Goodby Mike, Hello Judge

Judge Bright's portrait

Judge Bright’s portrait

I have written before about Myron (Mike) Bright, a judge, but not just any judge, on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. At 95, he continues to hear cases.

In 2009, Myron H. Bright reached a historic milestone by becoming the longest‐serving working judge on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. During his remarkable 40 plus years of service, he has heard over 6,000 cases, employed over 100 law clerks, and worked with 35 of the 58 judges who have served on that Circuit’s Court of Appeals.

I am very pleased to say that Judge Bright has now written a book about his life and his experiences. As chairman of the board of the Historical Society of the United States Courts in the Eighth Circuit, and a great admirer of Judge Bright, whom I have had the privilege of knowing for over 40 years, I read with interest Myron H. Bright, Goodbye Mike, Hello Judge, My Journey for Justice, Institute for Regional Studies Press, North Dakota State University (2014).

I loved this gently written book. In addition to telling us about a remarkable life, the book is an extremely important account of the political world of the upper mid-west during the last half of the 20th century. Historians will be citing this book quite a lot.

For example, Judge and Mrs. Bright’s meeting, on the occasion of his confirmation, with President Johnson is both funny and insightful. Who knew that you could get into the White House by showing an Elks Club card? The conversation between Bright and the President about Bright needing to remember that Johnson nominated him is just one more fascinating tidbit.

The book is also valuable for those who study legal history. For example, the story of how Bright and my old mentor, Judge Don Ross, concocted the burden shifting framework to avoid an en banc review in a Title VII case is fascinating. Moreover, Bright’s dedication of the chapter discussing Green v. McDonnell Douglas* to Judge Ross is an act of kindness and respect that also sheds light on how judicial “politics” on the federal courts of appeal played out between judges of varying ideologies during a far gentler time.

My copy of the book contains this handwritten note from the judge: “Dear Rich, You are a great judge and even more, a best friend to Judge Don Ross and my friend also. Myron H. Bright.”

There are not many things that bring tears to my eyes, but this note did. I suppose that is because I am old and ever more sentimental. That admitted, this remarkable book about a legal giant should be devoured with great pleasure by historians and lawyers alike.

RGK

* For the Supreme Court opinion, see here.

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