[Nfbmo] Blind Judge Makes History, Joins Michigan's Supreme Court
dangarcia3 at hotmail.com
Tue Dec 30 00:27:33 UTC 2014
Last November when he was elected my mom called me up and was thrilled.
I lived in Michigan before and have seen the commercials he and his family
run. In one commercial, one of his brother remarked that Richard ran for
attorney general a few years ago.
From: Nfbmo [mailto:nfbmo-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Nancy Lynn via
Sent: Monday, December 29, 2014 12:28 PM
To: nfbmo list; NFBC List
Subject: [Nfbmo] Blind Judge Makes History,Joins Michigan's Supreme Court
I got this from another list and thought it would interest you.
Blind Judge Makes History, Joins Michigan's Supreme Court
DETROIT (AP) --
Richard Bernstein officially joins the Michigan Supreme Court in a few days.
But he's been working off the clock since November, preparing
for 10 cases in an extraordinary way - memorizing the key points of every
brief read to him by an aide.
Bernstein, 41, has been blind since birth. After winning the election, an
assistant at his family's Detroit-area law firm began reading briefs to him
mid-January arguments, including a medical marijuana case and a labor
dispute covering thousands of state employees.
"It would be much easier if I could read and write like everyone else, but
that's not how I was created," Bernstein said. "No question, it requires a
more work, but the flip side is it requires you to operate at the highest
level of preparedness. ... This is what I've done my entire life. This goes
the way back to grade school for me."
Michigan has never had a blind judge on its highest court, and few other
states have. In Missouri, Justice Richard Teitelman has been legally blind
age 13. Judge David Tatel, who is blind, sits on a federal appeals court in
"Every new justice has to make a transition from whatever life he or she had
before," Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. said. "His will be different than
others, but he's extraordinarily successful and very driven. You don't enter
Ironman competitions without having a steel backbone."
Indeed, Bernstein's remarkable background undoubtedly appealed to voters. He
has run more than 15 marathons, and in 2008 completed a triathlon by riding
a bike 112 miles, running 26.2 miles and swimming 2.4 miles with the help of
guides. In 2012, he made headlines in New York City after being struck by
a speeding bicyclist while running in Central Park, a collision that put him
in a hospital for weeks.
Bernstein is widely known in southeastern Michigan because his family's
personal-injury law firm regularly advertises on TV. He spent more than $1.8
of his own money to campaign for the state Supreme Court. His slogan? "Blind
As one of only two Democrats on the seven-member court, Bernstein is
unlikely to crack the court's conservative sway. But he's still expected to
"His own experience and background is different than anyone else's at the
conference table," said Justice Bridget McCormack, who was a law professor
being elected in 2012. "Richard knows a whole lot about disability law the
rest of us don't. We don't get a lot of those cases. Who knows how it will
Bernstein will be sworn into office on New Year's Day. Timothy MacLean, his
assistant for three years, has been reading briefs aloud to prepare him for
the court's first batch on oral arguments on Jan. 13.
"We do use technology but technology can only take you so far," Bernstein
said. "I internalize the cases word for word, pretty much commit them
by memory. I'm asking the reader to pinpoint certain things, read footnotes,
look at the legislative record."
Hearing arguments and writing opinions is only part of a Supreme Court
justice's job. They meet weekly to decide whether to accept or reject
more than 2,000 cases a year. Because he's blind, Bernstein will be having
many conversations with his law clerks instead of communicating through
or long memos.
"My chambers will be unique," he said. "Not many clerks will have as much
interaction with a justice as mine will."
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