Bob Lind, Published April 19 2009
Lind: Judge reaches milestone
Myron might have had a fine career in the field of advertising.
After all, when he was around 13, a slogan he wrote for a Keds shoes contest – “Keds never slip, always grip” – took first place, and he won a bike.
But instead of writing ad copy, Myron wound up writing legal decisions. And advertising’s loss was the judicial system’s gain.
Last week, a milestone occurred in St. Louis, where the kid from Minnesota’s Iron Range became the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals’ longest-serving judge. Judge Myron H. Bright’s tenure in that position had reached 40 years and eight months, topping the previous record for the 8th Circuit by a month.
Judge Bright’s path to a position of national honor and respect wound through Fargo.
It was in Fargo where he first practiced law, where he and his late and beloved wife, Francis (Fritzie), raised their two children, and where he was living when President Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the circuit court bench in 1968.
But Fargo couldn’t have claimed him if it hadn’t lacked a huge case of prejudice.
Myron, having decided to go into law, had just graduated from the University of Minnesota law school in 1947 when he was interviewed for a job by an attorney from Duluth, Minn.
Abruptly, the attorney asked him, “What religion are you?”
“Jewish,” Myron said.
That ended the interview; the attorney said his firm had “a lot of clients in the insurance business from the East who don’t like Jewish lawyers.”
The next interview was with Mart Vogel, of the Vogel law firm in Fargo, who mentioned his office sometimes represented insurance companies.
Myron figured he’d better ’fess up. “I’m Jewish,” he said.
“What difference does that make?” Mart asked.
Myron was hired. And his highly successful career was under way.
From the US to Latvia
The judge, who went on senior circuit judge status in 1985, has heard more than 6,000 cases over the years.
He’s been assigned to other circuit courts of appeal, has been a visiting federal trial judge in several states, has lectured at many law schools in the United States as well as in Sweden and Latvia, has seen some of his rulings become law school textbook cases, is planning a book, has won many honors; the list goes on and on.
He says the two best jobs in the legal profession are those of teaching law and serving as a circuit judge “where you are responsible only to be a good judge and to follow the law,” he says.
Recently he celebrated his 90th birthday at a party that brought out many friends and admirers, both in the legal profession and out.
Those people are a big reason he says he’ll never leave Fargo. “I love Fargo,” he says. “I love the people here.” And in the whole region, he says; he also has a home in the Detroit Lakes, Minn., lake area.
But judge, are you thinking of hanging up your gavel?
“I’m old, but I’m not decrepit,” he says, with the Bright trademark sense of humor. “I’ve still got all my marbles. Besides, I’ve got a wonderful staff who makes life a lot easier for me.
“As long as I feel I can contribute, I’ll probably continue working.”
Still, his honor has a theme song, an amended version of “The Old Gray Mare.” His version: “The old gray horse, he ain’t what he used to be, many long years ago.”
That’s what he claims. But the facts of the case are these: This self-labeled “old horse” continues to hear cases and continues to add to the service record he’s established on the 8th Circuit.
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