Teitelman, Richard 2016

Last modified: 2021-01-21 05:54
Storyteller: Teitelman, Richard
Interviewer: Houseman, Alan
Date of interview: 2016-05-11
Length: 1:14:34

Topics: Civil legal aid: General and Civil legal aid: State Funding
Geo, US: MO
Lists: Judges
Medium: Video
Collection:

NEJL I.D.: NEJL-009.107
Georgetown status: Video upon request
Georgetown notes: summary, bio note, keywords
Link to NEJL page: http://aspace.ll.georgetown.edu/public/repositories/2/archival_objects/410
NEJL AV link:

Video status:
Video notes: Cuts off suddenly at the end.

Transcript link: Transcript
Transcript status:
Transcript notes:

Consortium status: Gtn info copied
Consortium notes:

Excerpt:

Worked at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri for 23 years, including 18 years as executive director and general counsel. Was a judge on the Missouri Court of Appeals, then was both the first Jewish and the first legally blind judge on the Missouri Supreme Court.



Bibliographic citation:

Abstract: The interview was conducted at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, Illinois.

Description

Bio note
From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_B._Teitelman
Richard B. Teitelman (September 25, 1947 – November 29, 2016) was a judge and chief justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri.

He was born in Philadelphia in 1947, and is the youngest of three children. At age 13, he was diagnosed as being legally blind. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969. Moving to Missouri, he earned his law degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 1973. Following a brief stint in private practice, he worked at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri for 23 years, including 18 years as executive director and general counsel. He was also President of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis. In 1998, he was appointed to the Missouri Court of Appeals by Governor Mel Carnahan, serving in that capacity until his appointment to the state Supreme Court by Governor Bob Holden in 2002. He is both the first Jewish and the first legally blind judge on Missouri’s highest court.

Teitelman’s ascension to the court marked a shift in the court’s balance from majority Republican-appointees since the mid-1980s. The court split along these lines in 2003, when the 4-3 liberal majority held that execution of juveniles is cruel and unusual punishment under the Missouri Constitution, a decision ultimately affirmed by the United States Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons. In 2003, Teitelman wrote the majority opinion for a divided Supreme Court overturning a murder conviction where the only evidence was the testimony of three eyewitnesses—fellow prisoners at the time—that had all recanted. Although Teitelman agreed that the convicted man had exhausted all of his appeals, he reasoned that clear and convincing evidence of innocence acts as a “gateway” for further review.

Teitelman faced a significant retention challenge in 2004. Missouri attorneys supported his retention by an 80% margin.[6] The ad hoc “Missourians Against Liberal Judges” started what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial page called a “smear campaign” against him. Teitelman won retention in 2004 and 2016.

His final term would have expired on December 31, 2016. Teitelman died on November 29, 2016. His seat on the court was filled in April 2017 with the appointment of Judge W. Brent Powell.

Full text of transcript

Consortium for the National Equal Justice Library
Oral History Collection
Interview with
Richard Teitelman
Conducted by Alan Houseman
May 11, 2016

Alan Houseman:
This is an oral history of Richard Teitelman, who I will call Rick. He is currently a Justice on the Missouri Supreme Court. This history was recorded on Wednesday, May 11th, at the Palmer House in Chicago. The interviewer is Alan Houseman.

Alan Houseman:
Rick, let’s begin with a brief overview of your life and career. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to college and law school, and what jobs have you held? Then, we’re going to come back and focus in depth on these.

Richard Teitelman:
I grew up in West Philadelphia. I went to college at the University of Pennsylvania, and I went to law school at Washington University Law School. I then was in private practice for approximately a year and a half, two years. Then I joined the Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, then called the Legal Aid Society of the City and County of St. Louis. I was the staff attorney for one year, managing attorney of what was then the consumer unit, for four years, and executive director for 18 years. Then, I was appointed to the Missouri Court of Appeals. After that, I was appointed to the Supreme Court of Missouri.

Alan Houseman:
On the Supreme Court, you were at one point Chief Justice, as I recall.

Richard Teitelman:
Yes, for two years. We rotate Chief Justices, so you get a two year term and then you go back to being a judge on the Supreme Court.

Alan Houseman:
What influenced you to go into legal aid work?

Richard Teitelman:
I was very lucky. When I was 13, I was taken to the home for the blind, because I’m blind. The top eye doctor, Harold G. Scheie, of the Scheie Eye Institute in Philadelphia, said they should put me in the Home for the Blind and that I’m not going to go to college. My mother at that time — she was a very driven person — said, “That’s where you’re going unless you work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You just keep working and you may be able to stay out of the Home for the Blind.”

Richard Teitelman:
Everything from there is just sort of cherry on top of the cake. So, I just kept working. Not too much history, but Sputnik occurred. Sputnik became a concentration of math and science. So, I couldn’t read very well. I was in remedial reading. Of course, I couldn’t see. That made a problem. But math didn’t require reading, so I was very good at math, and I got perfect scores on every math test I ever took.

Richard Teitelman:
So, I finished my undergraduate. But because of Sputnik, they were doing all this acceleration and advanced placement and all this stuff, because they wanted to have scientists in a non-global economy. So, I finished all my undergraduate math while in high school at the University of Pennsylvania. I was supposed to become a doctor. Again, I was very lucky. It turns out I didn’t like the sight of blood. Also, they said I almost blew up the organic chemistry lab. I denied everything, but they called, and then Penn called and said, “He won’t become a doctor, because he can’t because of the labs. He can’t do the labs.” This is 1967. Maybe it’s changed since then. So, I didn’t become a doctor. So, I said, “What next?”

Richard Teitelman:
My father wanted me to become a school teacher, but I said, “Nah.” I said, “Why not the law?” So, I decided on the law. So I went to law school, and they wouldn’t hire me. It’s funny. I graduated law school. No one would hire me. But no one would give me a job. I interviewed. I had good grades. I was in law review. But no one would give me a job, not even Goodwill Industries when I went there. They didn’t hire me because I was too educated. No one ever gave me a job, except for legal aid, which was desperate at the time. So, I was lucky there. If I had a job in some law firm forever … who knows?

Richard Teitelman:
I grew up in West Philly, which is a very poor community. My elementary school was all African American except for a few non-African Americans. I saw how people were treated, and I saw how people lived. I saw how people are educated. I saw how I was educated, and I grew up in a poor neighborhood. I grew up knowing poor people my whole life, and knowing so many good people had helped me out who were poor and had nothing, but helped me. You can not always pay it back, but you can always pay it forward. So, it always stuck with me how people in my life who were poor African Americans were really very kind to me. They really were obviously good people who desperately needed help. That stuck with me throughout all these ramblings around what on what ‘m going to do.

Richard Teitelman:
So, in 1975, Legal Aid was kind of desperate. The paradigm for attorneys in those days was two years and out. Basically, it was an entry level job. People didn’t get any raises. There was no pension. They gave up the pension at one point. They had a pension from the old days and they gave it up. But the executive director was desperate for someone with experience, and I’d been in a solo practice helping the farm workers. No one paid me. I had two years experience, at least a year and a half more than anyone else almost in the program. So, the executive director hired me. I’m the only person (they’ll say this it true), the only person who, after he interviewed me, followed me out to the elevator and said, “You know you’re on probation. I want you to know you have a 90 day probation.” I said, “Thank you, sir.” I enjoyed the work immensely. I enjoyed the service. I enjoyed the results for people. The best life I could’ve ever had.

Alan Houseman:
Was there any advocacy effort during your time as a staff attorney and managing attorney that you remember that was important to you?

Richard Teitelman:
Absolutely. Actually, Missouri Bar opposed the spouse abuse bill. We spent three years, ranging between David Lander and me, passing the spouse-

Alan Houseman:
David was?

Richard Teitelman:
My executive director. The person who hired me. David Lander and me. I didn’t do that much, as executive director, but I supported it 100% over the objection of the Missouri Bar … integrated bar. They objected because one didn’t want his clerks helping people with their papers. That ruled the day for the Missouri bar. But we won that after three years effort and other strategy to get that passed. Even though I was a litigator and pursued complex litigation and consumer law and everything else, passing the spouse abuse bill probably was one of the most important things we ever did.

Richard Teitelman:
Another one was a housing case in which we used a very creative strategy working with Washington University. Understand we had five attorneys working on it, to provide homeless services to the poor and homeless in St. Louis, and there were 10,000 homeless. It’s not a lot compared to Chicago. But it was a big thing for St Louis. I asked my attorney, “Do we have any law on our side?” He said, “Well, we’re still looking for it.” I said, “Well, keep on looking for it. I’d like to find a little law that gives us a little support here, but we’re going full scale ahead.” It was interesting because, I had no idea, but the mayor and the judge did not get along. The judge used to work in the city councilor’s office. He thought the city councilor’s office represented the city. The mayor thought it represented him. So, the mayor knew this, and the judge knew this, but we didn’t know this. When it got to the day of trial, the mayor was not going to have a trial in front of this judge, and he settled. That was the other big case, I think.

Richard Teitelman:
We had some big consumer cases, which are pretty arcane today, which are truth in lending … hidden creditors… my God, that helped us. I had three hundred debt collection cases going at one time. If I had a plaintiff’s action, it would be in federal court. Well, the lawyers liked it, because they were $100 cases and $1,000 cases, ’cause they’re getting attorney’s fees. But the clients were like, “What the … this is federal court!” And there on defense, we had these recoupment actions. Not one of my clients ever paid a debt.

Richard Teitelman:
Then, while I was executive director, I made Ann Avery litigation director. We had all kinds of class actions. I explained it to the private bar by saying, “We only have about, oh, 25, 30 class actions out of thousands of cases.” They said, “Oh, okay.” I didn’t tell them it was like 50% of our resources was going into the impact work.

Alan Houseman:
How did it come that you become executive director?

Richard Teitelman:
What happened was I guess I did a good job as a staff attorney. And there was a friend of mine in Philadelphia called A. Leon Higginbotham. I knew him when he was Attorney General. Well, I didn’t know him. He was a very young judge, but he turned out to be a 3rd Circuit judge and very well respected. He sent a letter, and they’d never gotten a letter for the executive director position, any position, from a sitting United States Third Circuit judge. It was a wonderful letter. I called him and told him what I was doing, and he sent the letter. I think that might have had some impact. At the time I was managing attorney. I managed 11 other attorneys in consumer law throughout the state of Missouri. I was productive.

Richard Teitelman:
When the income tax credit came out, my executive director wanted to set up some good relations with United Way, because they cut us off during the Warren Hearnes period. My executive director wanted to set up some good relations. So he volunteered me with my case load to do community education — which was like 100 radio shows and 100 presentations — teaching people to sign up for the income tax credit. So, people knew who I was.

Alan Houseman:
You mentioned Warren Hearnes. Who was he, and what was your reference about?

Richard Teitelman:
Well, Governor Hearnes was a Democratic governor in the State of Missouri at the same time Ronald Reagan was the Republican governor in California. I think there were only two states in the country that vetoed the OEO grant. The way that was set up, the governor of the state could veto the plan and it could be overridden by HEW. But you had to have a hearing. I was not there then. I didn’t graduate law school until 1973. This was 1969. But when Governor Hearnes was the governor of the state, there were two big papers in St. Louis. One of them spent 34 pages saying Legal Services had commies and Black Panthers running through its halls. They had Pat Buchanan, who was a columnist for the Globe Democrat, writing columns on Legal Services. We were the most despised group of people by the business class, or much of St. Louis, because they didn’t know anything besides these newspapers.

Richard Teitelman:
Warren Hearnes, riding on this current, vetoed legal aid. I might add, he ended up being a legal aid director in southeast Missouri. But, Jack Danforth and Bill McCalpin fought that. This is an interesting historical note. The person who overrode the veto of Governor Warren Hearnes was Donald Rumsfeld, who was then the head of OEO, and at a time when Howard Phillips was being appointed by Nixon.

Alan Houseman:
Right. So, just to go back a second … you mentioned, in passing, two people, one of whom we have on oral history. Explain who Bill McCalpin and Danforth were.

Richard Teitelman:
Bill McCalpin was a staunch Republican in St. Louis, but a devout devotee of Legal Services. You may not always agree with him, but he clearly had values that we all shared about Legal Services. No one was more dedicated than him, and he helped lead the effort in the St. Louis area with his good friend, Jack Danforth, who was the Attorney General of the State of Missouri at that time.

Alan Houseman:
And Jack Danforth later became-

Richard Teitelman:
United States Senator.

Alan Houseman:
Right. Just for the record, we have this in oral history, but Bill McCalpin went on the board of the Legal Services Corporation and was the chair at one time. He had been on the board in the Carter era and then again on the board in the Clinton era.

Richard Teitelman:
Right. And he was Chair of the ABA SCLAID committee, which was a very important committee of ABA. Every president on the bar who was going to be president of the bar, from Lewis Powell on … Lewis Powell was president of the ABA and a great supporter of Legal Services. He appointed Bill McCalpin to the first SCLAID committee. Bill served on that twice as the chair.

Alan Houseman:
Right. So, back to you. You became executive director of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. Tell me a little bit about how you built the program and some of the things you accomplished as executive director.

Richard Teitelman:
When I started as executive director in 1980, I saw a program that had 95% of its funding from the Legal Services Corporation. The other five percent were little grants or something from the state. Ninety-five percent. There was one source of funding. I saw other legal aids around the country. You know, like Yogi Berra said, “Just open your eyes.” I saw other legal aids that had much more diverse funding. I didn’t see us as being able to give the services that we needed to give our clients with de minimus funding. At that time, it was a lot of money for the annual Legal Services Corporation budget. In 1980, I think it was $321 million. But, I said, “If we’re going to deliver the services, we need to expand it.”

Richard Teitelman:
However, we were the most hated people in the business community, in the corporate community. There were two degrees of separation. Me and people with money and influence. So, I had to change that. Again, my executive director, probably in the ’70s, said, “Rick, you’ve get working in the St. Louis Bar. I want you part of the St. Louis Bar. We’ve got to make better relations with these folks.” So, I headed the consumer committee and I became president of the St. Louis Bar ultimately. And president-elect of the Missouri Bar. I had to build support in every direction I could. In fact, I was a member of the — I don’t have a family, so I didn’t spend much money — so I joined the alumni club at Wash U, and the dean said-

Alan Houseman:
You’re on the what?

Richard Teitelman:
The alumni club. I’m on the National Council of the Washington University. Then the dean of the law school said (he was one of my classmates), “You don’t have any money. What are you doing here?” Then one of the biggest donors said, “It’s Willie Sutton. He’s going where the money is.” I mean, I needed to be where I could find some resources to expand Legal Services.

Richard Teitelman:
So, I started with the bar. Started with the general public. Started with corporations and just met with them and told them what we did. I tried to develop relations with all these people. I met with Bill Danforth — who wasn’t tag-team for his brother, but he remembers the whole corporate community in St. Louis being against Legal Aid — and showed him what we were doing.

Richard Teitelman:
So, I did my best to promote Legal Aid, but never, never ever diminishing the services. I also saw my good friend Sheldon Roodman (blessed memory). I asked him, “How do you have such a good program?” He said, “I keep people. I get good people, experienced people, and I keep them.” That’s what I did. I paid the highest salaries outside of New York or San Francisco. I provided a very healthy pension, and I provided them with whatever education people wanted. If I had ten people who wanted consumer law education, I’d bring the people in from NCLC. If I had ten people who wanted housing law, I’d bring in the people from the housing backup center. And I’d send them places to get education, and promote them, and do things that would make them better lawyers.

Alan Houseman:
As I recall, having been in it, you also built your own building … a long term institutional presence in St. Louis.

Richard Teitelman:
Oh, yes. It’s funny. I developed good… I never went to a black tie dinner in my life, but I developed the most successful black tie dinner of lawyers and legal people in the state of Missouri. I just observe. I said, “No speeches and no awards. That’s all.” An auction. A time for lawyers to gossip and have a band. We get 900 people a year who are dying to go to this black tie dinner as a signature. We can make a couple hundred thousand.

Richard Teitelman:
I also hired an impact PR person. If I wanted an article in the Post (it was then becoming the only paper) sympathetic to Legal Aid when we were doing the United Way presentation, I got it placed. If I wanted TV station coverage, I got it placed. Now, they didn’t necessarily cover our Oxford House cases. We did them. We were proud of them, but they were on the last page. They wouldn’t be the most popular. Our prison cases wouldn’t be the most popular. But the domestic violence cases where we saved the family, they went on the front pages of the paper, and this guy could place them.

Richard Teitelman:
I also was Ken Smith’s first customer going for funding in the state legislature. I needed an economist. I hired Ken Smith. So, at any event, we got good press and I developed good relations. I dated one of the reporters at the Post who covered the business section and legal things. She covered us wonderfully. I’d go to reporter parties, and they were all like Legal Aid attorneys. All the reporters were just like Legal Aid attorneys in every sense of the word. So, I got to know the Mike Royko of St. Louis.

Alan Houseman:
Who was that?

Richard Teitelman:
The columnist Bill McClellan. His hero was Mike Royko, and he wrote in the same vein as Mike Royko. McClellan was beloved by the people in St. Louis. It wasn’t necessarily always positive stories, but I was pushing Legal Aid.

Richard Teitelman:
Getting back to the building. We said, “How would we like to ask the lawyers in St. Louis for a million dollars to help fund the building for the Legal Aid?” McClellan wrote, “Teitelman must be crazy.” This was “Teitelman’s Folly”. “It’ll never happen.” And this went out from the widest read person in St. Louis. Six months later I had a million dollars. Then McClellan said, “Well, I have to take it back. They got their million dollars, and it’s for a good cause.” So, I tried to work with the press.

Richard Teitelman:
I went on all fronts to add and develop the different aspects of … Doreen Dodson said at my swearing in, “He had a lot of people owed him favors. I mean, lots of favors. And they’d call them in for Legal Aid.” I was on the Washington University National Council. I still am. People want to go to law school. People want to go to college, and they don’t see it as being objective thing. They see it as being you need to have some calls made. You need to do this or that. I don’t know what effect it has. Of course, the deans always said, “Oh, wonderful of you to call. Wonderful of you to call”, but they’re not in it for money. People thought I had an impact on getting their kids into school. They could be politicians. They could be other judges. They could be people on the Supreme Court, which that is another thing.

Richard Teitelman:
I felt very good about all the support we were able to garner for Legal Aid. The one thing I could say was, given my experience with the Home for the Blind, I wasn’t afraid of losing. Dave Landers said — I didn’t know Zig Ziglar said it before him — “Give credit away.” And I always gave credit away to everyone around me. I wasn’t afraid to lose. People would say, “You’re not going to raise…” What’s a couple million. Maybe $2.3 million in our building. But I thought it’d give us a presence. Also, it saved half a million a year, because we owned the building. I did not want to go into a mortgage. Then people say, “Well, you got a mortgage. You’re paying off the building. And you’re paying the salaries.” We paid it off within three months. There was no mortgage, and it was free rent for the next 18 years.

Alan Houseman:
Just for the record, who was Doreen Dodson? You mentioned her.

Richard Teitelman:
Oh, Doreen Dodson’s a dear friend of mine. Very active in the bar. In fact, when Dave Landers said, “Rick, you get involved in the St. Louis Bar and Doreen, you get involved in the Missouri Bar”, Doreen got involved in the Missouri Bar and became president of the Missouri Bar.

Alan Houseman:
She was also very active in ABA, right?

Richard Teitelman:
Yes, very active in the ABA. Chairman of the SCLAID committee and every other committee in the ABA. In fact, we just got her son appointed as Associate Circuit Judge.

Alan Houseman:
You built up this program in St. Louis. You built your own building. You also got (and you mentioned this) active in the Bar. You were president of the St. Louis Bar. What about the Missouri Bar?

Richard Teitelman:
I was president-elect of the Missouri Bar before I became Judge.

Alan Houseman:
Right. How do you see that Bar relating to your commitments to the Legal Aid?

Richard Teitelman:
It was interesting because we really had a bad relationship with the Missouri Bar. There was a battle between Kansas City and Springfield over territory, over, I guess it was Joplin or Springfield. It was a heated battle between the Missouri Bar, which was more or less rural, and Kansas City Bar, which was urban. They wanted (I don’t know if it was a strategy or a plan) to split the state of Missouri in half. One half to Kansas City. One half to St. Louis. Laterally. The state of Missouri is seven states. I mean, really, when you get to the Arkansas border, it’s Arkansas. The eastern part of the state … they like to see themselves as East Coast. The western part of the state is more … It’s divided. It’s a whole different … So, there was a war.

Richard Teitelman:
Part of the war was the Springfield program had got its own program. They did not like the Kansas City program. Then the Missouri Bar did not like the spouse abuse bill. In fact, I was sent by my bar to invite the Missouri Bar to appoint someone to our board, which was a good strategic thing, and it was my first chore. I went there and the only piece of paper out at the Board of Governors meeting was Pat Buchanan’s article, “Legal Aid Play Pen for Radicals”. Usually, you have lots of papers. That was the only piece of paper on everyone’s desk. So, I never got to make my pitch, but what I did is we had a couple of older lawyers. One of them had served in the Second World War and the Korean War — an older African American lawyer. I described him as one of our staff attorneys. I said, “I don’t think anyone would describe him as anything but a patriot, and not a radical.” And I left it at that, and went on. I was lucky I wasn’t fired promptly, because that wasn’t necessarily … But not in an antagonistic way. I was just describing one of our lawyers.

Richard Teitelman:
Then the Missouri Bar passed … I helped work on getting our delegates through ABA Day. We have, actually, all eight congressmen and two senators supporting Legal Services. But at the time, we had three Democratic congressmen opposing Legal Aid. Of course, it was Warren Hearnes’ state. It carried on for a while.

Richard Teitelman:
In any event, the Missouri Bar — which had a mandatory bar taking my bar dues — voted to reduce funding for Legal Services Corporation from $321 million to $240 million. But I was involved in the Commercial Law Committee. I was involved in doing CLE programs. I was doing the day-to-day work of the Missouri Bar, and then I was running for office. I had the most votes in the history of the St. Louis Bar ever, in any contested election, two to one. No one has ever come in close again. In the Missouri Bar, I had the highest totals in the history of the Missouri Bar. I didn’t know how to not be persevering.

Richard Teitelman:
So, what happened is … we’re on tape now. It won’t get to the press. What happened is I picked out who was going to be rotated, rural, Kansas City, St, Louis, president of the bar. I picked out five years in advance a very influential rural lawyer. I said, “You’ll be president of Missouri Bar, and I will carry the St. Louis and Kansas City contingents to support you for that.” He had no sympathy towards Legal Aid. Not antipathy, but no sympathy, no anything towards Legal Aid. But because I supported him to become president of Missouri Bar, which he really wanted before he even knew it, he supported us in every way he could, once it came up to getting filing fees, which is three million dollars a year for Missouri, which is a lot of money. He supported us in every way possible, with absolutely no … We took over Hannibal, Missouri ultimately, and he became a good supporter. But he had no feeling towards it whatsoever before.

Richard Teitelman:
So, the bar really, in that regard, as far as having the highest vote totals, having support throughout the … They need votes. Not from the people, but the Board of Governors. And because of the number of votes I could get people … and people would ask me to endorse them. The next president of the bar after me came to me. He was a big law firm guy. Said, “I want to be president of St. Louis Bar. I will lead the effort for pro bono in the twenty-five large firms. I will get that commitment if you support me for president of the bar.” So, these kind of different things.

Richard Teitelman:
[ed. note: the following is difficult to follow even on the audio recording. It is transcribed faithfully here for the reader to follow as best as possible] And getting a million dollars … We got a 30 dollar mandatory add-on to the state bar’s annual dues. We had 20 dollar add-on in 2002. At that time, it was a different ethos. I was coming up as president-elect. First I asked for a $75 voluntary add-on, like Texas. Actually, Dick Halliburton said, “No, no. It costs too much money to get the volunteer contributions.” So, I changed that to $20 mandatory. So, in 2013 when I was going out as Chief Justice, I wanted another $30 mandatory add-on because of congressional sequestration of funds. That would bring in a million a year at the beginning of the year, which in Missouri is a lot of money. The leadership of the bar said, “No, we’re going for a $75-$100 increase for ourselves. We can’t add another $30. We refuse. We refuse.”

Richard Teitelman:
So, they refused the Supreme Court of Missouri, which as one of my former colleagues said, “We are their creator.” So, I moved that along. Two of the judges were two judges I helped appoint to the Supreme Court. So, seven judges. I needed four votes, and the fourth vote’s daughter wanted to go to Wash U. She’s very smart and a very good student. She just wasn’t a good test-taker. She got admitted to Wash U. So, I had four votes to three, and it was very contentious. As Justice Nathan Heck said, from Texas, “If I did that in Texas, I’d need an armed guard.” I said, “Well, I’m already accused of killing Jesus. Once you’re accused of killing Jesus, you can’t do much worse than that, so I’ve already got an armed guard.” I’m covered. And it was really the leadership. I didn’t want a polling of it, because I didn’t know who the uninterested would vote, but they would vote no. So, we had no poll. We had nothing. It’s just we said, “Okay, Missouri Bars are going to do it.” We created our own rule and our own fee. We are the Supreme Court, and there was enough feeling on the court like, “They can’t say that to us.” And we got four votes, and ultimately and we got a million dollars a year extra for Legal Services during sequestration.

Alan Houseman:
Okay. So, you’re director of the program. What happened when you went to the Court of Appeals?

Richard Teitelman:
Oh, God. It was big mistake.

Alan Houseman:
Well, let’s start there, and then we’re going to go to the Supreme Court thing. So, what happened? What made you want to go to the Supreme Court?

Richard Teitelman:
I didn’t. I just wanted to make the panel. I just wanted to make the panel of three so people would say, “Well, Legal Aid’s really respected.” I knew enough people liked me, because I was getting all these votes. People respected me. But I said, “You know, I’ll apply. If I make the panel, it’ll be good for Legal Aid.” Again, from 1980 on, I’ve been trying to move the ball as far as Legal Aid being respected, because we were the most hated. As Jon Asher said, “The only person they hated more than a poor person is the poor person’s lawyer.” But it was double that in Missouri.

Richard Teitelman:
I never thought I’d get appointed. So, actually, the Governor called and said, “Well, I’m going to appoint you.” This was over two circuit judges, and I’m not a judge. And the Governor was very committed to affirmative action and one of the circuit judges was African American and one was a woman. So when the Governor called, I called two people. They could attest to this. Diane Taylor, who was my successor. Maybe it was the wrong person to call. And Charles [inaudible] was a big law firm guy I knew. I said, “How do I turn them down?” And Charles said, “You just can’t. No one in the history of the state has ever turned the Governor down.” He said, “Well, take it for a year and quit.” Well, you can’t do that. My Legal Aid job isn’t there anymore. So, I caught myself in a position of not knowing what was going to happen, or anticipating. I don’t anticipate positives. I anticipate negatives, and try to overcome them. And it wasn’t a positive for me. I mean, I loved my job. Actually, it’s in that AP article, so I’m not really … I loved my job.

Richard Teitelman:
So, for the Supreme Court, I saw the composition. Mel Carnahan was still the Governor. Bob Holden was the next Governor, and I saw the composition of the court, and I was good at math. If I joined the court in replacing a very good person, an Ashcroft appointment, the composition changes. It’s now four three, progressive versus non-progressive. And they saw it coming. In fact, a lady circuit judge now said to a friend of mine on the progressive side, “The cavalry is coming.” So, the composition changed to four three, and from ’02 to ’07, we got I think some of the most important, progressive decisions in the history of the state.

Alan Houseman:
When did you go on the Missouri Supreme Court?

Richard Teitelman:
’02.

Alan Houseman:
And when did you go to the Court of Appeals?

Richard Teitelman:
’98.

Alan Houseman:
’98. Okay. And you’re still on the Supreme Court.

Richard Teitelman:
I am. They’re trying to chase me off. See, that’s the thing about Legal Aid. I think like Joe Bartylak, I could’ve continued on at Legal Aid. But the positive of that is I’ve had two great successors, Diane Taylor and Dan Glazier, who’ve done a wonderful job. I can see life at Legal Aid pretty much after my death. I mean, it’s really doing a fine job, and that’s a really great and satisfying thing to see, which if I’d have stayed on (which I probably would have tried to do), I would never have seen. I can see it continue. Maybe not forever, I don’t know. Life has twists and turns, but Diane did a great job and Dan’s doing a great job. But, they want to retire me. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. I’m trying to change the retirement age in Missouri for judges.

Alan Houseman:
You won a few awards, which are in your resume, which will be attached to your oral history. What awards do you value the most?

Richard Teitelman:
I value Legal Aid awards. They named an award after me. See, part of the deal with my non-speeches, non-awards thing is we would have an awards function. Now it’s an awards dinner. And you know what you’re getting into. You know what you’re going to. You know that you’re honoring people, usually your friends. And so they named one of the awards after me. It stuck with people.

*** [ed. note: The audio ends here.] ***