Bringing “blind justice”- Michigan Supreme Court
“I want to bring blind justice to the Michigan Supreme Court,” said the then Michigan Supreme Court candidate, Richard Bernstein.
Richard Bernstein made history by becoming the first blind person to serve in Michigan’s highest court. He has been blind since birth.
Unlike few other states such as Missouri and Washington D.C., Michigan has never had a blind judge on its highest court. Missouri Supreme Court Justice Richard B. Teitelman, who has been legally blind since the age of 13, was appointed to the court in 2002. At the federal level, there is David Tatel, a blind judge serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Bernstein is widely known in southeastern Michigan because his family’s personal-injury law firm – Sam Bernstein Law Firm regularly advertises on TV. Few of his notable professional achievements include representing disabled Detroit residents in 2004 in an action against the City of Detroit to fix wheelchair lifts on buses as required by federal legislation and representing the Paralyzed Veterans of America in 2007 in an action against the University of Michigan for failing to include adequate accommodations for spectators with disabilities when planning renovations for the stadium. The suit resulted in increased seating for people with disabilities and their companions and enhanced accessible parking, restrooms and concessions.
His personal life has been equally interesting and eventful. He has run more than 15 marathons, 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, Bernstein made headlines in New York City after being struck by a speeding bicyclist while running in Central Park, a collision that put him in Mt. Sinai hospital for weeks. He went on to sue the City. Interestingly, the suit was not for money but an attempt to make Central Park safer for others by requiring the City to follow minimal federal requirements set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).