Workers’ friend Judge Rick never let blindness distort his view of justice
The working men and women of Missouri lost a great friend with the death of Missouri Supreme Court Justice Rick Teitelman, 69, from a heart attack Nov. 28.
Despite being legally blind, Judge Rick by those who knew him, worked his way though Washington University law school by helping working families, farm workers, laborers, hospital workers with legal advice while he volunteered to help with many social service agencies.
His first job after law school was working for Legal Services of Missouri, who at the time was desperate for lawyers with any experience.
He was a staff attorney there for a year, managing attorney his second year and promoted to director of Legal Services for Eastern Missouri at the age of 32, and for the next 16 years, providing leadership that not only raised funds from the legal community and private resources to sustain Legal Services as a champion of the poor and anyone who could not afford legal counsel, but who made the organization one of the shining stars of the legal profession. Before that, Legal Services was viewed with distain among many lawyers.
TO THE SUPREME COURT
After Legal Services, he served four years on the Missouri Court of Appeals until 2002 when Judge Rick was named to the Missouri Supreme Court by Gov. Bob Holden, becoming the first Jewish judge in the court’s history.
In a biography written by Rabbi Jim Goodman highlighting Judge Rick’s being honored by Jews United for Justice, he noted that the judge would tell his poor clients at Legal Services, “I work for you. I do what you tell me to do. They never heard that before; it’s so empowering.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch called him “…one of the sharpest judges on the Missouri Supreme Court.”
Fellow Missouri Supreme Court Justice Ronnie White, the first African-American to serve there, said of Judge Rick: “(he) is one of the outstanding jurists the State has ever seen. I don’t know if the contemporary writers understand his contributions, but the future will.”
Before cases were heard in his court, he would walk the courtroom and personally greet people. He was always sending notes of praise, condolences, congratulations to people he met, even once, because he never forget a name or a circumstance. That was Judge Rick.
His memorial service at Washington University’s Graham Chapel was overflowing. He was a jurist admired by all who met him, friends and foes alike.
May his Soul Rest In Peace.