ADHD on Trial by Michael Gordon

ADHD on Trial by Michael Gordon

Author:Michael Gordon
Language: eng
Format: mobi
Tags: Psychopathology, Psychology, Labor & Employment, Discrimination, Disability, Legal History, Praeger, Law, Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD-ADHD)
ISBN: 9780313360152
Publisher: Praeger
Published: 2009-01-31T22:00:00+00:00


A Cautionary Tale

At the outset, the case of Love v. LSAC was all about diagnostic guidelines, legal standards, and the life of Jonathan M. Love. The guiding theory underlying an effective defense was easily gleaned: the Americans with Disabilities Act requires evidence of abnormal functioning relative to most people;

Mr. Love functions at least as well as most people, end of story. The defense simply had to amass as much ammunition as possible to discredit the idea

that he was substantially impaired.

As transcripts, graduate school applications, medical documentation,

report cards, and other records began to arrive at the law offices of East-

burn & Gray, those plans appeared to become subject to revision. Signs of a change in strategy were evident in e-mails from the lead counsel for the

defense, Ms. Leopold-Leventhal. They often began with a sentence like,

“You won’t believe what I just found out.” Ms. Leopold-Leventhal would

then describe evidence she had received that highlighted significant discrepancies between the Love family account and what emerged from other


Those discrepancies began to pile higher and higher as weeks passed, to

such an extent that the lawyers told me that they were contemplating making credibility an issue. From what I could gather of their position, the judge had to know the extent to which Mr. Love and his mother had tailored the truth

to help them achieve their goals. If I were in their shoes, I would also want to highlight that the clinicians, in their haste to accept the Love’s story uncritically, had arrived at faulty conclusions via a clinical version of “garbage in, garbage out.”


ADHD on Trial

My reaction to this emerging focus on credibility serves as a study in am-

bivalence. Part of me had no stomach for building a case that Jonathan and

his mother may have committed sins of omission, if not commission. Even

if some of the information I had reviewed might not have been wholly accu-

rate, it nonetheless still described the life of a non-disabled individual. Why expend the time and effort to undermine the plaintiff’s credibility if we already had sufficient grounds for arguing the case based on the available evidence? The answer the LSAC lawyers gave was identical to what I have

heard from many others in similar circumstances: “Because you never know

what a judge will do, you hit them with absolutely everything you have at

your disposal.” My sense is that lawyers are trained to assume that judges

will not always react as anticipated.

Endeavoring to discredit the witness also felt like far less noble a strategy than the one the case followed initially. Like it or not, many people are apt to shave the truth if it gives them an advantage. I imagine that most parents will do just about anything to make life better for their children, even if that involves some fact stretching along the way. Sticking to legal arguments,

especially given their strength in this case, struck me as a far cleaner method.

Opposing those more noble sentiments were others rooted in the sense that

the court should know the downsides of letting an individual “self-qualify”

as impaired under the Americans with Disabilities Act.


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