Nation’s first blind state supreme court justice has “passion to do the right thing”

Nation’s first blind state supreme court justice has “passion to do the right thing”


It’s our life experiences that define
who we are. It’s our life experiences that allow for
us to interact, understand, and appreciate the world that we live in.
This is Richard Bernstein. He’s a U.S. State Supreme Court justice but there’s
a catch: he’s blind. And I think that I’ve been blessed as a person who is blind
to have known some hardship and struggle and challenge. Because of those
challenges and because of those life experiences it allows for me to serve as
a merciful, kind, compassionate but most importantly empathetic jurist
it lends itself to somebody with experience knowledge and let’s face it a
passion to do the right thing always. To memorize his cases an associate reads
them out loud to Bernstein over and over again until he has the details of each
case embedded in his mind. In court once he hears the procedural history he’s
able to remember the case as a whole. I know those cases backwards and
forwards, front to back. Going to law school as a blind person was incredibly
difficult. I used to pray every day that I would have the strength and stamina and
the ability to simply get through law school and I promised God that if he
gave me this chance that I would dedicate my entire professional career
to helping people with disabilities and special needs. Voters in Michigan elected
Bernstein to office in 2014. He was the first blind State Supreme Court justice
in the United States. Throughout his law career he has been proven to be a tireless advocate for the disabled community, winning landmark settlements that often
set national standards protecting the rights and safety of people with
disabilities. His cases have always came against major corporations
who could afford unlimited attorney fees, or governments, or governments, unlimited, and you would go and he would walk into court and there would be six attorneys
on one side and on the other side on a plaintiff side there would be Richard
by himself, no books, no notes. So often it’s a vision that creates
problems. If you’re able to see you get distracted, you get distracted by how
people look or how people dress. If you’re not able to see, you can focus on
the core of the person, the core of their testimony. People are truly drawn to him.
He has this great great energy and he’s always had that and I think he always
will. Not only has Bernstein proven himself in the courtroom but also as an
athlete. I ran the New York City Marathon, you know which was very challenging
because you’re running with 50,000 people through the streets of New York
and that was an incredibly challenging thing. But with a great team and we got
through the marathon and we did it. Now it takes people far beyond their family
that like you don’t have to have sight to have vision. I think that the hope of
being a Supreme Court justice is that we are aware of what we can achieve,
we simply need for people who are not disabled to understand and appreciate
what we can offer and what we can do and just simply give us a chance. That is
really the thing that we’re asking for. We know what we can accomplish, we know what we can achieve, we know what we can do. We simply need the able-bodied members of community to provide us with that opportunity to do it.

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