MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJMN) – Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein was in the Upper Peninsula this week. He stopped by WJMN Local 3 earlier Tuesday afternoon to discuss a variety of topics.
One of his missions during his visit was to scope out what kind of resources are needed in U.P. courthouses. Something he noticed was the lack of security U.P. courthouses have.
“That was a common issue in the U.P. that a lot of these court houses didn’t even have security,” said Justice Bernstein. “Imagine you’re a judge, you’re working in a courthouse, especially if you’re handling the family docket. That’s where things can get very intense, things can get very emotional, there are a lot of things going on and you don’t even have a bailiff you don’t even have an officer, you don’t have security.
“That is something of concern, just to give you an example, that went on for a little while. In essence, yeah, I think in the U.P. when you look at courts, how they function, I would say a number of our courts here we have to work better to make sure that they have the minimum amount of resources to function the way that a court needs to function.”
Justice Bernstein became the first blind justice elected to the Michigan Supreme Court in November 2014. And with Michigan Supreme Court’s recent ruling that sexual orientation is protected by Michigan law, Bernstein says he related to the case.
“As a disabled person, as a blind person, I know that feeling of what it’s like to be discriminated against. I know that feeling of what it’s like to not be able to do things. As a person who, before becoming a justice, basically did pro bono work and represented people with disabilities and special needs for 15 years, primarily veterans or wheel-chair users. You could see what it’s like for people to not feel included. You can see what it was like for people to not be a part of a community, you could see what it was like that pain they feel when they’re excluded.
“And that notion that this has been my life’s work to make sure that you have inclusivity for people with disabilities, for veterans who are wheelchair users to make sure that they’re a part of our communities and a part of our society. This is kind of tangential to that because ultimately what you’re doing is you’re basically extending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to allow for all people to be included and for nobody to feel left out or discriminated against, and this has been my life’s work forever to make sure that people are included and that no one’s left out and that no one feels a sense of isolation that’s the idea of kind of disability rights and that’s the idea of civil rights and that’s how I’ve merged the two.”