Fault Lines
29 April 2017

Mike Is Dead

December 21, 2016 (Fault Lines) — For as a long as I can remember, I hated Christmas.* I now have even more reason for this dislike.

I learned this week that Mike is dead. Mike was a Jew.** He was raised by immigrant parents from Russia in the Iron Range of Minnesota. Mike subsequently “immigrated” all the way to North Dakota.

I know that Mike celebrated Christmas with his Christian neighbors while holding fast to his faith. But, still, I wonder if Mike and his family ate Chinese on Christmas? Is such a thing even possible in Fargo, North Dakota on Christmas day?

Mike was born during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, in the aftermath of World War I. Once he acquired his position in 1968, he plied his skills until he died at age 97 on December 12, 2016.

Mike was a master craftsman, who turned out a prodigious amount of work that was always infused with the essential and unique attribute of his Judaism. As Rabbi Bradley Artson stressed, “One cannot claim to love God and not be passionate about justice. That is the primary Jewish contribution to the human spirit . . . . [E]thics and a passion for justice remain the engines driving the entire Jewish enterprise.”

If you are a lawyer or judge involved in the criminal justice system, the passing of Judge Myron H. Bright,*** United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, requires something of you. You should come to a full stop. Then, you should reflect upon**** the extraordinary life’s work of a man who embodied justice as he saw it for 48 years.*****

Richard G. Kopf
Senior United States District Judge (Nebraska)

*On this subject, I am not the lone ranger. On Fault Lines, Chris Seaton recently put it ever so well in his post entitled, Ban Christmas for the Public Good.

**My phrasing will seem jarring to some. If so, I hope you will come to appreciate that it is necessary (or at least I think so).

***I first met Mike in 1972. Funny thing, despite the fact that I am now 70 years of age, I could never call him “Mike” until now. Anyway, I last saw Mike on July 21, 2015. I interviewed him then for the Federal Judicial Center’s Workshop for Judges of the Eighth Circuit in Minneapolis, Minnesota. You can view the hour-long interview here to get a feeling for the man and his life. The interview was constructed around Mike’s book, Goodbye Mike, Hello Judge: My Journey for Justice. My review of the book is here. For a review from the distinguished historian and professor of law, Jeffrey Morris, Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, see here.

****Among the many fine tributes to Judge Bright, I especially recommend Scott W. Johnson’s, Myron H. Bright, RIP, PowerLine (December 12, 2016). The post is written by a former law clerk to Judge Bright. The author is a distinguished writer on public policy issues including income inequality, income taxes, campaign finance reform, affirmative action, welfare reform, and race in the criminal justice system. Johnson is a fellow of the Claremont Institute.

*****See, e.g., United States v. Webser, 820 F.3d 944 (April 25, 2016) (Bright dissenting from a ten-year sentence, the same sentence imposed after an earlier remand, for a black 20-year-old; “As highlighted by my prior opinions and the guidance from the Executive branch, the problem our country faces is not too many lenient sentences. On the contrary, the problem we face is excessive prison terms and high costs to taxpayers associated with excessive prison terms. Webster’s sentence may fall within the category ‘decades of overly punitive sentencing policies’, see id., and, for that reason, Webster’s sentence should be vacated [again] and remanded for reconsideration by the district court.”)

3 Comments on this post.

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  • Keith
    21 December 2016 at 9:34 am - Reply

    ‏ברוך דיין אמת

  • Jill P McMahon
    23 December 2016 at 9:31 am - Reply

    Sorry for the loss of your friend, Judge.
    It’s that time of year and a story is on the way.

  • JAV
    24 December 2016 at 8:52 am - Reply

    As a resident of that fine city, I can report that it is very possible to have access to tasty Chinese food during all the major holidays in Fargo, forging new memories and reliving the old, with friends and family.

    My belated sympathies.