institute and the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, served as the public director on the board of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, and for six years served on the National Board of Editors of "The Practical Real Estate Lawyer." A former instructor on real estate law at Grand Valley State University's Seidman School of Business and at Grand Rapids Community College, Mr. Cameron lectures frequently on real estate law throughout the United States and teaches real estate transactions as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Michigan. He served as law clerk to the Honorable William H. Webster, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in 1974-1975. As a specialist in real estate transactions and construction law matters, Mr. Cameron represents a wide variety of clients in a variety of real estate and construction law matters. He was awarded an LLM degree from the University of Michigan.
Alecia M. Chandler
Professional Responsibility Programs Director, State Bar of Michigan, Lansing
Alecia M. Chandler is Professional Responsibility Programs Director for the State Bar of Michigan. In this position she manages the Client Protection Fund, Interim Administrator Program, and State Bar of Michigan Ethics programs, including providing education, information, support, and guidance in the area of ethics to attorneys throughout the State of Michigan primarily through answering the Bar's ethics helpline.
Prior to joining the Bar in 2014, Alecia was an associate attorney with Anderson, Stull & Associates, focusing her practice on general civil matters including business, real estate, probate, and family law. Alecia received her bachelor's degree from Western Michigan University in 2000 and her Juris Doctor from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, magna cum laude, in 2003.
Chartier & Nyamfukudza PLC, Okemos
Mary Chartier is a criminal defense litigator and partner at the firm. Ms. Chartier has extensive experience litigating serious and complex criminal defense cases and has successfully defended clients in numerous federal and state trials. She has served as lead counsel and defended people of numerous crimes, including those involving terrorism, racketeering, drug dealing, human rights violations, crimes against the United States, bank robbery, criminal sexual conduct, and homicide, as well as white-collar crimes, such as money laundering, mortgage fraud, and health care fraud. Ms. Chartier has argued and won cases at the Michigan Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Ms. Chartier is a fellow of the American Board of Criminal Lawyers, the American Bar Foundation, the Michigan State Bar Foundation, and the Ingham County Bar Foundation. She is also a member of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (CDAM) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Ms. Chartier is the past president of the Ingham County Bar Association. She taught law school students for over 10 years, including teaching the nation's first medical marijuana class. Ms. Chartier has been recognized for her criminal defense work, including being named one of the Leaders in the Law by "Michigan Lawyers Weekly," receiving the Distinguished Barrister’s Award by the Davis-Dunnings Bar Association, being honored as the 2020 Leo A. Farhat Outstanding Attorney of the Year, and receiving the Michael Franck Award from the State Bar of Michigan. The firm also won the 2022 international Legal Impact Reisman Award for their work in defending and exonerating those wrongfully accused and wrongfully imprisoned.
Hon. B. Chris Christenson
7th Circuit Court, Flint
Hon. B. Chris Christenson joined the 7th Circuit as a Family Division judge in January 2021. Previously, he practiced in the areas of criminal law, business and contract litigation, real estate and construction law, general civil litigation, and probate administration. Active in the State Bar of Michigan (SBM), Judge Christenson served on its board of commissioners from 2007 to 2010 and was recently reelected for a term expiring in 2023. He is also a member of the Centennial American Inn of Court and the Friends of Berston Field House's board of commissioners. Judge Christenson is a past president of the Genesee County Bar Association, a former chair of the SBM's Young Lawyers Section, and a former board of directors member of both the Centennial American Inn of Court and Legal Services of Eastern Michigan. In addition, he is a licensed real estate salesperson in Michigan and was formerly a licensed residential builder and limited licensed appraiser.
Hon. Elizabeth T. Clement
Chief Justice, Michigan Supreme Court, Lansing
Hon. Elizabeth Tripp Clement joined the court on November 17, 2017, becoming the 113th justice and the 11th woman to serve on the bench. Before her appointment by Governor Rick Snyder, she served as chief legal counsel for the governor, advising him on a wide variety of legal, legislative, and policy matters. Her duties as chief legal counsel also included working with the Attorney General’s Office on litigation affecting the State of Michigan, negotiating tribal compacts and settlement agreements, and interviewing and recommending appointees to Court of Appeals and Supreme Court judicial vacancies. Judge Clement previously held the positions of cabinet secretary and deputy chief of staff, as well as deputy legal counsel in the governor’s office. She previously served as legal counsel for Senate Majority Leader Michael Bishop in 2010, where she provided legal research, analysis, and advice on legislation and management of the office. In addition, she was responsible for the State Senate advice and consent process, including providing reports and recommendations on appointees. As a policy advisor in the Senate Majority Policy Office from 2006 to 2010, Judge Clement provided analysis and research to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Health Policy Committee, and Senate Local and State Affairs Committee. She owned and operated Clement Law PLLC from 2002 to 2006, where she represented individuals and businesses primarily in the areas of family law, adoption, probate, estate planning, and criminal law. Prior to working in private practice, Justice Clement worked as a legislative aide to State Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Rogers.
Kim A. Coggins
Coggins Law, Marinette, Wisconsin
Kim A. Coggins practices in the areas of municipal law, civil litigation, commercial law, real estate law, and domestic relations. He practices in both Michigan and Wisconsin. He is a 1977 graduate of Michigan State University and a 1981 graduate of Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Mr. Coggins is a member of the Michigan and Wisconsin State Bar Associations and the Menominee and Marinette County Bar Associations and has served as a member on several committees for the State Bar of Michigan.
Gregory P. Conyers
State Bar of Michigan Diversity Development Program Director, Lansing
Before joining the State Bar of Michigan, Gregory P. Conyers was the director of community development for Think Detroit. At the State Bar, he began as a program administrator for the pro bono work of what was then the Access to Justice program, the predecessor of Justice Initiatives. Mr. Conyers went on to become acting director and then director of Justice Initiatives where he oversaw the activities of the Justice Initiatives Division and worked in conjunction with the volunteers on the Committee on Justice Initiatives and the five initiatives (pro bono, criminal issues, justice policy, equal access, and resource development/access to justice fund) to accomplish the goals established by each body. He also coordinated and implemented justice projects and supported communications and marketing strategies for a range of State Bar-led justice issues. Currently, Mr. Conyers is the director of the Diversity Development Program and is the first to fill the role established at the State Bar to focus on efforts to improve the diversity and inclusion of the legal profession in Michigan. Mr. Conyers also lends support to the standing Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee and the American Indian Law Committee as staff liaison. Mr. Conyers serves on numerous boards, including the Michigan Diversity Counsel, the National Consortium for Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts, and the National Association of Bar Executives.
State Bar of Michigan Executive Director, Lansing
Peter Cunningham was selected as the sixth executive director of the State Bar of Michigan (SBM) and began his appointment on March 1, 2022. Before this appointment, Mr. Cunningham first served as director of governmental relations from 2012 to 2015 and then as assistant executive director from 2015 to 2022. Before his work with the SBM, he served as the executive director of the Michigan Campaign for Justice, a nonprofit created to promote improvement in Michigan's public defense system. Mr. Cunningham has served on the SBM's executive leadership team for seven years.
Darin A. Day
State Bar of Michigan Director of Outreach, Lansing
Darin A. Day supports law-related education programs throughout Michigan and helps ensure that the state’s 120 voluntary bar associations and 44 state bar sections continue to have an effective voice within the profession. He is also the State Bar of Michigan liaison to the Michigan Center for Civic Education (MCCE) and Michigan Association of Bar Executives (MABE). Before joining the SBM staff in 2016, Mr. Day served 10 years as general counsel of a logistics company located just outside Philadelphia. Before that, he was a large-firm litigator in Boston, executive director of a community-based nonprofit in Flint, and a field instructor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work in Ann Arbor. He holds a BA in social work from MSU and a JD from the University of Chicago.
Daniel T. Geherin
Geherin Law Group PLLC, Ann Arbor
Daniel T. Geherin is an attorney certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and a former prosecutor with over 25 years’ experience practicing law. Mr. Geherin's trial-based practice exclusively focuses on representing individuals in cases ranging from criminal defense/drunk driving and driver’s license appeals to civil litigation and juvenile delinquency. He has completed over 250 trials, argued before the Michigan Court of Appeals, and conducted thousands of Secretary of State driver’s license appeals hearings throughout Michigan. Before becoming a private attorney, Mr. Geherin was a prosecutor in Los Angeles, California, where he prosecuted gang offenses, sexual assaults, narcotics violations, juvenile delinquency, and complex white-collar criminal offenses. He is a member of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, the Federal Bar Association, the State Bar of California, and the Washtenaw County Bar Association where he is a past chair of the Criminal Law Section. Mr. Geherin is rated AV-Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell; is named in "The Best Lawyers in America;" has been listed by both Super Lawyers and Leading Lawyers in the field of criminal defense; was named a Top Lawyer by "DBusiness" in Michigan criminal law; and received a 10 out of 10 rating by Avvo.com. He is a frequent contributor to ICLE seminars and publications and is currently on the ICLE Advisory Board for the Criminal Law Section. Mr. Geherin has authored several books including "Defending College Students Charged with a Sex Crime in Michigan," "Collateral Effects of a Juvenile Conviction," and "Michigan Driver’s License and Drunk Driving Handbook."
James Harrington, III
Law Offices of James J. Harrington III PLC, Novi
James J. Harrington III, the managing member of Harrington Law PLC, concentrates his practice solely upon complex family law cases, with a significant portion of his practice involving family law mediation and divorce arbitration. He also consults with other family law lawyers in complex matters and is frequently added to family law litigation teams as co-counsel. He has been a member of the State Bar of Michigan and its Family Law Section for 49 years and in 2021 he received the Family Law Section Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2021 he also was admitted to the "Michigan Lawyers Weekly" Family Law Hall of Fame. He is a Fellow in the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and was the first Michigan lawyer to receive family law certification from the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Mr. Harrington has also received the AAML divorce arbitration certification. He is former chair of the State Bar of Michigan Family Law Section, has held every officer position, and has testified on behalf of the section on multiple occasions before the Supreme Court of Michigan and the Michigan Legislature. He has been published in “Michigan Bar Journal,” SBM’s “Family Law Journal,” and “Michigan Dispute Resolution Journal.” In addition, Mr. Harrington is co-editor of the national LexisNexis practice guide 2016-2023 “Michigan Family Law” and author of the Alternate Dispute Resolution, Attorney Fees, Marital Property, Pretrial Discovery, Motion Practice, and Spousal Support chapters. Mr. Harrington is a frequent presenter at many family law seminars including the Family Law Institute and the Upper Michigan Legal Institute. He presented on Family Law issues in 2022 and 2019 at the National AAML-Business Valuation Resources Seminars in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a recipient of the Blaine Johnson Award for outstanding contributions to continuing legal education. He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1973, after having served two years of active duty in the United States Navy, at the Law Center Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
James W. Heath
President, State Bar of Michigan
Wayne County Corporation Counsel, Detroit
James W. Heath is president of the State Bar of Michigan and serves as chief legal officer for the state’s largest county, providing legal advice and representing the county’s executive office, departments, agencies, and boards. Previously, Mr. Heath served as inspector general for the City of Detroit, assistant attorney general for the Michigan Attorney General Criminal Health Care and Fraud divisions, and assistant prosecuting attorney in Wayne County. Mr. Heath was elected to the Board of Commissioners in 2014. He is a member of the Executive Committee and has served as chair for both the Public Policy and Finance committees. The Michigan Supreme Court appointed Mr. Heath to the newly established Michigan Judicial Council in 2021 to help strategically plan for the judicial branch, enhance the work of the courts, and make recommendations to the Supreme Court on matters pertinent to the administration of justice.
Jeffrey E. Kirkey
Institute of Continuing Legal Education, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Jeffrey E. Kirkey joined ICLE in 1998 and now directs the development and implementation of ICLE's education services, including major events, hands-on training, on-demand seminars, contract services, and online initiatives. He also teaches technology-related programs. Before joining ICLE, Mr. Kirkey worked at a small law firm in Ann Arbor and headed a computer consulting firm specializing in helping law offices. He is active in the Association for Continuing Legal Education (ACLEA), serving in a variety of leadership roles and frequently presenting at ACLEA conferences on technology, innovation, and business-related topics. A member of the State Bar of Michigan, Mr. Kirkey is a past chair of its Young Lawyers Section and also served on the State Bar's Board of Commissioners.
William C. Lentine
Warner Norcross + Judd LLP, Bloomfield Hills
William C. Lentine's practice focuses on federal and state tax matters, corporate matters, and estate planning. He is also experienced in corporate tax matters and governance issues, partnership taxation, and tax controversy, as well as estate planning, including sophisticated tax planning. Mr. Lentine has also dealt with public and private mergers and acquisitions and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He is a licensed certified public accountant (CPA) in Illinois, with experience in a broad spectrum of tax and accounting issues. A member of the American Institute of CPAs, Mr. Lentine serves on the Tax Division's Corporations and Shareholders Technical Resource Panel. He is a member of the State Bar of Michigan's Taxation Section, where he serves on the section council. Mr. Lentine is admitted to practice in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, and the U.S. Tax Court.
Hon. David A. Perkins
Wayne County Probate Court, Detroit
David Perkins is a judge of the Wayne County Probate Court in Michigan. He assumed office in 2019. His current term ends on January 1, 2025. Perkins ran for election for judge of the Wayne County Probate Court in Michigan. He won in the general election on November 6, 2018.
Nathan R. Piwowarski
McCurdy Wotila & Porteous PC, Cadillac
Nathan R. Piwowarski is a shareholder of his firm, practicing in the areas of elder law, estate planning, and estate administration. Contested probate matters makes up a significant portion of his practice. Mr. Piwowarski is the public administrator for Wexford and Lake Counties, serving as personal representative of decedent estates with no known heirs. He is also a special assistant attorney general for the Department of Health and Human Services, representing the department in contested guardianship and conservatorship proceedings throughout northwest Lower Michigan. A member of the Probate and Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan, Mr. Piwowarski serves on the section's council and has served as the chair of its Legislative Development and Drafting Committee and Committee on Special Projects.
Colemon L. Potts
Detroit Legal Group PLLC, Detroit
Colemon Potts is a Partner with Detroit Legal Group, PLLC after having served as an Associate Attorney for over 6 years. He earned his Juris Doctor at Thomas M. Cooley Law school and his undergraduate degree from Georgia State University. Colemon’s practice focuses primarily on criminal law, commercial and residential property litigation, and personal injury.
Over the years, he has helped secure millions of dollars in judgments and settlements. Outside of the courtroom, Colemon is highly active within the legal guild. He is currently the Secretary for the State Bar of Michigan Young Lawyers Section Executive Council and has also served on the board for the State Bar of Michigan Criminal Law Section and Polish American Legal Society.
Colemon is also well known outside of Michigan as he has held many leadership roles with the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association including, but not limited to, Co-Chair of the Minorities in the Profession Committee, District Representative to the State of Michigan, and Co-Chair for the Men of Color Project. Colemon is well versed in the law and is always ready, willing, and able to advocate for and protect his client's rights.
State Bar of Michigan Director of the Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program, Lansing
Molly Ranns is the director for the State Bar of Michigan’s Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program, where she has been working for the past decade. She is also a licensed professional counselor, a nationally board-certified counselor, and an internationally certified advanced alcohol and drug counselor. Ms. Ranns is passionate about helping legal professionals with issues pertaining to general wellness, mental health, and substance use concerns. She has experience working with impaired professionals, substance use disorders, as well as mental health diagnoses, and presents regularly on topics pertaining to law student and lawyer well-being. Ms. Ranns graduated with a MA in counseling from Michigan State University in 2009.
Director of Communications, State Bar of Michigan, Lansing
Marjory Raymer is the director of communications for the State Bar of Michigan. She has more than 25 years of experience in communications and marketing. She started her career as a journalist and in 2009 became the first woman to serve as editor of The Flint Journal. She went on to become the director of news for MLive Media Group, overseeing 10 newsrooms and more than 150 reporters, editors, and photographers. In 2015, Marjory took on a new leadership role as the head of communications for the University of Michigan-Flint. Here, she oversaw the university’s marketing, advertising, and public relations work, including crisis communications. While in Flint, she also started a new online magazine called Flintside, which focused on impacting the narrative about Flint by telling positive community stories, and served as director of communications for the City of Flint. She joined the State Bar of Michigan in 2021 and works with a communications team of 13, whose responsibilities include publication of the Michigan Bar Journal and eJournal, website updates, printing services, branding, social media, and newsletters.
Stephen H. Sinas
Sinas Dramis Law Firm, Lansing
Stephen H. Sinas, a partner at the firm, focuses his practice on Michigan no-fault auto insurance law, personal injury cases, and constitutional rights cases. He has litigated cases in numerous trial courts across Michigan, and has handled cases at the Michigan Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court. Mr. Sinas serves as an adjunct professor of Michigan no-fault auto insurance law at the Michigan State University College of Law. He also serves as a board member of the Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council (MBIPC). He has given numerous lectures and published various legal articles, and is a creator and editor of www.nfrbo.com (“No-Fault Red Book Online”). Mr. Sinas has also served as a member of the State Bar of Michigan’s District E Character and Fitness Committee (2012-present); executive board member of the Michigan Association for Justice (2010-present); and chairperson of the Michigan Association for Justice People’s Law School Committee (2013-present). Since 2013, he has been named as a Michigan Super Lawyer in the field of plaintiff’s personal injury law.
Public Policy Director, State Bar of Michigan, Lansing
Nathan Triplett serves as Director of Governmental Affairs for the State Bar of Michigan. For over 15 years, he has worked in and around state and local government as an attorney, organizer, policy advocate, and elected official. Before joining the SBM staff, Nathan served as Minority Legal Counsel for the Michigan House of Representatives and as the Director of Public Policy and Political Action at Equality Michigan. Triplett served on the East Lansing City Council for eight years. He was elected to serve as the city's youngest Mayor in 2013 and as President of the Michigan Municipal League. Today, Nathan serves as Chair of the Capital Area Transportation Authority Board of Directors, as a commissioner of both the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission and Ingham County Parks and Recreation Commission, and as Vice President of the MML Foundation. Triplett volunteers with Rotary International and the Boy Scouts of America and enjoys spending time outdoors with his two children. He is a graduate of Michigan State University's James Madison College with degrees in Political Theory/Constitutional Democracy and Social Relations. He also holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctor from the MSU College of Law.
Chartier & Nyamfukudza PLC, Okemos
Marisa Ariel Vinsky is a litigator at the firm. Before serving in her current role, Ms. Vinsky worked at the State Appellate Defender Office, specifically in the Juvenile Lifer Unit, where she fought for the rights of juveniles to obtain constitutional sentences. She also worked in the Michigan State University College of Law's Civil Rights Clinic. Ms. Vinsky is president-elect of the Ingham County Bar Association's (ICBA) Young Lawyers Section and cochair of its Criminal Defense Law Section. She is a member of the ICBA, the Davis-Dunnings Bar Association, Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan (WLAM), and the Jewish Bar Association of Michigan. Ms. Vinsky is a recipient of the ICBA's Top 5 Under 35 Award in 2021, the Mid-Michigan chapter of WLAM's Women Lawyer Stars Award in 2021 and 2022, the Davis-Dunning Bar Association's Rising Star Award in 2022, and has been recognized as an Up and Coming Lawyer by "Michigan Lawyers Weekly" in 2022.
Hon. Erane C. Washington
14-B District Court Judge, Ypsilanti
Erane C. Washington was elected Judge of the 14-B District Court, situated in Ypsilanti Township, on November 4, 2020. Prior to her election, her career was varied; she served as an Assistant Public Defender for the Washtenaw County Public Defender’s Office for seven years from 1994 until 2001 and was then recruited by then Chief Judge of Washtenaw Circuit Court, Judge Donald E. Shelton to become his Judicial Attorney. After working with Judge Shelton for six years, she left public service to start her own law practice. She handled a multitude of case types, including but not limited to criminal defense, general civil, probate, and real estate until taking the bench on January 1, 2021.
Judge Washington is a proud graduate of the James Madison Residential College located at Michigan State University (Class of 1985) where she studied Justice, Morality and Constitutional Democracy. She graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1993.
Judge Washington has resided in Ypsilanti Township for almost 30 years, along with her husband Anthony; both sons attended Lincoln Schools. She currently serves as an elected State Bar of Michigan Commissioner, Board of Director for the Huron Valley Habitat for Humanity and is a member of the Vanzetti Hamilton Bar Association and Business and Professional Women’s Club.
Judge Washington is the Chief Judge of the 14B District Court and presides over Landlord-Tenant, Criminal, and General Civil matters, while managing the Recovery and Human Trafficking Court and a Domestic Violence specialty docket.
Janet K. Welch
State Bar of Michigan Retired Executive Director, Lansing
Janet K. Welch is executive director of the State Bar of Michigan. She has had an extensive career in state government, beginning in the Michigan Legislature where she served as a legislative analyst in the House and as the first director of the Senate's nonpartisan legislative analysis office. Ms. Welch was a law clerk for Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert P. Griffin, where she stayed for over a decade in a variety of positions, culminating in a position as Supreme Court Counsel. In 1998, the Council of State Governments named her a Toll Fellow for outstanding achievement and service to state government. Ms. Welch is a graduate of the Kennedy School of Government's Senior Executive Program at Harvard University and was a Fulbright Scholar in comparative literature in the former Yugoslavia.
Hon. Brian K. Zahra
Michigan Supreme Court, Lansing
Justice Brian K. Zahra was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to the Michigan Supreme Court on January 14, 2011. The people of Michigan subsequently elected him in November 2012 to a partial term and then re-elected him in November 2014 to a full term.
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. Justice Zahra later opened 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 served as a member of the Law Review and as Articles Editor of the State Bar of Michigan’s Corporation and Finance Business Law Journal. Upon graduation he served as law clerk to Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan before joining and eventually becoming a partner in the law firm of Dickinson, Wright, Moon, Van Dusen & Freeman. In 1994, Governor John Engler appointed him to the Wayne County Circuit Court where in 1996 he was elected to a six-year term. In December of 1998, he was appointed to the Michigan Court of Appeals by Governor Engler. He was elected to six-year terms in 2000 and 2006. From December 2005 to January 2007, he served as the Court of Appeals’ Chief Judge Pro Tem.