Wayne State University

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School Announces Largest Gift in History

April 9, 2007

* Aug. 22, 2008 – Please note that building and programming specifications for the Damon J. Keith Center may have changed since this release was written. Please contact Mary Hollens, Senior Director of Development and Alumni Relations at (313) 577-4141 or am2674@wayne.edu with questions.

Wayne State University Law School is pleased to announce that it has received the largest single gift to benefit the School in its history.  The gift comes from the estate of Carl Ziemba, Law School Class of 1948.

Mr. Ziemba, who died in November, 2006, directed that the gift of $3.1 million support scholarships for students.  The first scholarships are expected to be awarded in the fall of 2007 at the Law School’s annual Honors Convocation ceremony.

Carl Ziemba was widely known as one of Michigan’s best appellate lawyers, and he ably represented defendants at every level from Detroit Recorder’s Court to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he argued three cases.  He was a man who was fascinated by the law, and he often took cases because they offered “a new novel challenging issue.”  He kept copies of every brief he had ever written and was meticulous in keeping current with new rulings from various state appeals and supreme courts.  When he retired from legal work in 2004, the Michigan Supreme Court called him “an appellate institution in the State of Michigan.  His expertise and vigorous advocacy are legendary and the role he played in shaping this state’s criminal jurisprudence is profound.” 

Prior to the Ziemba gift, the largest single contribution to the Law School had been given by industrialist and philanthropist A. Alfred Taubman, who donated $3 million to the campaign to build the Damon J. Keith Classroom Building and Center for Civil Rights.  The Law School received that gift in April, 2006.

In Memoriam:  Carl Ziemba

It is with great sadness that Wayne State University Law School announces the death of one of its graduates, Carl Ziemba, Class of 1948.

Mr. Ziemba died on November 5, 2006.  He was born on November 6, 1921 in Detroit; he died one day short of his 85th birthday.

Carl Ziemba was widely known as one of Michigan’s best appellate lawyers, and he ably represented defendants at every level from Detroit Recorder’s Court to the U.S. Supreme Court.  In a series of articles based on a study of criminal appeals published in The Detroit News, Ziemba was singled out as an attorney who worked especially zealously for his clients.  He believed “the constitutional right of anyone, guilty or innocent, has to be protected and that right must be buttressed by vigorous application of the law---even if there’s little money in it for the attorney,” according to a front page article in the News on January 26, 1981.

Ziemba was a man who was fascinated by the law, and he often took cases because they offered “a new novel challenging issue.”  He kept copies of every brief he had ever written and was meticulous in keeping current with new rulings from various state appeals and supreme courts.  In addition to the lengthy briefs for which the courts knew him, he was an avid reader and a frustrated author.  Ziemba wrote plays, novels, and poems.  A theater group in Washington produced one of his plays in the 1970s.  Mr. Ziemba was also a painter:  he specialized in oils, and decorated his home with his own works, which a friend described as “Picasso-like.” 

His work took Mr. Ziemba far beyond the Michigan appellate system.  He argued cases in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth and Seventh Circuits and the U.S. Supreme Court.  His appearances in front of the Michigan Supreme Court covered a time frame of 25 years.  Carl Ziemba’s last appearance in front of that court was in 2002.  When he retired from legal work in 2004, the Michigan Supreme Court called him “an appellate institution in the State of Michigan.  His expertise and vigorous advocacy are legendary and the role he played in shaping this state’s criminal jurisprudence is profound.”  Among his landmark cases were Michigan v. Mosley (1977), in which the U.S. Supreme Court addressed  the admission of a defendant’s custodial confession; People v. Aaron (1980) in which the Michigan Supreme Court abolished the common-law felony murder rule; and People v. Konrad (1995) which clarified the meaning of “constructive possession.”

Early in his career, Mr. Ziemba worked for the Prosecutor’s Office in Detroit and for Michigan Senator Philip Hart in Washington, D.C. on refugee and immigration matters.

The only pastime that took him far from his work was travel.  Carl Ziemba traveled widely, including numerous visits to Europe and Asia.  A favorite U.S. destination for him was Santa Barbara, California.  He had just returned from a trip to Germany, Austria, and Sweden when he fell ill.  Mr. Ziemba never married and did not have any children.  His legacy was in his work.  His estate, including numerous law books, is bequeathed to his alma mater, Wayne State University Law School.