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Arizona judge with cerebral palsy credits his mom with his success

Judge Randall Howe, third from left, with his family (Judge Randall Howe Photo)

PHOENIX — Judge Randall Howe has represented Arizona in more than 400 appeals, argued more than 80 cases in the Arizona Supreme Court and even argued on the state’s behalf before the U.S. Supreme Court. So why would anyone ever question his intelligence?

Howe was born with cerebral palsy, a congenital disorder that affects movement, muscle tone and posture.

For Howe, it mostly impacts his speech and ability to walk.

“It affects all of my limbs. I have difficulty walking. I lack fine motor control,” he said.

Being born with a disability in the 1960s meant he wasn’t guaranteed anything. Many people born with a disability at the time were institutionalized.

That’s why many were shocked when Howe’s mother was insistent on having him start kindergarten at the same time and at the same school as his peers in Colorado.

“They would not enroll me unless they could prove that I was intellectually capable of going to school, which, of course, they didn’t require of any other kid going to that school,” he said.

His mother indulged the request, despite knowing Howe was on par with the children his age.

“The psychologist told my mother he was embarrassed to give him the testing because it was obvious I was capable of going to school,” Howe said.

His time in the school, however, didn’t last long.

“They told my mom that they weren’t capable of handling a child with a disability and would not let me go back to school,” he said.

Howe’s mother fought with the school board for weeks over basic accommodation.

“I remember my mother turning to these men in suits and said, ‘You try to go to the bathroom with one hand,’” he said with a chuckle.

After weeks of fighting and even threatening litigation, another school in the state chose to welcome Howe and accommodate his needs.

“She and my father did that at a time when people with disabilities, children with disabilities, were really cast aside and, as my grandmother suggested, just allowed to go play in the backyard,” he said.

Howe’s mother emphasized the need for brain when he was lacking in brawn.

“She would remind me when we were going back and forth from school that I needed to do well in school because I couldn’t dig a ditch,” he said.

Howe’s mother eventually moved the whole family to Arizona when Howe was a teenager so he could continue his education at Arizona State University.

He graduated summa cum laude from the W.P. Carey School of Business and cum laude from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

“I wouldn’t be educated, I wouldn’t be able to write and I wouldn’t be a judge today if it wasn’t for her,” he said.

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