Saturday, November 1, 2008
Why Clayton Had More than a Rough Road Ahead
The Philadelphia Bar Association's tradition of discrimination against all minorities, much less anyone with an injury, is impressive. And quite frankly, it is a disgrace to humanity. New York City and Washington, D.C. fare no better.
Discrimination against people like Clayton is so severe that BetterLegalProfession.org, a relatively new organization devoted to change, simply gave up on including the Disabled in their diversity survey efforts. Even so, most of the Philadelphia law firms received a 'D' grade. If one were to include the Disabled, all the Philadelphia law firms would have received an 'F' in that ranking.
The following weblink will take you to the BetterLegalProfession.org site from which you can review statistics on several cities: http://betterlegalprofession.org/
Notably, of all the minority categories, the Disabled are the largest, most ethnically diverse 'minority' in the United States. Arguably, they are the largest minority category in the United States if you believe United States Census claims that as much as 20 percent of the American population has some form of physical impairment. Yet, employment for them in the most affluent and influential profession in the United States is a wasteland.
In Clayton's journey back from injury, some realities did not help the matter. And, upon inspection, some realities simply need not have existed. The Philadelphia Bar Association, along with its partners across the nation, have no diversity going into the depths of the 21st Century because they have no desire to have people like Clayton. A simple, apt conclusion.
United States Department of Justice Regional Director James Lynch, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Lee Solomon, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Idee C. Fox, all have expressed a degree of professional antipathy toward the Disabled during the course of their professional duties. They are hardly alone.
Whether it is the State of New Jersey Public Defender Peter Garcia asking for salary kickbacks from Disabled lawyers seeking employment, or Assistant Prosecutor Deborah A. Siegrist of the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office telling Disabled applicants for summer internships that they "better get that fixed, no one in the legal profession is going to hire you," the legal profession is problematic.
And upon refusal to pay salary kickbacks in return for being employed? The State of New Jersey Public Defender fabricated personnel file memoranda to validate a retributional termination. And so it goes for the Disabled.
Judge Solomon and Mr. Lynch asked a disabled law student, "So what's it like to be in a car accident?" during an employment interview. Not satiated, they inquired further, "What's it like to receive Last Rites?" The interview transpired while Lee Solomon was Camden County Prosecutor, a political appointment often filled via the Camden County Democratic Party. Mr. Lynch was first assistant prosecutor at the time.
The matter does, relatively, extend even to the halls of the United States Congress. The wife of Congressman Robert Andrews is Director of Admissions at Rutgers Law School in Camden, New Jersey. Under her tenure, the Disabled frequently were manipulated and abused at the law school, including being provided no meaningful employment resources in light of their disabilities. Certainly, they were not provided meaningful assistance in light of the rampant disability discrimination by legal employers - a subject that was well-known as the Findlaw.com statistics demonstrate.
Michael Corman, a blind lawyer, was asked by Rutgers to participate in media interviews touting his enrollment at Rutgers. But when it came time to graduate and find employment, Rutgers did nothing for him.
"They took his money. They asked him to participate in all these media interviews, he didn't turn down one. But they couldn't help him find a job. They took his money but they did nothing to help him find a job." That was Michael Corman's father, understandably upset.
The Rutgers Law School arguably used the Disabled as vehicles to obtain additional federal Direct Student Loan funding and then dumped them from a 'reasonable' services point of view. Some Disabled were openly harassed by Ms. Andrews' staff including being denied the ability to type examinations when that accommodation was freely available to all non-Disabled enrollees.
In fact, Ms. Andrews' staff required some disabled law students to hand-print their examinations without any time extension to do so. The requirement resulted in Disabled students writing 60 percent of the answer length submitted by the non-Disabled. As Dean Elaine G. Dushoff said of the practice, "We have to separate the students for our employers somehow."
More? It does get worse. A lot worse. If anyone wishes to know 'more', feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do my best.
That was the reality Clayton faced upon graduation. From his writings, Clayton experienced a mild baptism while at Vanderbilt Law School. Upon graduation, potentially, the baptism would turn into a flood.
And the behavior is not exceptional. Look up 'Chick Edwards' on the Google search site. Post-injury, one sees a lot of Chick Edwards - plural - in daily life. In fact, you see them everyday. Seldom do they have the media exposure Mr. Edwards was afforded. More often than not, the Disabled are left to fend for themselves. It's like running a social minefield filled with 'I don't care and I don't give a damn' behaviors that often deteriorate, more succinctly, into I wish you weren't here behavior. In fact, it leaves a decided impression that they wish you were dead, certainly not physically present.
When apprised of the behaviors taking place as long ago as 1998, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz refused to respond to requests to present testimony to the Supreme Court concerning the legal profession's conduct toward the Disabled. It is hardly a surprise. Ms. Poritz is now employed by Drinker Biddle & Reath, a Philadelphia-based law firm that is a legal industry leader in discriminating against minorities generally, the Disabled in particular.
Ms. Poritz and Drinker Biddle & Reath are not isolated examples. United States Senator Arlen Specter, United States Senator Robert Casey, Congressman Robert Brady all actively do likewise. Whether telephone calls, electronic mail, or personal visits to their Congressional offices, all three members of Congress ignore requests from the Disabled to give testimony before the United States Congress on an active, on-going basis. Congressman Robert Andrews and Congressman James Saxton, both of New Jersey, also ignored identical requests over the last decade.
And it translates to the local levels as well. Councilman Frank DiCicco of Philadelphia, in whose district the Philadelphia Bar Association is located along with many law firms, dismisses requests to give testimony to the City Council concerning employment discrimination against the Disabled as not within his jurisdiction - in short, disability discrimination is not his concern.
And the result of indifference is clear in Philadelphia as well. Simply walk down Market Street and, there across the street from the United States Federal Courthouse, you will often find disabled individuals in wheelchairs selling soft pretzels replete with brown mustard - a stark comparison to the individuals working at the federal courthouse, notably, virtually none of whom are Disabled.
Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness take on a skewed meaning in the Exclusionary Society erected around the Disabled.
The Disabled are lauded for their ability to work menial employments. Frequently you see media references to a Disabled janitor. Or a company that employs the Disabled to assemble mousetraps. Or more inanely, the Disabled are featured in the media for accomplishing some physical activity like playing basketball or jumping out of an airplane. You seldom see them in daily life, in employment, in meaningful employment, in financially rewarding employment. And you seldom see them in proportion to their numbers and their ability to accomplish in a meaningful way.
As you will detect from Clayton's final writing upon committing suicide, Clayton noted that he had entered an intellectual dead zone subsequent to his injuries/because of his injuries. For anyone, it is a rude awakening. And he was - and is - all too correct in a horrifying bi-partisan way.
And thus is born employment reality: it is illegal to kill. But it is not illegal to financially kill, the next best thing. It is not illegal to exclude. As long as equally weighted, business-related purpose exists - even if only arguably - then the Courts have ruled that excluding the Disabled from employment is not discrimination. Generally.
You will notice the upwelling of psychological profiles/tests on employment applications. They are there for a reason, mostly to exclude minorities....or anyone else the employer desires. A courageous human resource person will admit as much. If you want to hire the CEO's nephew, even if woefully not competitive in qualification, a psychological profile on employment applications is a sure-fire method to legally do so. Why? Because you can always say an applicant answered a series of questions inconsistently, that is why the same questions are asked multiple times with different wordings. They are designed to bait different responses. If given, and they usually are, the employer is off the discriminatory hook.
A Doppler Shift occurs: there is never a self-serving disability economy that seeks to exclude the Disabled from employment because it saves money. The matter morphs into the following: the Disabled do not succeed because they are filled with professional fault and flaw, they are lazy deadbeats welching off society.
In short, it is always an anecdotal and autobiographical shortcoming that validates why an employer will not hire a Disabled person. Their resumes are not competitive. Little matter that they spent four years recovering from injuries. Or that no employer would hire them even to work from home. Entre nous, a deadbeat is a deadbeat. And who wants to hire a deadbeat? Or retain one post-injury?
In America, corporations are regarded as individuals as much as any singular person. The corporate "I". They have standing in court. And, often, under the principles of institutional psychology, they come to take on the personalities of their ownership and executives.
So when a corporation acts against an employee because they become injured on the job, it is as much a reflection of the attitudes of America's society at large as it is the isolated corporation? It is a valid question.
As William Miller and Joshua Nelson found out with the American Dredging Company, there is always a 'dispute' post-injury about those injuries because it is economically lucrative to do so in saving insurance costs...and, suddenly, the Doppler Shift looms, it becomes lucrative to question the value and character of the employee. And to get rid of them. The means validate the economic end.
The cases for Mr. Miller and Mr. Nelson can be found at the following internet sites:
In the anthropology and sociology of law, one will find a common theme about those who object to the Disability culture or comment upon it: they are always doing something "without permission" or acting in insensitive, inconsiderate ways even if in the position of Mr. Miller or Mr. Nelson. The same tactic was used by the American Dredging Company to thwart compensation to their injured employees. And vested insurance companies do much the same. Employer insurance companies invariably accuse injured workers of failing to comply with a requirement, mostly any requirement real or fabricated, to get them off the insured rolls. And out of employment.
In law, the technique is safely harbored in a well-oiled trial tactic: in order to mitigate liability, destroy credibility even if you have to fabricate partially or wholly. The money enriching/money saving goals validate the means under the ethical duty of "zealously representing the client".
In disability, even in the tragedy of disability, many worlds collide. Often, thoughtful mindful consideration is abandoned in unconstructive knee-jerk emotive responses to exposing the plight of Mr. Nelson and Mr. Miller, to Clayton Schwartz, to any commentary upon the disability systemology. Accusations of self-serving "personal agenda" are frequent.
When tempers calm, simple realities remain.
Much economic incentive, via insurance premiums, exists to dump injured workers. And should they be classified as "Disabled", much economic incentive exists in reverse fashion to keep them from being employed again in the future. Hence, 'get off my corporate soil' evolves into a 'stay out of my employment' corporate culture.
And that culture is easy to implement. How so?
Whether a person collects state or federal disability payments is a matter of public record. True, an individual's medical records are private. But the fact that they were disabled and collected government-funded disability payments is not private. Nor is how much they collected. Or how long they collected it.
Corporations and insurance companies can assess risk merely based on the collection history.
And no law exists barring insurance companies from talking to each other or selling their injury/disability payment records to each other. Or to employment screening companies like Choicepoint. Within the insurance industry, it is a process known as "risk assessment" and "bartering". And, in fact, insurance companies track your identity in the same manner as the federal government: by your Social Security Number.
So what is the first thing a potential employer asks you to divulge on an employment application besides your name? Your Social Security Number.
The public record is the public record. And if it used to exclude the Disabled from employment based on a previous injury history, along with insurance company records, then that is a business related purpose: keeping healthcare costs low and minimizing risk.
Or is it disability discrimination? The employment history of the legal profession is a telling tale.
Two worlds collide and, all too sadly, the William Millers and Joshua Nelsons of the world lose out when they attempt to recover and rebuild their lives.
Even the State of New Jersey Supreme Court has played the Doppler Shift: it has delayed bar admissions of Disabled applicants primarily based on their poor work history. "Do you mean to tell me you had no employment during all this time?" What time was the Supreme Court Character and Fitness Committee member referring to? The time after the applicant was injured and took four years to, among other things, learn to walk again. (State of New Jersey Bar application 00777-1997.)
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court delayed the Disabled applicant's admission to the bar for five months and refused to publish the applicant's name as having passed the bar examination at all, essentially holding them up to professional ridicule. In fact, the Disabled applicant passed the bar examination on the first attempt unlike many non-Disabled applicants. Even so, the delayed admission issue became a main topic at all subsequent employment interviews. Hardly a surprise.
For these, and many other social oddities like the original Savings and Loan Scandal to Enron, you can thank the legal community. The methods were designed in law offices. And, all too often, they work.
The advent of President Barack Obama is little comfort.
Over the past four decades, many federal agencies have become integrated. Some have become enclaves of minority-only employment. Discrimination and racism standing on its head, preserving exclusionary impact with a twist? Merely enlarging the "me and my gang" historical notions of excluding others for economic reasons?
Relying on the federal government blindly is poor salve. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has an unfortunate track record concerning the Disabled. An actual telephone call with the Philadelphia regional office of the EEOC: "Are you Black? Are you female? Well!" at which point the EEOC worker slammed down the phone. He hung up on a complainant, a Disabled complainant. The EEOC worker was Black.
The nuance is not unique. The New Jersey Civil Rights Commission reacts identically. "You are not Black, you're not Hispanic or female, don't you think we have better things to do?" The latter was the commission's Camden County regional office. The commission worker was Hispanic.
Seldom do we viscerally experience the fallout in human terms. You have one. Clayton Schwartz.
The death of Clayton was far more than met the casual eye. It is only with illumination can we move forward.
If anyone knew Clayton, you knew he was not one to tolerate the status quo even if he had to pick up the world on his shoulders and move it.
Clayton believed in 'god'. Little 'g' intended. He believed in humanity. He believed in change. And he knew that changed started with 'I'.
The orthopedic shoes pictured above were worn by a Disabled lawyer to the United States Supreme Court, the United States Federal District Court in New Jersey, and the Superior Court of New Jersey. It is a typical illustration of the physical impact disability discrimination affects.
The Totes overshoes were worn to conceal the true nature of the lawyers condition.
And it is as much a valid picture of the New Jersey Bar, the Philadelphia Bar Association, and law firms nationally as any other.
In the name of keeping health care costs low, in pursuit of keeping health insurance premiums of employers acceptable, and limiting liability, the legal profession - in conjunction with their chief economic source of funding, the insurance industry - counsels employers to exclude the Disabled.
With equal measure, and for remarkably identical reasons, the Disabled are absent from America's collegiate institutions, particularly the graduate schools. They are not there in any meaningful numbers because the Disabled are deemed not likely to contribute to the endowment in any meaningful way. As 'developmental' financial admissions, which unarguably comprise upwards of 50 percent if not more of our graduate school enrollments. the Disabled are deemed a poor financial risk. So why bother?
The fact that they are probably the most suited to pursue sedentary academic/theory based occupations is not part of the equation. Sadly so. It is the future of America that loses out.
As Professor Earl Maltz said at the 2007 Dred Scott Symposium at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia about Blacks, they are not employed as lawyers because they are environmentally dumber than everyone else as a result of poor schooling opportunity. Inherently. And that reality is not the responsibility of the law schools to cure.
The economic dog chases its tail in the House of Atreus. Thoughtful, mindful social benevolence remains elusive. The spectacle of the former overwhelms the senses to the latter. In the aftermath, nothing is achieved.
The vagabonds of virtue wander the moors of Humanity: it is cold out there, yea, they do not feel it. The coldness within will not allow it.
One can point to Stephen Hawking but you can also point just as equally to any of the realities pictured herein.
If you find fault with the man for ending his life, you can not fault the man for perceiving what he did. Clayton Schwartz was a perceptive man who found a precipice. And he sensed the circular societal imposed futilities. Common Sense seemed to become orphaned. And perhaps it was that abdication more than anything that caused so much grief. At least with a strong body, he could fight. But with two hands and a head against a raging tide that too often satiates itself at the expense of others in such a masturbatorial, in-grown way, it was hard to see a palatable future.
Hence, the shoes at the beginning become the ending. They were, in probability, the shoes Clayton Schwartz was about to wear.
And the pictures of the House of Atreus in the profile just as much. They are the four walls of the Disabled in nexus with employment in America made real.
Camus said Democracy is a lonely affair. What everyone else does really doesn't matter. What you do as an individual does. A Democratic society is nothing more than the collective "I".
Somehow in chasing down all atheisms, Clayton Schwartz 'atheist' became Clayton Schwartz 'theist'. He believed in but one true Apostolic God. A benevolent God, after all. He just spelled it a little differently. "I".
And that is precisely what Robert F. Kennedy tried to say in his speech in South Africa all those years ago. It is not what anyone else does that matters, it is what you do that sends out tiny ripples of hope.
As Charles Van Doren observed, after many years of life, and some foibles, most of life is fate. How much sayeth he? Ninety-nine percent:
It is what we do with the other 1 percent that makes us human. And shapes the world as we know it.
In our own right, those who strike out against injustice, who see a wrong and try to right it no matter how futile it may be, are Myths made real - stories so true that they can never happen, yet somehow, they do. Barack Obama.
And at the core of these Myths? A simple man, a common man. Simple and common in all the best senses and hardly any of the worst.
So goes the Common Man via Tolstoy: And the light by which she had been reading the book of life blazed up suddenly, illuminating those pages that had been dark, then flickered, grew dim, and went out forever.
"As we enter this last part of our time we mustn't forget that bad things can happen. The failure of hopes, the death of friends, the venality of politicians, the manifest cruelty that stalks the world -- these may tempt us to descend from Avernus into that dark place where safety seems to lie. But then we scorn the gods."
We betray ourselves when we shrink away from controversy. We betray our humanity. Because to engineer is human. To strive for betterment.
In disability, there but for the grace of God...or god...go you. Or I.
And what was said of scorning the gods by our ancient fathers?
"Study justice, and do not scorn the gods!"
Yes, indeed. Study justice. Do not study man-made fallible law, or rely upon its feeble ways, capture its higher authority. Like a sail capturing wind. And then hammer it into law like a blacksmith hammering out impurities.
And then what should we do Mr. Van Doren, wise old man learned of fault and flaw?
Quote Paul Valery he does: The wind is rising, we have to try to live!
We have to change the world. To do anything else is to scorn the gods.
To William Miller, Joshua Nelson, and Clayton Schwartz, to us all:
St. Crispen's Day Speech
William Shakespeare, 1599
Enter the KING
WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!
KING. What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Carl J. Roeder, Esq.
The House of Atreus In America for the Disabled:
A Typical Rental Property/A Federal Housing and Urban Development Funded Unit Offered to the Disabled
The State of New Jersey in Its Official Course of Business: The Pay to Work Culture Faced by the Disabled
The Salary Kickback Demand Letter Issued by A Former Assistant Public Defender and Associate of State of New Jersey Public Defender Peter Garcia, Esq.
The Price For Failing to Pay
The Doppler Shift Expands Via the New Jersey Supreme Court
Note the Wording Carefully: It is Doubtful Any Disabled Individuals Were Interviewed. Prior to the Letter, The State of New Jersey Sent a Form Asking Applicants to Identify if They Were Disabled
The Ultimate Paradox: The Rejection Letter Was Concerning a Position at the New Jersey Bar Admissions Unit
The Doppler Shift Temptation - Everything Concerning the Disabled Results from Personal/Professional Fault and Flaw of the Disabled
Only Upon Socially Benevolent Inspection Does the Overall Emerge, Hence A Larger Discriminatory Reality That Premises All That Happens to the Individual:
The Matter Heightened to the Senior Ranks
The Empirical Overture: One Hates Those That One Harmed
Note Well That the Survey Below is Limited to Those in Group Homes or Institutions
The Unaccounted, Somewhat Larger Remainder Inherit the Doppler Shift Wind More Forcefully