By SUE SUCHYTA
Times Herald Newspapers
DEARBORN – Former City Council President Susan Dabaja was sworn in as a Wayne County Circuit Court judge Sept. 12 by Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center.
McCormack had announced earlier in the day that she is retiring from the state’s highest court.
The event, with state Rep. Jeffrey Pepper (D-15th District) acting as master of ceremonies, featured a full house in the Michael A. Guido Theater.
The Dearborn Police Department Honor Guard presented the colors while singer Vanessa El-Zein performed the National Anthem.
Imam Ahmad Hammoud of the Islamic Center of America and Pastor Nathan Hayes of Solid Rock Church of Dearborn provided the invocation.
Speakers included attorney Mallack N. Beydoun, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Charlene Elder, Arab American News Publisher Osama Siblani and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans.
Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist spoke, followed by the presentation of the gavel to Dabaja by 19th District Court Judge Sam Salamey.
Dabaja’s older daughter, Claudia Hammoud, who is currently a first-year law student, shared heart-felt remarks about her mother, then, with her sister Joelle, helped their mother into her judicial robes for the first time, while Dabaja’s husband, son and parents watched with obvious pride.
Dabaja was first in her law class at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, and had two young girls at the time, which presented an additional challenge.
Gilchrist acknowledged Dabaja’s accomplishments and said one of the privileges he and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have is appointing people to the bench, and said it is one of their most important responsibilities because judges are the public officials that citizens are the most likely with whom to come in contact.
“It is really critical that when we exercise this responsibility, we are able to identify and elevate people of integrity, of competence, who have the right and relevant experience, who are truly representative of our community in terms of their identities, in terms of where life has taken them in terms of their connection, and we make a lot of appointments,” he said. “But I will say Judge Susan Dabaja is one who embodies all of these characteristics.”
Claudia Hammoud, who also extolled Dabaja’s many accomplishments, said her mother has held many titles, from mom to attorney, to city council president to candidate.
She said her mother devotes her life to bigger causes, sometime at the expense of her personal life, and said she is shocked that her mother managed to graduate at the top of her law school class while having two young daughters at home.
“Being smart is only half – time management is the real skill,” Hammoud said. “And genuinely loving what you are doing.”
Dabaja heartfeltly thanked her supporters individually, especially her mentors and trailblazers.
“My story isn’t unique to this community, but it does stand as a testament to the strength and generosity of this village,” she said. “I grew up with nothing, yet I had everything, and this line still rings true today.”
She said she grew up as a child of southern Lebanese immigrants who moved to Dearborn’s south end as a young couple with little more than pocket change and a dream to give their children all the opportunities they never had.
“They instilled in me and my siblings the value of hard work, humility, honesty and compassion for people,” she said. “So, I want to thank my parents and siblings for supporting me throughout all my endeavors and contributing to my world as a person and public servant.”