The Sam Bernstein Law Firm

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The Sam Bernstein Law Firm
Headquarters Farmington Hills, Michigan
No. of offices 1 office
No. of attorneys Approximately 35 attorneys (2014)
No. of employees Approximately 115 employees (2014)
Major practice areas Personal Injury Law, Social Security Disability and Civil Rights
Key people Sam Bernstein, Mark Bernstein, Richard H. Bernstein, Beth Bernstein
Date founded 1970
Founder Sam Bernstein
Slogan Do You Have the Bernstein Advantage?, 1-800-Call-Sam, Better Get Bernstein

The Sam Bernstein Law Firm, formerly known as The Law Offices of Sam Bernstein and The Law Offices of Samuel I. Bernstein, is an American law firm, located in Farmington Hills, Michigan.[1] The firm is known for a specialization in personal injury law.[2] In 2008, its main office employed approximately 50 employees,[3] which increased to 115 employees by 2014. The firm specializes in personal injury law,[2] social security disability and civil rights. Cases include auto and motorcycle accidents, nursing home abuse, spinal cord injury and other types of medical cases, including medical malpractice.[1]


The firm was founded in 1968 and is built on three generations of family members in the legal profession all serving the Metro Detroit area.[4]

The first generation of Bernstein lawyers included Mandell Bernstein and Estelle Koblin-Nelson, both practicing law in Detroit.[4] The patriarch of the Bernstein family of lawyers, Mandell Bernstein, was born in 1899.[2] Mandell graduated from law school in 1922 and practiced law in Detroit,[2] representing labor unions, community leaders and businesses.[5] He attended the Detroit College of Law.[5] The matriarch of the Bernstein family of lawyers, Estelle Koblin-Nelson, attended the University of Detroit Law School[6] and was one of the first female attorneys in Michigan in 1936 when she was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan.[7]

Sam Bernstein represents the second generation of the Bernstein family of lawyers.[2] He was raised in Detroit and attended Mumford High School.[5] He earned his bachelor's degree in education and political science from Michigan State University.[8] After graduating from Wayne State University Law School in 1968, Sam continued the tradition established by his father, Mandell, and mother-in-law, Estelle.[2] Sam is licensed to practice law in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Florida and New York.[8]

The third generation of Bernstein lawyers includes Mark Bernstein, Richard H. Bernstein (who left the firm following his 2014 election as a justice to the Michigan Supreme Court) and Beth Bernstein. Mark and Beth currently practice law together at The Sam Bernstein Law Firm.[4]

Notable cases[edit]

Detroit Department of Transportation[edit]

Suit filed against the City of Detroit on behalf of five disabled Detroit residents, claiming that half of the city's buses lacked working wheelchair lifts as required by Federal Law.[9] The plaintiffs stated that they were forced to wait in inclement weather for long periods as a result of this violation.[9] Amidst a very public battle in the local media where then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick "publicly disparaged Bernstein on radio,"[10] The U.S. Department of Justice later intervened in the case, forcing the city and Kilpatrick to settle the Federal lawsuit.[11][12] The agreement, ordered by the US Department of Justice on 4 November 2005,[13] required the city to test the wheelchair lifts of its buses daily, improve the training of its drivers and mechanics and subject its buses to surprise evaluations regularly to ensure disabled patrons have access to public transportation.[11] The City of Detroit Department of Transportation is under the supervision of the United States Department of Justice.[14]

University of Michigan – Michigan Stadium[edit]

Suit filed on behalf of the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America against University of Michigan – Michigan Stadium claiming that Michigan Stadium violated the Americans with Disabilities Act in its $226-million renovation by failing to add enough seats for disabled fans or accommodate the needs for disabled restrooms, concessions and parking. The U.S. Department of Justice assisted in the suit, which was settled in March 2008.[15] The consent decree, signed by U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox[13] required the stadium to add 329 wheelchair seats throughout the stadium by 2010, and an additional 135 accessible seats in clubhouses to go along with the existing 88 wheelchair seats.[16][17] The school also will enhance the wheelchair accessibility of parking, access routes, restrooms, concessions and other amenities, and for disabled journalists, even the player locker rooms and coaches' offices.[18][19] After the expansion was completed, the stadium accommodates 109,901, allowing the stadium to retain its designation as the largest in the United States.[20][21]

Road Commission for Oakland County[edit]

Suit filed on behalf of three disabled Oakland County, Michigan residents in federal court. The suit claimed that the plan by the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) to install roundabouts at three different West Bloomfield, Michigan intersections didn't comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and prevented disabled pedestrians from being able to move freely throughout the area.[22] The suit claimed that roundabouts are unsafe for blind and disabled pedestrians.[23] The case came to a national precedent-setting agreement between the RCOC and Bernstein in March 2008 for the installation of roundabout safety equipment at each location at each entry point of the roundabout.[23][24] If the safety equipment fails, the community may face a federal mandate to tear out the roundabout.[25] A 43-page outline, issued by U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts on 27 March 2009, detailed the timeline for research and installation of automated pedestrian safety equipment.[26] The RCOC finished installing a High Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) system 19 August 2009, which cost $600,000.[27] At a second roundabout in the suit, a Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) was installed 8 October 2010.[28] The cost to set up the system was $70,000.[28] The RCOC said the flashing beacons will stay up for at least one year, while studies are conducted by Western Michigan University and North Carolina State University to determine whether the two systems impact pedestrian safety, particularly for disabled people.[28] If the results are successful, the systems could be installed at other roundabouts.[29]

In February 2009, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the Green Bay City Council decided, against public opposition, to install six roundabouts on Military Avenue.[30] Attorney Richard Bernstein spoke at the Council's 16 February 2009 meeting in opposition of the roundabout installations.[25] In an interview with Green Bay television station WBAY-TV, Richard Bernstein stated that if the roundabouts are approved as-is on Military Avenue, he is prepared to explore taking the issue to federal court.[31] In March 2009, due to public outcry and the proposed lawsuit, the Council cancelled installation of the six proposed roundabouts, instead opting for installation of traffic signals.[32]

Northwest Airlines and Wayne County Airport Authority[edit]

Suit filed against Northwest Airlines (NWA) and Wayne County Airport Authority on behalf of five disabled passengers, claiming that NWA and the Airport Authority violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Carrier Act and the Rehabilitation Act.[33] The suit alleged that Detroit Metro Airport and NWA have dropped passengers to the floor, denied them accessible parking, damaged wheelchairs and failed to provide an area for guide dogs to relieve themselves.[34] Further, the suit alleged that Detroit Metro Airport could be in violation of federal laws developed to improve access for the physically disabled.[35]

On 3 September 2008, U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh III ruled that the ADA applies to air carriers. According to expert Gary Talbot of Boston, formerly of the U.S. Access Board, the ruling means floor slopes, boarding platforms, counter heights, bathrooms, how wheelchairs are handled and anything pertaining to Metro Airport must comply with ADA architectural guidelines.[13] Talbot submitted a 100-page audit to the U.S. District Court in December 2008. According to an interview of Talbot in The Detroit News, the decisions of the judge in this case could drive change across the country with regard to ADA compliance and structural changes required to achieve compliance.[35]

Announced on 27 September 2011, an order in U.S. District Court in Detroit resolved approximately 60 disputed items within the lawsuit had reached settlement.[36] The order was signed by Judge Steeh, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines (which became part of the suit when it purchased Northwest Airlines during the time of the lawsuit)[36] and the Airport Authority to make significant modifications to bring them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act laws,[37] and in some cases, the airline and airport authority already have (as of 30 September 2011).[38] The order covers changes to Detroit Metro Airport's McNamara Terminal, North Terminal, parking garages, the Westin Hotel and airport shuttle buses to better accommodate disabled passengers.[39] The court also ruled that the airlines and airport authority violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing an accessible path from an elevator discharge area to a pedestrian bridge at the airport in Romulus, southwest of Detroit.[36]

Major upgrades include installing new curb ramps, accessible restroom stalls and cane detectors throughout the airport, as well as altering the slope of some ramps.[37] Minor modifications include: signage changes, removal of confusing elevator switch plates and the provision of staffers to help disabled flyers at airline kiosks or crossing jet bridges.[37]

The lawsuit was dismissed as part of the agreement for upgrades, and the airport and airline did not admit to wrongdoing or liability, as part of the agreement.[37] The airline and airport authority have three years to comply with the modifications.[38] Under the agreement, significant changes can be completed after the three years has elapsed and the timeline is open to negotiation.[37]

American Bar Association[edit]

Suit filed against the American Bar Association (ABA) on behalf of legally blind school applicant Angelo Binno, a resident of West Bloomfield, Michigan[40] in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division.[41] The complaint alleges that by pushing law schools to use the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) in its accreditation rules, the ABA imposes an inequitable test requiring "spatial reasoning and the ability to diagram" that discriminates against blind and visually impaired students.[40] The suit alleges that the ABA is thereby failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.[42]

The suit seeks injunctive and declaratory relief as well as a waiver from the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) for Binno due to his visual impairment[42] caused by retinitis pigmentosa.[43] According to news reports, Binno is not seeking financial damages.[44]

Binno claims he has been denied entry to law school five times because of low LSAT scores, due to his inability to diagram for the logic game section[42][44][45] and to be granted a waiver from taking the LSAT,[46] administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC).[47] The LSAC administers more than 100,000 LSATs annually.[43]

Questions that require diagramming to answer successfully make up one-fourth of the exam,[48] consisting of 23 "logic game" questions in the three-part test.[41] High LSAT scores improve an applicant's chances of getting into a prestigious law school.[44]

Binno graduated West Bloomfield High School in three years instead of the traditional four, earned a bachelor's degree in political science[42] from Wayne State University and was awarded high-level security clearance to access the National Crime Information Center database[44] with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,[41][45] where Binno worked for two years.[44] Binno also speaks three languages.[45]

The suit also alleges that law schools are pressured by the ABA to administer the LSAT because if they waive the exam for visually impaired applicants they risk losing their status as an ABA-approved school.[48] According to the suit, schools could face sanctions, be put on probation or lose accreditation completely if they fail to comply by providing the LSAT.[43]

According to the ABA, law schools must require applicants to take a "valid and reliable admissions test"[48] but it has never required use of the LSAT.[42] It claims that schools can use a test other than the LSAT if the school can establish that it is a "valid and reliable" test of an applicant's "ability to satisfactorily complete the school's education program."[48] Statistical studies have shown little, if any, correlation between high LSAT scores and academic success in law school.[44]

The ABA also says it does not establish the weight a law school must give to LSAT test scores in its admissions requirements.[42] However, Wayne State University Professor David Moss on 15 June 2011 on National Public Radio (NPR) said that some schools do accept students with low LSAT scores, but the LSAC directs schools not to give tests taken with special accommodations the same weight as regular LSAT test scores.[49] Schools that accept low LSAT scores may damage their rankings in the annual U.S. News and World Report.[49]

In a statement, the ABA said it "believes the LSAT does not unlawfully discriminate against persons with disabilities."[42] The ABA told NPR it requires universities it accredits to conform to federal law and that accommodations be made for people with disabilities.[49]

The LSAC has been sued twice by the Department of Justice, once in 2002 and once in 2011, for failing to provide "reasonable accommodations" for disabled students and for having an "inaccessible website," respectively.[44] In the 2002 case, the LSAC did not grant extra time to four students with cerebral palsy, which is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.[44]

On 15 August 2011, the ABA filed a motion to dismiss because the organization says it is not responsible for the administration of the LSAT.[47] As of September 2011, the case is still pending.

The International Triathlon Union, USA Triathlon and 3-D Racing[edit]

Suit filed in federal court against The International Triathlon Union, USA Triathlon and 3-D Racing on behalf of Aaron Scheidies, a 30-year-old[50] 7-time world champion and 8-time national champion world-class runner,[51] claiming the organizations violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.[50][51][52] The suit claimed that the triathlon groups' rule, adopted in March 2010,[52] requiring Scheidies, who has 20 percent vision[51] as a result of juvenile macular degeneration,[53] and other vision-impaired runners wear blackout glasses in competition[50][51][52] was discriminatory and dangerous.[51] Officials from the triathlon group said the rule was put in place to equalize the competition among the blind competitors and allowed the triathlon's inclusion in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.[52]

In May 2012, USA Triathlon, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado,[51] and The International Triathlon Union, based in Vancouver, British Columbia,[50] failed to respond to the suit and a default judgment was entered.[53][54] In June 2012, 3-D racing also defaulted.[55] USA Triathlon then filed a motion to set aside default judgment and attempted to answer the complaint.[53]

In July 2012, the Sam Bernstein Law Firm filed for a temporary injunction, giving the defendants 10 days to self-correct the blackout glasses issue or face oral arguments in court.[56] The injunction barred the organizations from holding any triathlons until the issue was resolved.[56]

The case was resolved in August 2012 when Judge Patrick J. Duggan[51] ruled that no blackout glasses were to be worn by any visually impaired athlete and the defendants agreed to have Scheidies help rewrite the rules of accommodation in races for the visually impaired.[57] The rules were required to be finalized by October 2012.[57]

City of New York and New York City Department of Transportation[edit]

Suit filed in federal court against the City of New York and the New York City Department of Transportation,[58][59] claiming Central Park is inaccessible to blind, visually impaired and disabled visitors because of an unregulated roadway surrounding the park, which visitors to the park must cross to enter.[59] The complaint further claimed that New York City was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 by failing to stop reckless cyclists using the roadways.[60] The lawsuit asked the city to come up with a plan to make Central Park safe for people with disabilities.[61]

The lawsuit was prompted after a speeding cyclist struck Richard Bernstein while he was walking in Central Park after training for his 18th marathon[62] in August 2012.[60][61] The cyclist was traveling at 35 mph, 10 mph over the speed limit.[60][61] Bernstein fell face-first onto the asphalt and suffered facial abrasions requiring surgery, tooth damage and a broken and dislocated hip.[59] He filed the suit from his room in Mount Sinai Hospital, New York,[59][60] where he spent 10 weeks in recovery.[58]

New York’s WCBS (AM) 880 reported in December 2012 that a report, “Preliminary ADA Assessment at New York Central Park,” was compiled by ADA expert Gary Talbot detailing what he calls “major ADA violations” in Central Park.[63] The report would be entered into evidence if the case is brought to trial. The report details missing signals, curb ramps and handrails, obstacles in supposedly accessible routes, slopes that are too steep and police and cyclists ignoring signalized crossing(s).[63] As of January 2014, the case is still pending.

Notable lawyers[edit]

Mark Bernstein[edit]

Mark Bernstein served in the White House Press Office as the White House director of press pool operations during the Clinton administration.[4] Mark was appointed to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission by Gov. Jennifer Granholm[64] in 2004. He is the longest serving member.[65] His term completed at the end of 2006. He lectures on legal practice, civil rights and political activism at the University of Michigan Law School and the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.[4] In November 2012, he was selected by statewide election to serve on the University of Michigan's Board of Regents.[66]

Richard Bernstein[edit]

Richard H. Bernstein represented victims of personal injury or disability discrimination.[3] He also was an Adjunct Professor at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor [67] and served on the Wayne State University Board of Governors for one eight-year term, including two years as vice chair and two more as chair, until deciding not to seek re-election in 2010 for a second term beginning in 2011.[68] He was featured on CNN as a leader in "Keeping Them Honest," was honored by The Detroit News as a "Michiganian of the Year" and was selected by Crain's Detroit Business as one of "40 Under 40."[67] In 2009, Bernstein was recognized as a "Leader in the Law" by Michigan Lawyers Weekly for his work in disabled rights advocacy.[69] Richard has been classified as legally blind[70] since birth, as a result of retinitis pigmentosa.[71] In 2010, Richard ran for Attorney General in the State of Michigan but lost the Michigan Democratic Party endorsement to David Leyton[72] in one of the closest races for the Democratic nomination, with a slim margin of just 153.6 proportional votes.[73] In the 2014 midterm election, Richard won election to the Michigan Supreme Court [74] and was sworn in as the Michigan Supreme Court’s first blind justice on January 1, 2015.[75] His last day at the firm was December 31, 2014.[75]


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  55. ^ Wolffe, Jerry (21 June 2012). "Third plaintiff defaults in triathlon discrimination lawsuit". The Oakland Press. 
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  58. ^ a b Wolffe, Jerry (12 December 2012). "New York files motion to have Central Park safety lawsuit heard in Big Apple". The Oakland Press. 
  59. ^ a b c d Wolffe, Jerry (13 September 2012). "Disability rights attorney Richard Bernstein sues NYC after being injured by a bicyclist". The Oakland Press. 
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  63. ^ a b Silverman, Alex (24 Dec 2013). "Blind lawyer suing city details alleged ADA violations in Central Park". WCBS 880 Alex Silverman Reports. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  64. ^ "People on the Move." The Detroit News. 7 March 2004.
  65. ^ Gosselin, Gary (27 February 2012). "Leaders in the Law". Michigan Lawyers Weekly. 
  66. ^ Shahin, Peter (7 November 2012). "Democrats Bernstein, Diggs win regents election". The Michigan Daily. 
  67. ^ a b Retrieved 9 January 2009.
  68. ^ Henkel, Karl. "Bernstein won't run for re-election: After eight years, chair says goodbye in December." The South End. 30 September 2010.
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  71. ^ Brantley, McKinzie. "Attorney Richard Bernstein keeps his promise." The Detroit News. 21 July 2010.
  72. ^ Wright, Shawn. "Farewell, Bernstein." The South End. 7 December 2010.
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  74. ^
  75. ^ a b Blitchok, Dustin (1 January 2015). "Richard Bernstein sworn in as Michigan's first blind Supreme Court justice". The Oakland Press. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 

External links[edit]