Special Report: Blind Justice

(WLNS) – To say that Richard Bernstein is excited about the future would be an understatement.

“I would have to say it’s going remarkably well.”

To most, his daily routine would be physically exhausting, if not impossible to stick with for long.

Bernstein wakes up every day at 5, works out for an hour, rides in the car for an hour and a half from his home in Birmingham to Lansing where he now officially works at the Hall of Justice. “I truly believe the law can be a force for good,” said Justice Richard Bernstein.

To make that “force for good” happen, Richard as he insists 6 News’ Jane Aldrich call him, is always working, by pushing himself “mentally” as well.

Bernstein relies on a team to help him at work and at home. This team includes assistant, Tim MacLean. Maclean helps him navigate the physical world.

And he has Tim read, out loud all of the Supreme Court cases Richard needs to know and memorize.

We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents from the court, not including electronics, that Bernstein has to memorize.  All of this looks like a years’ worth, no, this is what he has to memorize in one month.

“To be a good judge, you have to be a good listener,” said Justice Richard Bernstein.

Reporter: “And he does really memorize this stuff?”

Tim MacLean: “He does. It’s remarkable. Just as soon as I think I have a pattern down for how he’s doing something, he throws me off. He’ll say something back to me, almost verbatim,” said Tim MacLean, personal aide to Justice Bernstein.

“The cases become very much a part of you.  You’re not just reading them once and that’s just it.  You’re reading them and internalizing them,” said Justice Bernstein, Michigan Supreme Court.

Bernstein had good practice “internalizing cases” while at his family’s legal firm.

“I’m blessed.  I have an older brother and a younger sister and we have a very close family. We spend a lot of time together. There is so much love and support,” said Justice Bernstein.

His family’s support stretches from the courtroom to the race course. And over the course of seven years, Berstein has completed an iron-man triathlon.

But Bernstein has also run 18 marathons. The last one took place after he was severely injured when a bicyclist ran over him in New York City.

Reporter: “How long ago was that?”
Bernstein: “Two years ago.  We did the New York City marathon a year ago November.”
Reporter: “Amazing.”
Bernstein: “On a shattered hip and crushed pelvis. It’s just the pain you have to work through, such horrible pain.”

But remarkably, that pain, still with him every day, hasn’t slowed him down for a minute.

“I look at it from a more spiritual context. I really believe we all have a purpose and a reason why we’re created. And I’m just a true believer that I was sent here with this disability. It’s part of a bigger plan,” said Bernstein.

“That’s the energy and the spirituality that allows you to work through the challenges and the difficulties because you know you’re part of something bigger than yourself.”

And now, after everything he’s gone through, it’s this place, the Hall of Justice, where he believes he can make a significant difference.

“I think the most skill set that any good justice can have is the power of empathy. It’s the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, have an ability to relate to the struggles and the challenges and the difficulties that people have to contend with which people have to face every single day,” said Justice Bernstein.

Richard hopes his new position will also turn the spotlight on what has always been important to him.

“Given the opportunity, people with disabilities, special needs, folks who are different, will do the job with tremendous energy and passion and spirit and vitality,” said Bernstein.

Reporter: In eight years when you’ve served your term, what do you hope people will say about you?”
Bernstein: “I hope they’ll say he was a good justice, fair justice, merciful justice,  kind justice.”

In the case of Justice Richard Bernstein, justice is also blind.  It appears he’s on his way to show us all, what the right attitude can do.

“He definitely is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met.  He spreads that to every person he meets,” said MacLean, personal aide to Justice Bernstein.

We welcome thoughts and comments from our viewers. We ask that everyone keep their remarks civil and respectful. Postings that contain profanity, racist, or potentially libelous remarks will be deleted. We will delete any commercial postings, as well.

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