Richard B. Teitelman, American judge, Died at 69

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Richard B. Teitelman was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and died on November 29, 2016.

He was a judge of the Supreme Court of Missouri.

He was the youngest of three children.

At the age of 13, Richard was diagnosed as being legally blind.

Teitelman earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969.

After he relocated to Missouri, Richard earned his law degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 1973.

After 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.

Teitelman was also President of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis.

During 1998, Teitelman 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.

Teitelman was both the first Jewish and the first legally blind judge on Missouri’s highest court.

His ascension to the court marked a shift in the court’s balance from majority Republican-appointees since the mid-1980s.

In 2003, the court split along these lines, 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.

During 2003, he 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.

But, 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.

He faced a significant retention challenge in 2004.

The Missouri attorneys supported his retention by an 80% margin (albeit one of the lowest support rates that year).

The ad hoc “Missourians Against Liberal Judges” began what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial page called a “smear campaign” against him.

He won retention in 2004 and 2016.

Teitelman’s current term would have expired on December 31, 2016.

Richard B. Teitelman passed away at 69 years old.

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