Role model: Attorney and former MLCC chair passionate about public service

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Nida Samona, a 1991 graduate of Detroit College of Law, came to the United States from Baghdad as an 8-year-old child. Through her legal career, she has become a role model for Chaldean-American and other minority women in southeast Michigan.

“Public service is my passion and has defined my career,” she says.

A graduate of St. Mary’s High School in Royal Oak, Samona earned her undergraduate degree in business administration and management from Marygrove College. After taking a year off from studies, she headed to Detroit College of Law; the historic law school name instills great pride in her.

Samona’s career trajectory somewhat startled her traditional family.

“I really wanted to break the stereotype of what a young Middle Eastern woman could and couldn’t do,” she says.

The first year of law school was hard.

“I speak three languages, but law was like learning another foreign language, harder than any I’d learned before,” she recalls. “But it was a small school, and many of us felt a sense of family, community, and unity.”

Samona, who focused on international law and took part in moot court competitions, is grateful for the excellent education she received.

“DCL was highly respected and revered, and known as a school that produced trial lawyers and strong advocates,” she says. “I wanted to be a prosecutor, and DCL laid down a good foundation.”

In 10 years as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Macomb County, Samona prosecuted a variety of violations and crimes. Assignments included working in the Criminal Sexual Conduct Unit and as the lead prosecutor in Macomb County Circuit and District Courts.

“I was an advocate, a voice for victims who didn’t have a voice, and I saw to it that justice was served,” she says.

For six of her 10 years as a prosecutor, she also served on City Council in Southfield.

“I enjoyed representing the people,” she says. “I learned a lot from the experience, and I think I brought a lot to it.”

Appointed in 2003 to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission by then-Governor Jennifer Granholm, Samona spent two four-year terms as chair and director.

“I did a lot of speaking and education,” she says. “I’m most proud of the work I did in addressing sales of alcohol to minors. We tried to get licensees to be educated and responsible. I brought my past experience as a prosecutor to the job, and I also worked two days a week as an administrative law judge.”

For the past three years, Samona has worked as a senior executive projects manager for Wayne County. She is involved in a variety of initiatives, including the Economic Development Growth Engine.

Fluent in Arabic and Aramaic, she is a member of the Multicultural Women Attorneys Network and enjoys mentoring other women. A past member of the Arab-Chaldean Advisory Committee, she was involved in the League of Woman Voters and is a lifetime member of NAACP. In 2010, the Arab American Women’s Business Council honored her as Business Woman of the Year. She currently is a member of the Chaldean-American Ladies of Charity, and serves on the Arab-Chaldean Council.

Samona recently took part in a three-person panel at MSU Law for students from the Middle East.

“I was proud and honored to attend and to discuss my evolution and career,” she says. “I always say a law degree is the most diverse degree you’ll ever have. You may not go on to work as an attorney, but the degree will always impact the way you look at and process things.”

The single mom juggles full-time work with the many activities of her two sons (Spencer, 14, and Parker, 12), including football, basketball, swimming, and Boy Scouts. It’s important to her to carve out time to volunteer for her boys’ school, her church, and her community.

“It’s very important to give back,” she says. “I’m very blessed. My eight older siblings all live nearby, and family and good friends are very important to me. My family has been my rock and support system.”

(Reprinted from Amicus Spring 2014 issue, courtesy of Michigan State University College of Law.)