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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Justice for all people finds his destiny on High Court



By JERRY WOLFFE
“Jerry Wolffe,” I heard someone calling me repeatedly as I was on a field at what was to become the Miracle Field in Southfield where children with disabilities would be able to play baseball on an accessible field.
It was Richard Bernstein.
He came over to my wheelchair. “It’s so nice to meet you, Jerry,” he said. “You do such good work for those with disabilities with your column “Voices of Disabilities.”
I shook his hand and as I did this I noticed the dark clouds in the sky separated and the bright afternoon sun shone down on the both of us, kind of like a magic moment that we -- the journalist and the attorney, both with disabilities -- were going to do great things.
Well, the great thing happened on Nov. 4 when Bernstein was elected to an eight-year term as a Michigan Supreme Court Justice, becoming the first blind jurist to the Michigan high court.
Bernstein, who graduated with high honors from Northwestern, began a pro bono career the weeks after we met, suing for civil rights for people with disabilities, cases ranging from everything to make Detroit buses be equipped with proper wheelchair lifts to fighting for a visually impaired law student to get extra time under the Americans with Disabilities Act during the bar exam. That Southfield attorney, Jason Turkish, just won a case against Detroit Metropolitan Airport that reverses a decision that would have made it nearly impossible for those with disabilities to get some 900 feet from a dropoff spot to the entry of the McNamara Terminal.
Bernstein will fight for everyone, those with disabilities, seniors and the underdog in our society because he knows what it is like to have faced discrimination and beat it head on.
His slogan, “Justice is Blind,” is true and this Justice will bring the light of reason and fairness to Michigan’s highest court.