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MI Supreme Court judge says overseas report he’s ‘stuck’ in Dubai is bogus

If COVID restrictions are lifted, Judge Richard Bernstein says he’ll return to Lansing immediately
Richard Bernstein, 46, is a judge serving on the Michigan Supreme Court.
Richard Bernstein, 46, is a judge serving on the Michigan Supreme Court.(WILX/Michigan Supreme Court)
Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 11:58 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - A Michigan Supreme Court judge is trying to clear his name after an Israeli news outlet reported Thursday he’s “stuck” in Dubai and can’t return to his home state.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Judge Richard Bernstein began quarantining in Dubai for two weeks while on his way to Israel for a visit. During that time, the news outlet reported Israel closed its borders.

That couldn’t be further from the truth, Bernstein told News 10 over the phone Thursday afternoon.

Bernstein, who is currently in Israel, said he was in Dubai for three months and arrived in Israel on Friday. He’s been in the Middle East to do advocacy work for people who have disabilities and said he’s done it while honoring his court commitments remotely.

“If you’re going to showcase the capabilities of people with disabilities, then you got to do your job well,” Bernstein said.

Bernstein is blind and has done advocacy work in Michigan and elsewhere for several years. He says the work often involves speeches and in-person visits to schools and hospitals.

State Supreme Court spokesman John Nevin told News 10 on Thursday that Bernstein’s trip overseas hasn’t created any problems for the court, headquartered in Lansing.

The court has been following strict protocols since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than a year ago and has conducted most of its business remotely - either over the phone or via Zoom.

Nevin said Bernstein has been “working remotely just like lots of other people.”

Bernstein said it’s been difficult balancing his duties as a disability advocate overseas and judge, but said he’s found a way to do it with a “seven days a week” work schedule.

If COVID restrictions are lifted for courts in Michigan, Bernstein said he’ll return to Lansing immediately so he won’t miss any in-person hearings.

Bernstein describes the pandemic as “a disaster” for blind people because it’s extremely difficult for them to communicate remotely. Bernstein it’s difficult to know where to look into a camera for anything Zoom-related, so he handles most of his court business over the phone.

He studies cases by calling his clerks, who read the filings to him sentence by sentence. They then repeat the documents until he is familiar enough with them to form an opinion.

Bernstein, 46, was elected to the Michigan Supreme Court in 2014. He has been visually impaired since birth due to a genetic disorder and is legally blind.

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