Lawyers Helping Lawyers - Quality of Life
Lawyers Helping Lawyers Committee

        Know an attorney whose practice is hurting because of alcohol, drugs, or a mental impairment [over and above that with which anyone in this profession is afflicted]? If so, the Lawyers Helping Lawyers Committee of the Chattanooga Bar Association might be able to help.

        The Committee was organized in mid-1994 pursuant to new Section 28 of the Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9. The Section allows local bar associations to create programs to intervene "with lawyers with substance abuse problems, mental illness, or other impairments which affect the lawyer's professional conduct."

Significant provisions of Section 28, Rule 9 are:

a.     Impaired lawyer programs are independent of the Board of Professional Responsibility; committee members may not serve as BOPR hearing panel members.

b.     Committee members are excused from reporting ethical violations discovered while carrying out their responsibilities.

c.     Communications between impaired attorneys and committee members are absolutely privileged.

d.     Committee members and persons giving infomraiton to a committee are immune from civil liability.

        Although information acquired by the Committee is confidential, it has the discretion to release information to a lawyer's family or other persons if the release would be in the attorney's best interest.

        Impaired attorney programs were strengthened by the enactment of T.C.A. Section 23-4-101, et seq. Civil immunity is created for committees and persons reporting information if their actions are in good faith. Any communication with an impaired attorney committee is privileged, similar to the attorney-client privilege. Records, proceedings and communications of committees are not subject to subpoena.

        The Nashville-Davidson County Bar Committee has the right to petition the presiding judge in that district if the Committee believes an attorney is impaired, engaging in conduct detrimental to the public, the legal profession or the courts. If the court agrees, it may suspend the attorney's license for up to 180 days.

        By contrast, the CBA Committee has no authority to take formal action against an attorney thought to be impaired. It is intended to function on a voluntary, concerned face-to-face basis. Fortunately, the Chattanooga Committee has had limited activity and no need for the enforcement powers granted to the Nashville Bar.

        Inquiries and referrals may be addressed to the Committee Chairperson, Art Grisham, at 227-6256.

IPSCO

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