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December 12, 2016

JCRC Statement on Passing of Judge Myron "Mike" Bright, z''l of Fargo, ND

Minneapolis, MN – Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement:

"The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) notes with great sadness the passing of Judge Myron "Mike" Bright, z''l of Fargo, ND. Myron Bright served as Judge of the United States Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals from 1968 – 2016.

"A son of the Minnesota Iron Range and of immigrant Russian Jewish parents, Judge Bright was born in Eveleth, MN, in 1919. Judge Bright was proud of growing up among first generation families with 'everyone in the same boat and friends without prejudices.'

"Graduating from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1947 after having served in the China/Burma/India theater in World War II, Judge Bright joined the Vogel law firm in Fargo. He became an accomplished trial lawyer and a fixture in North Dakota civic and political life - a confidant to regional and national political figures including the late Sen. Quentin Burdick, Sen. Mark Andrews, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, and William C. Marcil Sr.

"Appointed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Lyndon Johnson, Judge Bright had a distinguished career serving the seven states of the circuit court. His career spanned 11 chief judges of the circuit court and half of the time-period since the geographical reconfiguration of the circuit in 1929.

"As detailed in his autobiography - 'Goodbye Mike, Hello Judge: My Journey for Justice' (Regional Studies Press North Dakota State University, 2014) - Judge Bright wrote seminal opinions in cases involving Vaughan v. United States (1968) (conscientious objector status); McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green (burden of proof in Title VII Civil Rights case adopted by Supreme Court at 411 U.S. 792 [1973]); and Deegan v. United States (2010) (dissent in sentencing guidelines case).

"Judge Bright dedicated his autobiography to his late wife of 54 years Frances 'Fritzie' Bright who inspired her husband with the patient counsel and love of 'plant, nurture, grow.'

"His national stature in the legal community was coupled with his ability to connect with people one on one. Judge Bright had a contagious sense of humor which was often self-deprecating. He had an uncanny ability to remember names and personal stories related to people he knew.

"Scott Johnson - Minneapolis attorney and Powerline co-founder/contributor and two-year law clerk for Judge Bright - recalls him 'gently convincing an elderly gentleman to comply with a court order relating to the National Labor Relations Board. It was a case study in human understanding and in great power wielded with true mercy.'

"In the last few years, I had the privilege and pleasure of participating in several events with Judge Bright: the opening of the July 2014 exhibit of the United States Holocaust Museum exhibit at Bonanzaville (Fargo, N.D.) - Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burnings - and a book talk about his autobiography and life at the Stinson Leonard Street law firm (Minneapolis, MN) in December, 2015. I also had the honor of working with Judge Bright's remarkable executive assistant, Lana Schultz.

"Judge Bright's deep connection to the Jewish community and all minority communities and his commitment to equal justice under the law permeated his career and philosophy with the practical sense which was a hallmark of his opinions. Indeed, in the background of the cover of his autobiography is the framed admonition of Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue from Deuteronomy.

"Born during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson in the aftermath of World War I and serving the federal judiciary and the American people through the presidency of Barack Obama, Judge Bright brought the values of the upper Midwest and the 'Greatest Generation' and shaped the law and life of the United States."

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As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the JCRC fights anti-Semitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.