Get to Know a Judge: Myron Bright, Still Serving After 47 Years

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on May 13, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Judge Myron Bright has sat on the Eighth Circuit longer than many of those reading this have been alive. For 47 years, Bright has served on the court, continuing to hear cases and author opinions to this day. Needless to say, he's the longest-serving judge in the history of the circuit. At 95 years old, he has no plans to retire anytime soon. Instead, he will continue to hear up to 50 cases this year.

Bright's good friend and then-senator, Quentin Burdick, recommended him for a judgeship to President Lyndon Johnson. According to Bright, LBJ chose him over Robert F. Kennedy for the seat. Over his years on the court, Judge Bright has made significant rulings, particularly in the realm of employment discrimination and environmental law.

Contribution to Employment and Environmental Law

Bright authored two on the most important employment discrimination cases of the 1970s. In Parham v. Southwestern Bell, allowed plaintiffs alleging employment discrimination to use statistics as evidence of discriminatory employment practices. In Green v. McDonnell-Douglas Corp., Bright established the burden-shifting requirements in employment discrimination cases, which were subsequently affirmed and largely adopted by the Supreme Court.

Bright has also made significant contributions to environmental law. His decision in Reserve Mining v. EPA is often included in casebooks due to its balancing of environmental risk and economic costs. In that case, the Eighth Circuit held that a mining company's discharges into the air and water required abatement and preventative steps. Those steps, though, were to be enacted over a reasonable time -- polluting operations did not have to shut down immediately, even though they violated the law. The balancing of environmental and economic risk "has become a lodestar for later judges and scholars."

Bright's Ten Commandments for Judges

Before becoming a judge, Bright spent 21 years in private practice. That experience has stayed with him throughout his time on the bench. His "Ten Commandments of Professionalism for Judges" put consideration of lawyers first, literally. According to Bright, all good judges must:

  1. Remember the other side of the bench
  2. Engage in dialogue
  3. Listen carefully
  4. Be kind
  5. Be patient
  6. Be dignified, but don't take yourself too seriously
  7. Don't be dismayed when reversed
  8. Remember, there are no unimportant cases
  9. Don't impose long sentences.
  10. Do what is right in your heart and in your mind.

Despite his age, Judge Bright shows no signs of slowing down.

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