Checking the Blind Spots

Michigan Supreme Court justice speaks on judicial theories and overcoming a disability

When Justice Richard Bernstein ran for a seat on Michigan’s Supreme Court, he made “Blind Justice” his campaign slogan. He wanted to come across as approachable and open, and the tongue-in-cheek slogan did the trick. Bernstein actually is blind, the first blind justice to serve on the state’s highest court, and he wanted voters to feel comfortable discussing his disability.

“The symbol of justice is the blind-fold, so in a way, (blind people are) just kind of putting substance to the notion that justice is blind,” Bernstein said. “Granted, it’s a little corny, but it’s true.”

Bernstein, who at 43 is also one of the youngest justices ever elected to Michigan’s Supreme Court, previously spent 15 years as a litigator working on cases involving disability access. He spoke to attorneys and other legal professionals in Denver on Aug. 21 for a CLE session hosted by LawBank. His remarks ranged from explaining the state supreme court’s inner workings to the effect of his disability on his work. Though Bernstein does not sit on the bench in Colorado, his topic for the day could connect with people anywhere.

“His story is extremely inspiration-al,” said Sarah Schreiber, an attorney originally from Michigan who attend-ed, adding she appreciated Bernstein’s sincerity and honesty about the state supreme court’s functions. “He’s just an impressive human being.”

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the August 28, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.