Justice Richard Bernstein to speak at UM-Flint, April 2

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Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein will visit the UM-Flint campus, 6 p.m., April 2, to speak about his journey in the legal profession and issues regarding access to justice.

A chance meeting between a University of Michigan-Flint student and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein has led to the university hosting one of the state's preeminent legal voices. Joe Bujak, a senior history and political science and major from Fenton, met Bernstein and invited him to speak on campus. The justice said yes, and Bujak worked with Bernstein's team to make the idea a reality. 

The outcome of that planning is a dinner and conversation, 6 p.m., April 2, in the University Center Happenings Room, during which Bernstein will speak about his journey in the legal profession and access to justice issues. The event is free and open to the public.

Kim Saks

"Justice Bernstein has an extremely varied set of experiences that makes him uniquely qualified to speak on topics related to justice access," said Kim Saks, assistant professor of political science and faculty advisor to UM-Flint's Pre-Law Society. "He is the first and only blind justice on the Michigan Supreme Court, has served on the Wayne State University Board of Governors and has advocated for disabled rights in his work as an attorney."

In one example, Bernstein was part of a legal team that made the Law School Admissions Test more equitable. The "logic games" section of the test relies heavily on spatial reasoning and diagramming – an aspect that the plaintiffs (whose representation included Bernstein) argued is discriminatory against those who are blind or vision impaired. The lawsuit settlement in October 2019 led to the Law School Admissions Council dropping that portion of the exam. 

"It's the first significant change to the LSAT in many years," Saks said.

Hosting Bernstein will offer a unique opportunity for UM-Flint students to connect with a wide range of legal professionals while learning from one of the country's top legal minds. 

"While the event will have broad appeal for those who work in law and even the general public, I think our students will be particularly interested in Justice Bernstein's perspectives on access to a legal education, not just from the perspective of disability issues, but also in terms of socioeconomic status and racial issues as well because there's certainly still a pretty big gap there."

Saks, who previously practiced labor and employment law, uses her real-world acumen and academic bona fides to help students interested in the legal profession get the most out of their time at UM-Flint. The university is the first undergraduate institution in the state to offer the LawReady certificate, a credential offered through LSAC that helps prepare students for law school. 

"We are offering the first two classes as part of that certificate this semester and will have a whole host of classes next year that count toward LawReady. It structures their curriculum in a way that best prepares them both for the LSAT and for law school in general," she said. 

The April 2 event will feature a plated dinner and is free and open to the public. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP online

More information about pre-law studies at UM-Flint can be found on the university's website

Logan McGrady is the marketing & digital communication manager for the Office of Marketing and Communication.