Meanwhile, Back on the Farm

Via Amy Alkon, good intentions crash head first into the stone facade of the Department of Justice.



Those with “targeted disabilities” may be hired through a “non-competitive” appointment. That means they don’t have to endure the regular civil service competition among applicants, but can be plucked from the stack of resumes and hired immediately instead.


According to the documents, those with these “targeted disabilities” may be hired “before the position is advertised” and even “before the position’s closing date.” Moreover, lawyers with psychiatric disabilities and “severe intellectual” disabilities receive a waiver from the requirement that a new DOJ employee have practiced law for one year before being hired.

The notion is that we shouldn’t discriminate against people with psychiatric and severe intellectual disabilities.  As a simple assertion, that sounds fine, Until those words are used to describe the surgeon who is about to operate on your brain. Suddenly, being fair to the disabled isn’t your primary concern, nor should it be.

Granted, practicing law isn’t brain surgery.  Still, when a lawyer’s decisions can result in another person’s life being spent in prison, it’s kind of important that the decision not be the result of a manic episode, psychotic delusions or an inability to employ deductive reasoning in a linear fashion.  You don’t need to be a genius to practice law, but you need to be better than the village idiot.

Amy addresses the new DOJ hiring policy from the perspective of engaging in discrimination in an effort to eliminate it.


Now, I have no problem if they do hire people with disabilities — providing their disability doesn’t make them incapable of performing their job, and providing they aren’t hired over people, “able” or disabled, who are better qualified.

Her second proviso, that the disabled person not be hired over the better qualified “abled” person, has long been at the root of the problem.  When it comes to people with psychiatric and severe intellectual disabilities being hired for positions that require the exercise of great discretion, and the potential for doing grave harm to others, it’s hard to imagine how, given the available pool of candidates, could ever be better qualified. Indeed, it’s almost definitional that their disabilties render them unqualified.

Riffing off Amy’s post,  Mark Bennett adds:
I’m more pleased that the DOJ is hiring people with “severe intellectual” disabilities than that the DOJ is hiring people with psychiatric disabilities; also more surprised.

After all, it’s easier to prevail against someone with “severe intellectual” disabilities than nuts.  There’s no assurance that nuts aren’t smart, and it’s often hard to tell someone is nuts until it’s too late.

No doubt that someone will react with the very kind, deeply sincere response that everyone should be given the chance to lead a happy, productive life.  And I think we all agree. They just can’t do anything they please, however, because no one is entitled to have their happy life come at the expense of other people’s happy lives.

I’m often accused of being an elitist when it comes to the law. I disdain the notion that it’s possible for laws to be written with such clarity and simplicity that everybody can understand them. I am strongly against the belief that the barriers to entry into the legal profession should be toppled so anyone can be a lawyer. 

I rarely have anything nice to say about people who are incapable of logical reasoning, or discerning the relevant from the irrelevant or emotional.  In contrast, I often assert that the practice of law is hard.  A lot of people see me as the enemy because I don’t embrace what I see as unduly simplistic and foolish notions.

That the DOJ, an entity with enormous power over the lives of others, would even consider something as outrageously stupid as this is beyond comprehension and credulity.  I don’t believe that any lawyer with psychiatric or severe intellectual disabilities will be hired.  I wouldn’t be surprised it this was a stunt, good for a laugh to see who falls for it.  Sadly, I also wouldn’t be surprised if this is 100% legit.

There are myriad jobs that can be well-handled by people with disabilities, including psychiatric and severe intellectual disabilities.  There’s a pretty decent chance that there will be more qualified candidates for these jobs who aren’t disabled, and that will perpetuate discrimination against those who are capable but have a deficit.  Maybe they need and deserve a bit of help in overcoming our inclination toward the best candidate (and disinclination toward the disabled candidate) so that they are not relegated in perpetuity to always being too far down the list to ever get a chance to show what they can do.  They do deserve a chance at a happy and productive life.  There are jobs that they can do well.

But being a lawyer isn’t one of them.  Being a brain surgeon isn’t one of them either.  And good intentions and wishful thinking isn’t sufficient to change that.

4 comments on “Meanwhile, Back on the Farm

  1. Gloria Wolk

    The articles to which you refer are grossly distorting the order. See the article “The Whole Truth about the Justice Department’s Targeted Hiring of Disabled People [Ed. note: Link deleted per rules.]

    This is correct. I know because I read the actual PR from the DOJ.

  2. SHG

    I read the  memo from the DOJ as well, and you (and the article you rely on) are wrong. The linked posts do not distort anything. While they may not be comprehensive, in that there are other disabilities that do not have the same issues, they are precisely correct in the issues they address.  A critique doesn’t need to cover every aspect of an issue, or mention collateral, non-problematic aspects of an issue, to be fully accurate in what it does address.

  3. Onlooker

    “I wouldn’t be surprised it this was a stunt, good for a laugh to see who falls for it. Sadly, I also wouldn’t be surprised if this is 100% legit.”

    Agreed. It’s like something out of The Onion. But that’s our grossly large and dysfunctional federal govt for ya (and other levels, as well).

    These people are playing with funny money and other peoples’ lives in building their own little fiefdoms. So what the hell.

Comments are closed.