Charlene Morisseau: The Legal World's Answer to Jayson Blair
Unless you follow the legal press, you probably missed the employment odyssey of one Charlene Morisseau, formerly an attorney for DLA Piper, one of America's biggest law firms.
Ms. Morisseau, who is black, filed a federal lawsuit charging racial discrimination after being fired from the firm. Her lawsuit was dismissed earlier this month for reasons, as other bloggers have noted, that only served to validate the firm's decision to fire her. After firing her lawyers and stepping in to act as her own attorney, Ms. Morisseau, a graduate of Harvard Law School, blew filing deadlines, made frivolous motions and obstructed her deposition (according to the judge), and in an act of bewildering incompetence, styled one of her filings to place her case in the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit (her case was still in district court).
The details are found in a story by Anthony Lin of the New York Law Journal.
Note that this story, rich in irony and damning for affirmative action, appears nowhere in the mainstream press. Beyond that, bloggers at overlawyered.com and abovethelaw.net picked up on it.
It will be easy for defenders of affirmative action to dismiss the tale of Ms. Morisseau: she was an aberration, the firm was trying to do the right thing by hiring her, she may have problems in her life unrelated to her race, and so on. But a Google search on Ms. Morisseau reveals that she is precisely the type of person big law firms today clamor for.
In 1998, she was the recipient of a "Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship," which from the looks of it appears to be restricted to non-whites.
(Its website says that only "New Americans" are eligible, defined as "an individual who (1) is a resident alien; i.e., holds a Green Card, or, (2) has been naturalized as a U.S. citizen, or (3) is the child of two parents who are both naturalized citizens." So, presumably, Ms. Morisseau falls into one of these three categories, in addition to being black. Doubly oppressed, then, or triply, if her gender holds her back.)
Here she is at Harvard, where, as president of the Black Law Students' Association, she protested the Amadou Diallo verdict, explaining that her brother was "bruised" by the police.
Here she is in the Harvard Law Review, presumably discussing the terrible calamities befalling minorities in the United States:
And according to the New York Law Journal article, Ms.
Morisseau worked for a death-penalty defense group called the Southern Center for Human Rights, whom she's also
suing for discrimination. Incredibly, her supervisor there, Steven B.
Bright, submitted an affidavit to New York bar officials stating that she
"appears unable to separate reality and fantasy" and described "vicious
attacks" and "false allegations of outrageous conduct" she had made against many
of the Center's lawyers and staff, all while "making virtually no contribution
to the Center's work in the eight months she was here."
"All this reflects very poorly on the professional qualifications of Morisseau to practice law," Bright said in the affidavit, according to the NYLJ article.
All of which, in a rational society, would raise the question of why DLA Piper hired her to begin with, assuming they bothered to pick up the phone and speak to her former supervisor. Or how, exactly, Ms. Morisseau got into Harvard in the first place. But in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of race in America, of course, the normal rules don't apply.
Remember Jayson Blair, the black New York Times reporter fired for making up stories? Like Ms. Morisseau, he was a young black person ensconced in one of America's most powerful and prestigious institutions through affirmative action, but in the end, his incompetence simply could not be ignored, even by the liberals who championed him and probably made every conceivable excuse for him.
As with Mr. Blair's ascension to the Times, Ms. Morisseau almost certainly got into Harvard — and Harvard Law — partly on the strength of her status as a black (and immigrant) woman. Likewise with DLA Piper. The powerful indicators of her incompetence and boorishness were totally ignored. Probably, nobody at DLA Piper was even looking for them. They saw "black" and "Harvard", and that was all they needed.
In many ways, although the firm prevailed in its lawsuit, it got exactly what it deserved (it may have had to pay for its legal defense costs, and certainly had to expend the time and effort needed to participate in the defense). Think of how many deserving white would-be associates were passed over so that DLA Piper could trumpet its employment of Ms. Morisseau. Not to "do the right thing," if you will, but to impress its corporate clients and look good for the liberal press and the New York elites.
You might think DLA Piper clients would be angry to learn that the firm they've entrusted to handle their matters for hundreds of dollars an hour makes its hiring decisions for reasons of political correctness instead of competence. But many big American companies, like Wal-Mart, are actually demanding that their law firms push aside white attorneys in favor of "lawyers of color" — or be fired if they don't. One attorney questions whether this is legal, noting "Not only may a law firm be liable for discrimination, but so may be the individual employees and partners at the law firm that participated in the discriminatory decisions,"
The maddening injustice here is that any number of deserving whites are blocked from America's big law firms and prestigious newspapers so that the likes of Mr. Blair and Ms. Morisseau can wallow where they don't belong. But you will never hear their stories reported. You rarely seem them file lawsuits to vindicate their rights. Morris Dees is not going to take up their cause (but will attack whoever does). They are America's unheard, unseen victims.
The absurd tale of Ms. Morisseau is also a reflection of the great frictions caused by our society's attempt to make blacks and whites equal through forcible manipulations. As an obvious starting point, blacks and whites are not, in general, "equal": the IQ differences are well-known, and beyond that there are behavior differences, as noted by Richard Lynn.
Lynn observes that blacks as a group have higher levels of psychopathic personality, and the behavior patterns of Mr. Blair and Ms. Morisseau are consistent with that (if this word seems too strong, ask most big-firm associates what type of personality it would take to order a partner out of an office). As Judge Kaplan noted, "She was a confrontational, stubborn, and insubordinate employee in an environment in which professional personal relations, flexibility and a willingness to accept supervision were essential."
Ms. Morisseau's story may well be forgotten as just another crazy chapter in American law. But it is more than that. It is part of an undeniable pattern of the failure of races to co-exist in the same society on the assumption that they are perfect equals.
Christopher Donovan is the pen name of an attorney and former journalist.