Friday, September 5, 2003
Ted Kennedy Jr. Launches State Bar Annual Meeting With Call for Public Service, Disabled Rights
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
Ted Kennedy Jr., who lost a leg to cancer at age 12, lauded the State Bar of California for its commitment to public service and the rights of the disabled at a luncheon kicking off the bar’s four-day 76th Annual Meeting in Anaheim yesterday.
Kennedy, the son of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass, brought a hush over an audience of about 300 when he recalled being told by his father that doctors would have to remove part of his leg. When he asked if that meant they would remove the swollen part, he remembered, the elder Kennedy explained, no, it meant he would lose everything from the knee down.
As a seventh grader he “couldn’t imagine living my life that way,” Kennedy said. To a boy that age, “a pimple on your cheek is a catastrophe,” he said, and he could not believe any girl would want to date a boy who was missing a leg.
Now, he explained, his view of disability has changed.
“I’m glad that I had cancer and lost my leg to cancer,” Kennedy said, asserting that the experience made him the person he became.
Kennedy told the audience that after earning a master’s degree at Yale, he attended law school at night at the University of Connecticut while working as the coordinator of Yale’s program for victims of lead poisoning and eventually became a litigator and consultant dealing with disability law and the Americans With Disabilities Act..
Kennedy described the ADA, which passed in 1990, as “one of the greatest civil right documents that has ever been created,” noting that it has helped the nation see disability as a social, not just a medical, problem. Though he recalled news stories from his childhood illustrated with pictures of him skiing on one leg and portraying him as an inspirational figure, those articles misconstrued his situation, Kennedy said.
“I’m not trying to inspire anyone, I’m just trying to go skiing,” Kennedy said, adding that the media has a tendency to focus on the remarkable achievements of a few disabled individuals instead of the daily struggles of many who have to fight with their HMOs, find accessible housing, and use public transportation.
Kennedy said that the members of the State Bar “already have taken a huge step in devoting yourselves to public service” and that the organization is “making a huge impact” in advancing the rights of the disabled.
Kennedy, who now works for a business development firm, addressed the Foundation of the State Bar luncheon at the Anaheim Hilton, where the Annual Meeting will continue today through Sunday.
By late yesterday morning, workers at the registration desk reported that about 3,000 lawyers had already registeredóeither on-site or in advanceóbut lines, which they said were lengthy earlier, had nearly disappeared.
The main draw is the continuing education courses, which lawyers must take to maintain their eligibility to practice.
Fresno attorney Anthony Capozzi will be sworn in tomorrow as State Bar president and oaths of office will be administered to at least six new members of the Board of Governors by Chief Justice Ronald M. George.
The new members will include Sheldon H. Sloan, representing Los Angeles County’s District 7, who will replace outgoing member Nancy Zamora. If, as expected, Gov. Gray Davis today names Riverside physician Thomas Haider as a public member of the board, he could become the seventh member to take the oath.
George and Attorney General Bill Lockyer will deliver their annual remarks on the states of the judiciary and the state’s legal system tomorrow, and retired U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Patricia M. Wald will deliver the Morrison Address.
Wald’s address is titled “Terrorists, War Criminals and the New International Criminal Court: Finding the Right Fit.” Wald served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit before retiring to become a judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Last night, National Public Radio correspondent Linda Wertheimer was the featured speaker at the California Women Lawyers dinner, where she was to speak about Iraq.
The former State Bar Conference of Delegates will meet this year, for the first time, as a fully independent body, renamed the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations. While the bar meets at the Hilton, the Conference of Delegates will meet starting this afternoon at the Convention Center next door.
Its new status gives the conference leeway to address a wider range of issues, but the two groups remain closely linked. The swearing-in ceremony, George’s remarks, the Morrison address, and Lockyer’s speech will all take place in the Convention Center hall where the conference delegates are meeting.
The bar touts the more than 200 MCLE courses available at the meeting as “low-cost, one-stop shopping for those in the market” for required professional education credits. There are courses in ethics, civil appeals and writs, the attorney discipline system, Alien Tort Claims Act litigation, how to spot a liar, evidence, preserving a record for appeal, hearsay, drunk driving representation, nonprofit tax issues, conservation easements, premarital agreements, and doing business in China.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company