JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Supreme Court of Missouri convened in a special session Wednesday afternoon, April 19 to receive the portrait of its colleague, the late Judge Richard B. Teitelman. Teitelman served as a judge of the Supreme Court of Missouri from March 2002 until his death at age 69 in November 2016 and was the state’s chief justice from July 2011 through June 2013.
In opening the special session to honor Teitelman’s memory, Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge said, “His vision was clear: To ensure every person had true access to justice and that their voices could be heard. Judge Teitelman had more compassion for others – in fact, for everyone – than anyone I have known.”
Following an invocation from Supreme Court of Missouri Judge George W. Draper III, three individuals who were very special to Teitelman made brief remarks.
His longtime judicial executive assistant, Kathy Blanton, praised his generosity, kindness and friendliness to everyone, including his staff, whom he dubbed “the Teitelman team.” “He always had a minute to say hello to anyone he saw … the chief justice, another judge, an attorney or the rest of us,” Blanton said. “I cannot think of a kinder or more generous human being. He liked to say the quote, ‘It’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice.’”
Teitelman’s permanent law clerk, Eric Peterson – noting he spent nearly a third of his life working for Teitelman – said, “While Judge Teitelman’s writing was economical, his kindness and generosity were boundless. He could be demanding, but he was always forgiving. He empathized with the less fortunate. He loved his friends and his family, and he respected those with whom he disagreed. He truly was a genuinely decent man. Your presence here today confirms that his was a life well-lived among dear friends.”
In describing his dear friend, St. Louis attorney Maurice Graham said Teitelman was guided throughout his life by a two-word lesson: “I can.” There were many “important characteristics that set our good friend – this special person, Judge Rick – apart,” Graham said. “The first that comes to mind was his tremendously big heart and his ability to see the good in people, to see the good in life and to search out and see lives that needed a caring or helping hand. He simply was, in the eyes of all of us here today, a very special man. And so as we gather this afternoon to hang a portrait to honor Judge Teitelman, our good friend … though with us no longer, wonderful memories remain and shall never end. … He did well in his life’s mission.”
Graham closed his remarks with a Hebrew proverb, capturing a thought for all to take with them: “Say not in grief, he is no more. Say in thankfulness, he was.”
Teitelman’s portrait was presented to the Court by The Missouri Bar Foundation. Foundation President Suzanne B. Bradley, a St. Joseph attorney, said in making the presentation, “Judge Teitelman always considered a stranger to be just a friend not yet met. His congeniality, his concern for others, and his ability to find a kind word for anyone who he encountered are qualities so well known. … His most intense passion was for the law – and by extension – the people, the institutions and the traditions that make up the legal system of our state. His legacy to our system will forever be marked by his determination to make sure that justice was never denied to anyone, regardless of income or regardless of circumstances.”
Nearly 100 friends, colleagues and special guests attended the portrait presentation, which took place in the en banc courtroom of the Supreme Court Building in Jefferson City. The Court has hung Teitelman’s portrait on the second floor immediately outside that courtroom’s main door, so he can continue to greet visitors each day.
Born September 25, 1947, in Philadelphia, Teitelman received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1969 from the University of Pennsylvania and his law degree in 1973 from the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. He ran his own solo law practice until joining Legal Services of Eastern Missouri in 1975, working his way up through that organization’s leadership and serving almost two decades as its executive director and general counsel. He served as a judge of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, from January 1998 through February 2002. Teitelman was Missouri’s first Jewish and first legally blind Supreme Court judge.
(listen to the audio of the ceremony)
Contact: Beth S. Riggert
Supreme Court of Missouri