Jeffrey Robert Zoeller

April 13, 1961September 4, 2018

Jeffrey Robert Zoeller, 57, passed away peacefully on September 4, 2018. He was born in Lansing, Michigan to Robert “Moe” and Natalie Zoeller. He attended East Lansing High School, graduated from Western Michigan University and Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Jeff opened his own law practice and became a partner in Witzel & Zoeller Lawyers, PC in 1992. He has helped many people in his practice and successfully sued the City of Lansing in 1998, proving a charge to property owners for rain water runoff was an unconstitutional tax.

Uncle “Cool Guy” enjoyed spending time with nieces and nephews. He loved to teach them all kinds of things, including gun use and safety.

As a young man, he lived in St. John, USVI and sailed at every opportunity and basked under the beautiful skies, day and night. He loved star gazing, even building his own telescopes. He knew more about Apple products than anyone working the Genius Bar and was more than happy to share his knowledge.

Jeff is preceded in death by both his parents and one sister. He is survived by a brother, Michael Zoeller and three sisters, Pamela Czubak, Patricia Cunningham and Ann Marie “Amy” (Michael) Smith and many nieces and nephews. He will be missed by all.

A Memorial Mass will be held on Friday, September 7, 2018 at 11 a.m. at St. John Church and Student Parish with a visitation beginning at 10 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Capital Area Humane Society, 7095 West Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906 or

The family is being served by Gorsline Runciman East Chapel.

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  • Visitation Friday, September 7, 2018
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Jeffrey Robert Zoeller

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Bob Baldori

January 11, 2019

How very sad. I've been out of town most of the last year and just found out that Jeff had passed. A great loss, not just to the legal community but to all who knew him. Painful to think I won't bump in to him again at a courthouse, kidding each other about the challenges of our profession. He was always cheerful and delight to be with. I will miss him.

Mary Chartier

September 8, 2018

Jeff always was quick with a smile whenever I saw him. He loved life, and this was evident in every conversation. He will be missed greatly.


September 8, 2018

"The peace of God that surpasses all understanding", help you and your family during this difficult time (Philippians 4:6,7).

Frederick Baker, Jr.

September 8, 2018

About 20 years ago, Jeff sued the City of Lansing, claiming that its storm water drainage fee, what came to be known as the "rain tax," was unconstitutional under the Headlee Amendment, which says, in essence, that no new tax may be imposed without voter approval.

The City called it a "fee," and claimed the Amendment did not apply. The Court of Appeals agreed.

When he brought it to me, he said, "I don't know what I am doing, but I know they are wrong." In fact, neither of us knew what we were doing, because the Headlee Amendment contains no test to distinguish a "fee" from a "tax."

So I invented one, and, using Jeff's record, and ideas in a dissent by (then) Judge Markman, wrote an application that persuaded the Supreme Court to grant leave, hear our argument, and decide we were right.

The City was obliged to fund its sewer in a way that satisfied the new test for distinguishing a fee from a tax, and to pay our fee, which Headlee requires when a taxpayer vindicates voters' constitutional right to consent to a new tax before it may be imposed upon them.

This, by the way, is not a new idea. Tea has been thrown into harbors for that idea.

Jeff had courage. He took on the City on behalf of a retired GM line worker, Alexander Bolt, who could not pay him, because he thought Mr. Bolt was right.

I bumped into Jeff about a month ago. He said I looked about the same, except maybe a little less hair, and I told him he looked very well-nourished. Trench friends tease like that.

Today I went to his funeral.

Certainly the people who attended knew and loved him, but Sandburg put his finger on something when he asked why the hearse horse snickers when he hauls a lawyer away.

Most people don't trust lawyers. They can't tell by looking that a lawyer may have risked solvency and success to "fight city hall" and uphold rights that belong to all of us.

I thought someone should note that Jeff did.