DRW launches “Questions of Discrimination”

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words "Questions of Discrimination" against background of black and red law books

DRW launches “Questions of Discrimination”

“Questions of Discrimination” a new documentary by Disability Rights Washington (DRW) reveals the mental health bias and stigma inherent in the process used to decide who is fit to become a lawyer.  In Washington State as in many other states, there are several bar application questions and rules that call into question an individual’s “character and fitness” to practice law if they have a mental health disability.

“Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) asks a question that’s trying to identify whether or not a lawyer is going to be a problem from a character standpoint. They take kind of a wholesale question like, ‘have you ever been treated for mental health’, that has a built-in assumption that anybody who has ever seen a therapist has a character flaw that might be a problem with them being an attorney. And that’s not borne out by science,” says Andy Imparato, Executive Director of the National Association of University Centers on Disabilities.

Emily Cooper, the director of “Questions of Discrimination,” is both an attorney at DRW and a person with a mental health disability. “As an attorney who believes my character and fitness has been enhanced by having the insight to seek mental health treatment, I found these questions to be wholly out of line with WSBA’s commitment to diversity. If my bar association is a true steward of social justice, understanding the value of a diverse bar and the laws that protected individuals with disabilities is a necessity.”

DRW is launching this public awareness campaign so that collective action can be taken to address these questions of discrimination.

“Let Lawyers and judges and all paralegals, others within the legal profession, work to abolish these questions, which are stigmatizing, and then lets create law school classes and include in our law school classes students with all kinds of disabilities so that they can feel safe to be here in law school and then ultimately to practice law. It’s all about numbers,” according to Arlene Kanter, Director, Syracuse College of Law Disability Law and Policy Program.

Readers can learn more about the issue, view the video and learn about ways people can take action on the Disability Rights Washington website.

One thought on “DRW launches “Questions of Discrimination”

  1. Linda Kehoe says:

    I am glad you are tackling this issue — the disability — mental health is like a curse; stigma and attitudes react the same whether one is competent and stable or symptomatic — creating and maintaining that secondary status and limited citizenship regardless circumstance is correct — even the supposed legal recourse’is fraught with loopholes that limit one’s access and full citizenship — irrational fears — and what defense is there against even, the thought of a psychiatric condition that seals fate and determines outcome. I hope that those tackling this issue for themselves, will have greater insight it how it affects the legal system as a whole, too, and so, will develop the necessary behaviors and tools that can remedy the course and bring all among the legal system up to par. When providing legal representation for a person or persons who have or are presumed to have a diagnosed mental health disability that foremost and utmost the client as a citizen or citizens — civil rights prevail!

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