PASSINGS: Paul Steven Miller

Paul Steven Miller Lawyer was disability rights expert

Paul Steven Miller, 49, a lawyer who was born with a genetic condition that made him a dwarf and who later became an expert on disability rights, died of cancer Tuesday at his home in the Seattle suburb of Mercer Island.

Miller taught at the University of Washington School of Law from 2004 to 2009 and had directed the university's disability studies program since 2006.

He was born in Queens, N.Y., in 1961 with achondroplasia, a bone-growth disorder that causes dwarfism. He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983 and a law degree from Harvard University in 1986.

Despite his credentials, he couldn't get a job. He was rejected time and again by major law firms. One interviewer told the 4-foot-5-inch Miller that he would scare off clients.

He finally landed a job at Kadison, Pfaelzer, Woodard, Quinn and Rossi in Los Angeles, thanks to a reference from a friend. He went on to work for another L.A. law firm — Manatt, Phelps, Phillips and Kantor — and taught at UCLA and at Loyola Law School. He was also director of litigation at the Western Law Center for Disability Rights (now the Disability Rights Legal Center), which is affiliated with Loyola Law School.

In 1994 President Clinton appointed Miller to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that handles job-discrimination claims. In 10 years as a commissioner, he worked to enforce the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Besides serving as a liaison to the disability community under Clinton, he advised President Obama by helping to find and vet candidates for presidential appointments.

-- Times staff and wire reports

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