September 01, 2008

September 2008: Isaac J. Lidsky, Esq.

Supreme Court clerk with vision impairment takes non-legal approach towards helping those with disabilities.

Most lawyers featured in the “Lawyer Spotlight” are directly involved with disability law or disability rights. Their careers as barristers have them helping those with disabilities in courtrooms or classrooms. For Isaac J. Lidsky, Esq., one would think he is too busy as a clerk for the United States Supreme Court to assist those with disabilities, but such is not the case; in addition to his clerkship, Isaac is founder, chairman, and president of Hope for Vision (HFV), a nonprofit that helps raise awareness and funding for treatments and cures for blinding diseases.

Isaac was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 13 and progressively lost his vision till he was 25. He has documents digitally scanned so they can be accessed by a screen reader as well as assistance in proofreading and formatting his work to accommodate his disability. Isaac has made great use of the screen reader, as he uses this technology to effectively read hundreds of pages a day.

Before graduating from Harvard Law School, Isaac was a childhood actor and business entrepreneur. Yet an appreciation for the law was engrained in him at an even younger age by his father, who is also a lawyer. Isaac’s father, who he looks up to as one of the best lawyers he knows, often brought him to court as a child. “From a young age, I knew I wanted to go to law school to learn to think like my father,” said Lidsky, “and while at law school, I fell in love with the law.” After law school, Isaac was a clerk with the Honorable Judge Thomas Ambro of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and then joined the Department of Justice Civil Division’s Appellate Staff. This summer, he left the Appeals Division of Jones Day to begin clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. He will also be assisting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg when the Court sits in October.

Attaining a clerkship for the highest court in the land certainly demonstrates that Isaac is an asset for the legal profession; however, it is his work with Hope for Vision (http://www.hopeforvision.org) that makes him an asset for those with disabilities. In founding HFV, Isaac created an organization whose mission is “dedicated to funding the development of treatments and cures for blinding diseases.” HFV also raises awareness of these diseases and the efforts to cure them. About 95% of the millions of dollars already raised went directly and immediately (within one year) to science.

The efforts of Isaac and HFV appear to be working: “Recently, one of the doctors involved with Hope for Vision used genetic therapies to help restore vision. This is a remarkable breakthrough!” declared Lidsky. In fact, it was the progress of science that led him to founding HFV. “I kept hearing about all of the advancements science was making in finding cures for blinding diseases and was inspired,” he said, “but the problem was, and still is, that the scientific community needs the funding. That is where Hope for Vision comes in.”

Like his disability, HFV is a big part of Isaac’s life. Specifically, HFV and dealing with retinitis pigmentosa have given him a better perspective on life. “You question a lot of assumptions,” Isaac said, “for example, that you can’t be blind and read hundreds of pages a day. The same goes for the diseases we combat at Hope for Vision: with advancements in science and medical technology, you can not assume that cures for retinal degenerative diseases are out of our reach.”