January 01, 2015 Waymaker

Justice Richard Teitelman: An Advocate for Legal Aid

By Judge Nannette A. Baker

Justice Richard Teitelman has served on the Missouri Supreme Court for 12 years. He is the first legally blind person and the first Jewish person to serve on that court. He is also the only Supreme Court justice in Missouri to face a serious retention challenge. While some of his critics consider him controversial, to know Justice Teitelman is to like and respect him. Justice Teitelman was appointed to the Missouri Supreme Court in February 2002 and served as chief justice of the Court from 2011 until 2013. Before his appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Teitelman served for four years on the Missouri Court of Appeals.

Before he took the bench, he spent 18 years at the helm of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. Justice Teitelman, a self-described “workaholic for justice,” was instrumental in increasing the financial support for Legal Services. In addition, under his leadership, respect for the organization and its mission soared. Justice Teitelman continues to advocate for increased funding for legal services for the poor.

At the request of the Missouri Bar in 2003, a $20 registration fee was paid by the lawyers annually. In 2014, the Missouri Supreme Court created an Access to Justice rule that added another $30 to the fee, for a total of $50 to be paid by the attorneys. In 2003, there was also a suggestion by the Missouri Bar that the Supreme Court add a $100 Pro Hac Vice fee, which was increased in 2013 to approximately $300, with funds going to Legal Services. Also in 2003, the Missouri Bar and others urged the legislature to pass a filing fee surcharge, which amounts to approximately $3 million a year for Legal Services.

Justice Teitelman is a Philadelphia native who graduated from Washington University School of Law in 1973. He is very active in the legal community and is an active member of the ABA; he is a past president-elect of the Missouri Bar and the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis. He is a member of nine additional state and local bar associations in Missouri. He was chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Mental and Disability Law and also a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service.

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