PLYMOUTH, Mich. — With the help from a Michigan Supreme Court justice, students at Hillsdale College are starting the first undergraduate chapter of the Federalist Society on campus.
After Justice Brian Zahra reach out to Hillsdale about being the adviser for the club if there was enough interest, 10 students traveled to Plymouth to attend the Michigan Federalist Society Annual Dinner and Grano Award Presentation Friday. There, Zahra was honored with an award for his service in law and education.
“These 10 bright, young, and energetic students will constitute the founding of the first undergraduate Federalist Society,” Zahra said in his Grano Award acceptance speech. “Most of the Federalist Society knows of Hillsdale College. Their Federalist Society chapter will do great things, and I encourage you all to help out this chapter.”
When Zahra brought the opportunity forward, Professor of Philosophy Nathan Schlueter, Hillsdale’s pre-law adviser, said he reached out to students who he thought might be interested.
Michael Murray, legal counsel and administrative director, met with Zahra, Hillsdale President Larry Arnn, and General Counsel Robert Norton over the summer to first discuss founding the Hillsdale chapter.
“As a lawyer who believes in the purpose of the Federalist Society and the values of Hillsdale College, I agreed to help coordinate and perpetually be involved in this club,” Murray said.
The Federalist Society’s purpose is to preserve freedom, protect individual liberty, and defend America’s tradition founding values. It awards exemplary individuals that pursue this mission, such as Joe Grano, a law professor at Wayne State Law School, who Zahra’s award was named after. Grano impressed the society’s mission statement onto an entire generation of law students, and the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia cited his criminal procedure research in “Confessions, Truth, and the Law” in Dickerson v. United States regarding admissibility statements during interrogation.
Zahra also has devoted himself to instructing future lawyers, dividing his time between teaching and practicing law. After graduating with honors from University of Detroit Mercy in 1987, Zahra clerked for Justice Zatkoff until 1989, when he accepted a position at Dickinson Wright PLLC, specializing in commercial and product liability litigation.
Michigan Gov. John Engler appointed Zahra to the Wayne County Circuit Court in December 1994, and Zahra also taught at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. Four years later, Engler appointed him to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Gov. Rick Snyder appointed him to a partial term to the Michigan Supreme Court in 2012, and he was elected to a full term in 2014. Zahra then taught at University of Michigan-Dearborn, as a senior fellow of law and public policy from 2015-2016, and he served as an adjunct professor of law at Michigan State University College of Law from January to June.
Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman, another member of the Federalist Society’s of Michigan Lawyers chapter, met with the students Friday. He has taught Constitutional Law at Hillsdale College since 1993.
The event got the 10 Hillsdale students excited for the new organization, they said. Sophomore Anna Perry, one of the Hillsdale College Federalist Society and Pre-Law Club’s founders, said she hopes the new group will create a community for students interested in law school.
“I wanted to create a club to foster discussion among similarly-minded individuals, to provide a professional sphere for an LSAT study group, and to bring in prominent speakers from across the United States,” Perry said.
Hillsdale’s Federalist Society is holding its first meeting Thursday from 12:30-1:30 p.m. in the Knorr Student Center’s Old Snack Bar. Zahra will expound on the purpose of Hillsdale’s chapter. The group is providing pizza.
“Traditional values are not out of date,” Zahra said in his Grano Award acceptance speech. “They are not un-American, regardless of the pronouncements of the intellectual elites…In 22 years of judicial service, I have resisted temptation to grow in office. Tonight is an affirmation. I have dedicated my career to ensuing equal justice under law, through faithfull interpreting the words of the law.”