Letter of Support for the Nomination of Justice Richard Bernstein to the US Court of Appeals (December 29, 2021)

December 29, 2021

Paige Herwig
Senior Counsel and Special Assistant to the President
White House Office of Counsel to the President
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Ms. Herwig:

The National Federation of the Blind writes in strong support of the nomination of Justice Richard Bernstein to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The National Federation of the Blind is the oldest and largest organization of blind people in the United States. Through our network of members and affiliates in every state, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, we work collectively to improve the lives of blind people across the country. We believe that blind people have an inalienable right to independence, that blind people have equal capacity, and that only blind people themselves can legitimately speak for the blind community.

We appreciate the Biden Administration’s work to improve the diversity and representativeness of the federal bench, including nominees of color, women, and LGBTQ people. However, to date, there have been no nominees identified as people with disabilities. In fact, with the upcoming senior status of Judge David Tatel, the blind community is losing its representation on the federal bench.

The Administration has an opportunity to correct this lack of representation. Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein is an outstanding candidate for appointment to the Sixth Circuit. Justice Bernstein, age 46, is the first blind justice elected to the Michigan Supreme Court. In addition to his personal experience of blindness, Justice Bernstein’s pro bono work while in private practice gave him a strong understanding of disability rights law.

Justice Bernstein is eminently qualified for nomination to the federal appellate bench. He has served on the Michigan Supreme Court for seven years, deciding the state’s most sensitive and complex cases. Justice Bernstein’s commitment to public service does not stop at the bench. He has participated in the Genesee County Jail’s IGNITE program to give incarcerated people second chances, participates in an international program to improve the perception of people with disabilities, and advocates for competitive sports for people with disabilities, having run some 25 marathons himself.

We urge you to nominate Justice Richard Bernstein to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind