By Susan Logue
16 June 2008
On July 14, Isaac Lidsky, 28, will begin a new job, working as a law
clerk in the U.S. Supreme Court. There have been clerks working for
the justices for more than a century, but Lidsky will be making
history. He will be the first blind law clerk to take on a job that
requires a lot of reading. But he doesn't see that as a problem.
"The assistive technology is such that my blindness doesn't slow me
down," Lidsky says. "I'm able to do my job productively, so for me
it's not an issue."
In his townhouse on Capitol Hill, Lidsky catches up on the latest news
from the Supreme Court on the Internet with help from a reading
Lidsky wasn't born visually impaired. He lost his vision gradually
during his teens. "I was 13 when I was diagnosed with a retinal
degenerative disease called retinitis pigmentosa," he says. "Two of my
three older sisters also have the condition. At the time I didn't
realize that I saw any worse than my peers. In retrospect, I clearly
did. I progressively lost vision between then and age 23 or 24."
Despite the fact that he was going blind, Lidsky graduated from
Harvard University and Harvard Law School.
"It was a challenge to adapt to vision loss while trying to keep up
with studies," he recalls. "I had tremendous support from Harvard
University both in college and law school. They were able to get me
cane training, get me meaningful access to my courses and notes and
textbooks. Unfortunately, that is not always the case for folks with
visual disability. And that is a tremendous problem."
Prior to law school, Lidsky had another career, following in the
footsteps of his older sisters. "They dabbled in acting as a hobby
growing up in Miami, and by the time I was born, my mom was already a
pro in the business," he says. "I did a diaper commercial when I was
six weeks old, and probably somewhere between 100 and 150 commercials
In 1993 he was cast in a television sitcom, Saved by the Bell: The New
Class, which took him to Los Angeles for a couple of years. Lidsky
says he feels "blessed" to have had the experience, which he notes is
"not the average experience for a 13, 14 year-old kid."
And he enjoyed the work, acting and putting the show together, which
was filmed in front of a live studio audience. It was great
preparation for law, especially trial law. And Lidsky always knew he
wanted to be a lawyer, just like his dad.
"As I was growing up, as a kid, I used to go to work with him, go to
his office, go to court and learn about the law," Lidsky recalls.
"Growing up with a role model like my father, it was crystal clear to
me that I wanted to go to law school and wanted to learn to think like
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Lidsky served as a clerk for
a federal circuit court judge for one year.
His upcoming clerkship in the U.S. Supreme Court is something he has
thought about for a long time, thanks to his father. "He explained to
me that folks who are relatively fresh out of law school can go and
contribute to this institution and clerk for the court. And I was
hooked. I knew it was something I wanted to do."
Supreme Court law clerks review hundreds of petitions, write memos and
do rough drafts of decisions.
Isaac Lidsky says he expects to learn a lot during the year ahead.
"It's a backstage pass to what I think is the most remarkable
institution in our democracy. It will be incredible to be behind the
scenes, see how things work and most importantly contribute."
But he has another passion as well, one that grew out of his vision
loss. "What turned this experience of vision loss into a tremendous
positive for me in my life was my family's commitment to the mission
of funding the development of treatments and cures," he says.
Following their example, he founded an organization called Hope for
Vision with friends and family. "And we've been able to raise millions
of dollars. Over 98 percent of what we raise goes directly to fund
The young lawyer is excited about the progress that has been made
already in that research. "We've seen success in human clinical trials
with gene therapies and biotech chip implantations, artificial retina.
We've seen vision restored."
Isaac Lidsky says the question is not if we will solve the problem of
blinding disease, but when.
* Isaac Lidsky in his home office catches up on latest news at the
* Isaac Lidsky graduated from Harvard Law School despite losing his
vision to retinitis pigmentosa while a student:
* As a teen, Lidsky starred as "Weasel" in the sitcom "Saved by the
Bell: The New Class":
* The entire Lidsky family is committed to funding research to find
cures for diseases that cause blindness: