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The court news that’s always sad news

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.

 

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  • Very well said, Greg. It should be pointed out also that the Lawyers Helping Lawyers program is confidential and can be accessed without fear of a person’s private issues being discovered by the public and colleagues.

  • Natalie Bluestein

    I’m glad you commented on this, greg. Lawyers Helping lawyers isn’t limited only to helping members of the profession with substance abuse issues. They may also be called in to help when attorneys have mental health or emotional issues such as depression or anger management, since these, too, may result in letters from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and more severe repercussions for the lawyers and their clients.

  • Great post, Greg. It should be said that Mr. Brown’s victim is expected to survive,thankfully, but when he was initially charged, was not expected to (see footnote on most recent Order). That, of course, does not lessen the importance of your message.

  • Pete DeLuca

    Amen.

    • Greg:
      This is such a pertinent issue with attorneys throughout the United States. Unfortunately, there is a major stigma on substance abuse and mental health issues that keeps people from seeking help sufficiently as the fearing of ridicule and “he/she has a problem” labeling will follow a person the rest of his or her life – particularly in the professional realm. Thank you for your highlighting this issue in your blog.
      Ashley Ameika

  • Well said. The practice of law can be very stressful and it is important to deal with that stress in a healthy way.

  • Greg, I am an alcoholic who thorugh the grace of God and the fellowship of Alchohlics Anonymous has managed to stay sober one day at a time for a little over 27 years. Lawyers Helping Lawyers is a great committee (I am a former chair 1989-90); After I contacted Lawyer’s Helping Lawyers, I had a visit that same day from a lawyer and recovering alcoholic who helped me get to an A.A. meeting that night.

    As alcoholics, we are always “seeking an easier, softer way,” but in the final analysis the only program that gives the alcoholic a fighting chance is A.A. Rehabilitation centers, Lawyers Helping Lawyers, counseling, and religion may all be helpful but they will not work unless the person is willing to commit to A.A.

    If anyone wants to talk about a problem with alcohol, I am available. I need to talk about my own experience so that I am reminded of what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now.

    I may be reached at 803-327-4151 or thomasmcdow@mcdowlaw.com.

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