Advance Notice: Briefs

Mich. Supreme Court justice working remotely from Israel after 3 months in Dubai

By: - April 8, 2021 12:10 pm

Supreme Court Justices Richard Bernstein and Megan Cavanagh at the Michigan Elder Abuse Task Force meeting in Flint, July 26, 2019 | Andrew Roth

Updated, 1:46 p.m., 4/9/21, with statement from State Court Administrative Office

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein has been working remotely from the Middle East since early January, the Jerusalem Post first reported.

As the court continued to convene virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bernstein flew out to Dubai on Jan. 7 and stayed at a hotel there for nearly three months. He initially meant to spend just two weeks there as part of an international cultural program between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, but the program has gone on longer than previously planned, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Bernstein landed in Israel on Monday and plans to visit Uzbekistan and possibly other countries while he continues the cultural program. He was fully vaccinated in Dubai, and says he will stay out of the country until the Michigan Supreme Court convenes in-person hearings once again.

In a statement Friday, State Court Administrator Tom Boyd reiterated the court’s remote work policy established early on in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That policy requires working remotely — for Justices and staff — unless a task cannot be performed remotely. During this time, Justice Bernstein has not missed a case call, public hearing, or conference with the other Justices. I have had no difficulty meeting or communicating with Justice Bernstein,” Boyd said.

“In short, he has been very ably performing his judicial duties, as well as his SCAO [State Court Administrative Office] administrative duties. I have seen no signs that anything is different; he continues to work remotely like everyone else within MSC and SCAO.”*

Bernstein has reportedly refused any payments from the program organizers and has instead paid all expenses on the trip himself.

Bernstein, who was born blind, is the son of prominent metro Detroit lawyer Sam Bernstein and the brother of University of Michigan Regent Mark Bernstein. The justice was nominated by the Democratic Party and elected in 2014. His term is set to end in 2022.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).