The Honorable Darlene A. O'Brien


Six-year term expires January 2025.

About the Honorable Darlene A. O'Brien

First appointed Washtenaw County Probate Judge in 2006, Judge Darlene A. O’Brien won election later that year.  She graduated in 1980 from Notre Dame Law School having earned her bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from University of Toledo.  Following a federal judicial clerkship, O’Brien was an active trial attorney for 24 years, representing clients in criminal and civil matters, including those heard in probate and family court.  She was admitted to practice in the US District Court, ED Michigan, as well as the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge O’Brien served as a member of the Judicial Section Council of the State Bar of Michigan, the Mediator Standards of Conduct Committee, and as Team Leader for Washtenaw County American Inn of Court, 2011-2013.  She co-chaired the Washtenaw County School-Justice Partnership Team from 2013-2020.

Judge O’Brien has civil court mediation training, served as a case evaluator for the 15th District Court, and taught trial practice for Institute of Continuing Legal Education, including its Deposition Skills seminars.   O’Brien has attended Peacekeeping training conferences, authored numerous articles on Peacekeeping, as well as the “Pleading” chapter in ICLE’s Michigan Causes of Action treatise.  

Cooley Law School designated Judge O’Brien in 2012 as Integrity in the Community Honoree; the Washtenaw County Bar Association presented her with the 2014 Professionalism and Civility Award; and in 2015 the Washtenaw Association for Justice honored her with the Justice Marilyn Kelly Award for Judicial Excellence.   In 2007, O’Brien received the Bernard J. O’Connor award by the Dispute Resolution Center for the just and humane resolution of human disputes and in 2005, the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, Washtenaw Chapter presented O’Brien with the Mary E. Foster award for her leadership and contributions to women.


Judge O’Brien belongs to the American Bar Association, State Bar of Michigan, Washtenaw County Bar Association, the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, and Women Lawyers Association of Michigan.  O’Brien served on the Probate Council for the Probate and Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan from 2009-2013.

Board Participation

Judge O’Brien has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Michigan Probate Judges Association from 2011-2021, served as MPJA President 2019-2020, Vice President, and Treasurer.  O’Brien served on the Board of the Center for Occupational and Personalized Education from 1994 to 2009, including terms as president, vice-president, secretary, and executive committee member.  O’Brien also was active on the Board of Ann Arbor’s Neutral Zone teen center from 2004 to 2010.


Currently Judge O’Brien hears domestic relations, mental health, trust and estate cases and previously handled probate, juvenile delinquency, abuse and neglect, and felony criminal cases.