The Remarkable Justice Rick Teitelman

Missouri Supreme Court Justice Richard B.  Teitelman recently passed away. He was a remarkable person. He served his state and the nation’s courts with great honor. For many years he served on the board of the American Judicature Society where I got to know him. Kurt Erickson wrote of the Justice:

Judge Teitelman, known as “Rick,” began his service on the state’s high court in March 2002 and served as its chief justice from July 2011 through June 2013.

He was 69. Details of his death were not immediately available, but his longtime colleague and friend, former Supreme Court Justice Michael Wolff, said Teitelman had been ailing for several years.

“He’s had some serious health problems,” said Wolff, who is dean of the St. Louis University Law School.

In honor of Teitelman, the court canceled oral arguments scheduled for Tuesday, but will hear arguments as scheduled on Wednesday.

“It is with great sadness that the Supreme Court of Missouri acknowledges the passing of its beloved colleague,” the court said in a statement issued Tuesday morning.

Teitelman — the first Jewish judge to serve on the state’s high court — was born in Philadelphia. At a Missouri Bar Association event earlier this year, Teitelman said his mother had wanted him to become a doctor.

At age 13, however, he was declared legally blind. He graduated from University of Pennsylvania in 1969 with a degree in math and moved to Missouri where he attended law school at Washington University.

He worked at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri in St. Louis for nearly a quarter-century before being appointed to the Missouri Court of Appeals in 1998. He was elevated to the state Supreme Court by former Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat, in 2002.

On Tuesday, Dana Tippin Cutler, president of the Missouri Bar, offered condolences to Teitelman’s family and friends.

“We join with the Court in recognizing his 18 years of service to the people of Missouri as an appellate judge and his career-long dedication to making sure all Missourians, regardless of their income, have equal access to justice in Missouri,” Tippin Cutler noted in a statement.

House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty said the court benefited from Teitelman’s dedication to equal justice for all.

“During his decades representing poor clients as a legal aid attorney and later as a jurist, Judge Richard Teitelman’s commitment to protecting the less fortunate from injustice was unwavering,” McCann Beatty said.

Thomas G. Glick, president of the board of directors of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri offered praise for Teitelman.

“He gave voice to those without representation and was tireless in his work to protect the vulnerable,” Glick said.”

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