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Justice Richard Bernstein For Michigan Supreme Court

Blind since birth, Justice Richard Bernstein became the first blind justice, elected by voters statewide, to the Michigan Supreme Court in November 2014. With a commitment to justice and fairness, Bernstein began his 8-year term in January 2015.

Prior to being elected to Michigan’s highest court, Justice Bernstein was known as a tireless advocate for disabled rights as an attorney heading the public service division for The Sam Bernstein Law Firm in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

Committed to taking action to help clients who needed him, Justice Bernstein’s cases often set national standards protecting the rights and safety of people with and without disabilities.

Among his cases in private practice, he represented the Paralyzed Veterans of America in partnership with the United States Department of Justice in an action against the University of Michigan to allow for safe access for disabled individuals when the university’s alterations to the stadium failed to accommodate and represent disabled visitors. The case helped establish guidelines that are used by all commercial facilities across the country.

He also successfully partnered with the United States Department of Justice to force the City of Detroit to fix broken wheelchair lifts on its buses, establishing a precedent for accessibility in public transportation. Further, Bernstein represented disabled residents against the Oakland County (Michigan) Road Commission after “roundabout” traffic circles were built without disabled access, impacting future ADA compliance for road construction throughout the United States.

In a landmark settlement against Delta Airlines and Detroit Metro Airport, Bernstein gained accessibility for disabled fliers, helping set the standard for which airlines and airports are to be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. A proponent of education, he argued for, and won, preservation of special education funding throughout the state and filed a federal suit against the American Bar Association to put an end to its discriminatory practices toward blind students via requirement of the Law School Admissions Test. He also challenged the City of New York to make Central Park and all parks safer for visitors and accessible for disabled and visually impaired individuals.


  • University of Michigan, Phi Beta Kappa
  • Northwestern University School of Law

Affiliate Organizations:

  • Wayne State University Board of Governors, Chair 2009-2010
  • University of Michigan Adjunct Professor, Political Science Department

Honors Received:

  • Michiganian of the Year by the Detroit News
  • Crain’s Detroit Business “40 Under 40”
  • Recognized by CNN as a “leader in keeping government honest”
  • 2003-2004 Regeana Myrick Outstanding Young Lawyer Award by Young Lawyers Section of the State Bar of Michigan
  • 2008 John W. Cummiskey Pro Bono Award from the State Bar of Michigan
  • 2009 Leader in the Law by Michigan Lawyers Weekly
  • 2011 James T. Neubacher Award from the University of Michigan
  • 2011 Elite 40 Under 40 by L. Brooks Patterson, Michigan’s Oakland County Executive
  • 2013 inducted to the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame


  • AFSCME Council 25
  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Michigan
  • American Arab & Muslim Political Action Committee (AMPAC)
  • AFL-CIO Michigan
  • Daily Kos
  • Equality Michigan Action Network
  • IBEW State Conf.
  • Ironworkers Local 25
  • Julia Louis Dreyfus
  • Kent County Black Caucus
  • LIUNA Michigan
  • Michigan Education Association (MEA)
  • MEA Democratic Educators Caucus
  • Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ)
  • MI Good Guys (MI-List)
  • Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights (MRCC)
  • Michigan Democratic Party (MDP)
  • Michigan League of Conservation Voters
  • Michigan Nurses Association
  • MDP Hispanic Caucus
  • MDP Jewish Caucus
  • Muskegon County Democratic Party Black Caucus
  • One Fair Wage 2022
  • Operating Engineers Local 324
  • Pipefitters Local 636
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Police Officers Association of Michigan
  • SEIU Michigan
  • Sheet Metal Workers Local 80
  • United Auto Workers (UAW)