JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Gov. Jay Nixon announced late Tuesday that he would order all flags at Missouri courts to half-staff in remembrance of Supreme Court Judge Richard Teitelman who died Tuesday at the age of 69. Teitelman was the first Jewish and legally blind judge to serve on Missouri’s highest court.
A cause has not yet been named for his death, but Teitelman has reportedly been in bad health for a few years.
Teitelman was appointed to the court in 2002 by Gov. Bob Holden and won re-election for a 12-year term that was set to expire Dec. 31 of this year. He served as chief justice of Missouri’s highest court from July of 2011 to June of 2013.
He was also an active member of the civic community, serving on the board of the St. Louis Public Library, within the lawyer’s division of the National Federation of the Blind (he was diagnosed as legally blind at 13), and as a member of the Missouri State Historical Society. He also served the American Bar Association on a national level, including as a past chair of its standing commission on mental and physical disability law.
Teitelman’s death resulted in an outpouring of grief from Missouri elected officials , lawyers and judges.
Gov. Jay Nixon released this short statement about Teitelman’s passing.
“Missourians have lost a judicial leader who dedicated his life over more than four decades in service to the people of this state and to our legal system, both as a Judge of the Missouri Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals and during a long career with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri,” Nixon said. “Judge Teitelman will be remembered not only for his breaking new ground as the first legally blind judge to sit on Missouri’s highest court, but also for his legal skills and his passion for justice.
“He truly listened to, and never forgot, those who needed justice the most. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues.”
Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Patricia Breckenridge:
“Judge Teitelman’s love of justice and the law was paralleled only by his love of people. He provided support and encouragement to his friends in the things that mattered most to them. And he considered almost everyone he met a friend. He had a remarkable ability to retain and recall information about people and events and to find connections with each of them. His seemingly boundless energy, enthusiasm, and empathy strengthened and gave hope to those around him in thoughtful and meaningful ways. Judge Teitelman will be missed tremendously.”
Michael Barrett, the director of the Missouri State Public Defender System:
“Today Missouri lost a great champion for the poor and marginalized. We pause to honor his service, not just as an accomplished jurist of the State’s highest court, but as a humble and committed public servant.”
Attorney General Chris Koster:
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Missouri Supreme Court Judge Richard Teitelman,” he said in a statement. “Judge Teitelman has given our state a lifetime of public service, including two decades at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri representing the most vulnerable of our citizens. We will miss his wisdom, humor, and friendship.”
Others within Missouri politics and the judicial realm expressed their condolences on social media.
MO Supreme Court Justice Richard Teitelman was a good friend, dedicated to his job, his community, and helping others. He will be missed.
— Senator Roy Blunt (@RoyBlunt) November 29, 2016
Overwhelmed over the passing of Judge Teitelman. Missouri has lost someone special. RIP.
— Gina Mitten (@gcmitts) November 29, 2016
— Shamed Dogan (@Dogan4Rep) November 29, 2016
Very sad to hear of this. Great man – great judge. Once swore is my Leg. Assist. at the time in my office! Des Mowry got Bar results nite B4 https://t.co/slEI6GP2Ee
— Billy Long (@auctnr1) November 29, 2016
The Supreme Court has suspended oral arguments Tuesday following the news but resumed normal business on Wednesday.
Teitelman’s memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday, December 1 at Graham Memorial Chapel on the Washington University campus in St. Louis.