Posted by Guest on February 28, 2018 in Blog

Screen_Shot_2018-03-01_at_1.26.57_PM.pngBy Laura Neumayer

“As cliché as it may sound, I am passionate about helping people. It’s one of the reasons I am drawn to public service,” Bazzi reflected. “The desire to be part of something that is bigger than myself.” Since she was young, Mariam Bazzi always knew she would dedicate her life to service. Originally an outspoken member of her local Michigan school board, she was appointed by Governor Snyder in 2017 to serve as judge on the Wayne County Circuit Court. A Dearborn native, her dedication to her community has brought her to hold positions on local school boards, bar organizations, and search committees.

The daughter of two Arab immigrants, Bazzi was raised in a predominantly Arab American neighborhood where many families were either first or second-generation immigrants. Growing up she was inspired by neighbors, friends, and family who dedicated themselves to their new lives and community. “[T]he community was going through the trial and pains of growing and assimilating. Observing this process and being a part of this transformation made me even more appreciative of the importance of civic engagement and political involvement.” This gratitude fostered itself in Bazzi’s future aspirations. After high school, she went on to pursue her undergraduate degree in political science. While gravitating towards the public sphere, she initially found a passion serving her community in special needs education. “I find working with the public on programs which have a shared positive impact is something that really appeals to me,” Bazzi commented.

This desire to promote positive community impact led her to run for President of the Board of Education, a race she won in 2014. “The most memorable part of my campaign was meeting people,” Bazzi recalled. “There are so many people who truly care about the district and our schools and are actively engaged and involved with them. Everything I did at the district is something I take great pride in, but the highlight was always seeing the students succeed.” Since her appointment to the bench, Bazzi has had to come to terms with stepping down from many of her roles, including her seat on the Board of Education and as Chairwoman of Henry Ford College’s Board of Trustees. However, Bazzi recognizes these resignations allow her to affect change on a broader scale for her beloved district through her position as judge.

Bazzi’s appointment opened the door for her to impact the lives of those in her community in new, profound ways. Serving on the criminal docket, she works alongside numerous Circuit Court judges. Bazzi’s day is never static; on any given day, she is presiding over trials, considering pleas, handing down a sentence, or approving or denying motions. More serious felony cases may take days to reach a ruling, but Bazzi finds the rewards of her work far outweigh its unpredictability.  

Bazzi’s work in the courtroom echoes her earlier accomplishments as the lead attorney on the Mortgage and Deed Fraud Task force in the County Prosecutor’s Office. “Every time I was able to make a victim whole again, that was a rewarding moment for me,” Bazzi recounted. “I took great pride in being able to put together strong cases that led to convictions which resulted in agreements to pay the victims back restitution.” Though rewarding, her work comes with its own set of challenges. The intense emotional investment of victims, defendants and witnesses is something Bazzi resonates with deeply. The cases she presides over often have monumental impacts on those involved, which Bazzi does not take lightly. “I do my best to listen to what everyone has to say and be patient because not everyone communicates the same way, and ultimately do what the law dictates and my conscious requires.“  

Major successes aplenty, Bazzi has had her fair share of working beyond her position to dispel stereotypes around her community. “Being an Arab and Muslim woman in law enforcement, I came in contact with many people who held stereotypes and misconceptions about Arabs and Muslims. To some, I was the first Arab or Muslim person they interacted with for any extended time,” she said. “I spent a lot of time having conversations with people and answering questions in hopes that I could break down some of the stereotypes and give people a better understanding of who Arabs or Muslims are.” Her work to educate and empower the public does not end there. An active member of the Dearborn/Dearborn Heights League of Women Voters, she works with women to empower other women and encourage female engagement in the Michigan democratic process. 

With her passion for justice, she eagerly seeks the opportunity to take on issues that impact the broader community. “I am trying to get involved in different court programs like mental health court so I can continue to grow in this position.” While dedicated to the public and her community, Bazzi finds solace in time she spends with her family. She finds this time invaluable, especially when her role in the courtroom demands so much of her.

As Bazzi prepares to run for re-election, she stresses the importance of the next generation’s involvement in public service. “Get engaged and be involved with the community. Whether it is local, state or national, you need to understand the community you want to represent. Do not go into politics for title or power, rather do so out of a sense of passion and purpose.”

Laura Neumayer is a spring 2018 intern at the Arab American Institute.