The SUPREME COURT of MISSOURI Historical Society

Judge Richard Teitelman

Judge “Rick” Teitelman made it a routine of his to walk around the courthouse before proceedings began. He would often arrive late to the courtroom after his walk, so it was common for him to be waiting outside the room, greeting people by the door as they entered. Thus, his portrait is displayed just outside of the courtroom doors, as a permanent greeting to visitors of the Supreme Court.

The portrait above honors Judge Richard “Rick” Teitelman, the first legally blind and first Jewish judge selected to the Missouri Supreme Court and to be appointed as chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. He served on the bench from 2002 to 2016.

When Teitelman was declared legally blind at age 13, his family insisted that he continue with his public-school education. He went on to attend University of Pennsylvania to major in mathematics and earned his law degree in 1973 from Washington University School of Law. Teitelman was one of the first students with visual impairments to attend the law school. He began his career in solo practice, before becoming a staff attorney at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and eventually working his way up to executive director and general counsel there.

In January 1998 Governor Mel Carnahan appointed Teitelman to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, where he served until 2002. Judge Teitelman was appointed to the Missouri Supreme Court in January 2002 by Governor Bob Holden. Judge Teitelman served as chief justice from 2011 to 2013 and remained on the Missouri Supreme Court bench until his death in 2016.

The impact Judge Teitelman had on his community is apparent in his extensive list of awards and activities. He was an active member of numerous professional and legal organizations, including: The Missouri Bar, American Bar Association, Conference of Chief Justices, American Blind Lawyers Association, National Italian-American Bar Association, American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Hispanic Bar Association of St. Louis, National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, and the Eighth Circuit Bar Association, among many others. Judge Teitelman’s service with The Missouri Bar saw him as president-elect, vice president, chair of the disabled minority, chair of the delivery of legal services committee, etc. He also was a member of the lawyers division of the National Federation of the Blind, a chair of the American Bar Association’s Commission on Mental and Physical Disabilities Law, and an executive committee member and vice president of the American Judicature Society. Teitelman received a number of awards for his service to the community: the Lifetime Achievement Award from The St. Louis Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the American Bar Association’s Make a Difference Award, the Democracy in Action Award from the American Jewish Congress, and countless more. Missouri Lawyers Weekly named Judge Teitelman “Missouri Best Supreme Court Judge” in 2008 and “Lawyer of the Year: in 2016 after his passing.