One thing I try to impress upon every new attorney I mentor is the need to protect one’s law licence from disciplinary concerns. Wednesday, I told my new mentee that I’d received an email from the sccourts.org domain noting a new court order with the title beginning “In the Matter of…” I informed her this was always sad news because it means some attorney has been temporarily suspended from the practice of law or has become so incapacitated that another attorney needs to be appointed to take over that attorney’s practice.
Because the link in the sccourts.org email didn’t work properly, it took me until this morning to locate Wednesday’s order. Which leads one to the cautionary story of James Michael Brown.
On April 12, 2010, James Michael Brown was suspended from the practice of law for six months due to misconduct that appears to have been fueled by substance abuse: In the Matter of James Michael Brown, 708 S.E.2d 218 (S.C. 2011). On March 21, 2011 he was In the Matter of James Michael Brown, 392 S.C. 10, 707 S.E.2d 431 (2011). On April 13, 2011 he was resuspended after being arrested and charged with felony driving under the influence resulting in death, leaving the scene of an accident, open container, and driving under the influence, second offense on April 8, 2011.
He got to be a lawyer again for all of 23 days and will possibly never practice law again. Another human is seriously injured, narrowly avoiding death, and he likely faces substantial jail time. All because he apparently failed to get his substance abuse problems under control. Any member of the bar suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues is encouraged to contact Lawyers Helping Lawyers. Please don’t end up like Mr. Brown.