Monday, August 30, 2010

Attend Your AA Meetings, Mark C.!

Lansing, Michigan attorney Mark C is one lucky drunk according to the disciplinary report lengthening his 60-day suspension to 120-days.  You can read the report of the Michigan disciplinary authorities for yourself, but in a nutshell, Mr. C. was told to AA meetings as condition of reinstatement following his recent suspension.  According to the disciplinary opinion Mark C. decided to keep drinking and forge the signatures of the AA chairs of meetings he falsely claimed to have attended. 

Attorney Mark C. still has a license after his fraudulent representation of attendance at meetings, he did not attend.  In my opinion Mr. C. dodged a bullet that I don't believe you would have dodged in  most states, then again Mr. Fieger has gotten away with conduct in Michigan that would probably not have been tolerated in most states.  When I last looked in on Geoffrey Fieger, the verbal flame-thrower was threatening to run for Mayor of Detroit.  Michigan is one hell of a lenient place, if you ask me.

But, I digress, Mr. C.'s suspension raises the interesting question of whether A.A. attendance should be required as part of any disciplinary or legal process.  I talked about this awhile back and engaged in some debate with the commentariat over the question.  Some of my commentators believe that Alcoholic Anonymous being based on 12-[Suggested] Steps as a program of recovery that expressly embrace the notion of a "higher power" transgress the Constitution.  I disagree. 

In the usual, circumstance, a drunk "on paper" is required to attend A.A. meetings and obtain the signature of the "Secretary" or other presiding member at a given meeting.  Sometimes a judge will tell an individual with a alcohol or drug problem to attend 3 or more meetings a week.  A.A. founded 75-years ago by Bill W. and Dr. Bob S. is based on 12-Steps and 12-Traditions.  The traditions are in fact a deliberate and express embrace of pure unadulterated anarchy.  A group and only a group governs its meeting.  If you are active in a group but grow disenchanted with the direction of the group, the traditions invite you to create a group to your own liking provided you can attract membership consistent with the AA principles. 

OurTown is one of the original A.A. cities, and OurTown is frequently alluded to in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, aka the Big Book.  OurTown has thousands of A.A. meetings and several 24-hour clubs operate continuously.  There are regular A.A meetings in OurTown which by "group conscience" have chosen not to sign "court attendance" sheets.  The logic underlying this decision of those groups is that AA is not associated with "any related facility or oustside enterprise" and does not "endorse" outside enterprises; also,  A.A. is "non-professional;" and, A.A. does not want the A.A. "name" to be "drawn into public controversy."  Most groups, here, do "sign" court slips or attendance sheets.  I agree that this courtesy, should be extended especially since, I'm "on paper" via my voluntary participation in OurState Lawyers' Assistance Program[ming.] 

But let's think about this critically, if you are a Lawyer in disciplinary trouble, should you be required as a condition of your restricted license to attend A.A. meeting, where they talk about God? 

I say, why not? If you have a good counter argument, make it.


  1. Hey, BL, this is one of the commentators you mention as having weighed-in opposed to the 12 steps on Constitutional grounds. In the interest of fostering a conversation on the subject, I offer the following:

    As a materialist, secular humanist, agnostic non-theist, nothing is more central to my interaction with the world than the lack of any moral authority higher than myself. I make all of the decisions in my life and there is no supervising authority that knows my thoughts. Having to own every consequence of my actions keeps me always mindful that there are no "do-overs" and that my poor behavior can actually hurt others permanently. And the lack of any afterlife of any kind makes life precious in a way that it simply never can be to someone who thinks we go up in the sky to live forever with a cosmic father after our brains turn off.

    To your question: The Establishment Clause of the Constitution forbids courts, or any other state organ, from compelling attendance at meetings that deal with religion. The case law is moving solidly in this direction across the country. A Google search immediately turned up the following article which deals with a Buddhist opposing AA on precisely the same philosophical grounds I do.


  2. FWIW--

    Thank you. I'm delighted to be engaged on this question with you, again and I have read your citation to Inouye v. Kemna. When I get a little more time I'll write a longer response--and, it is my sincere wish not to get "too lawyerly" on the subject but to actually embrace your perceived problem. But you have admirably addressed the very question that I find of interest.

    I do want to point out that the obvious difference between Inouye and this disciplinary case is the "objection" of the Buddhist probationer/parolee Mr. Inouye and the apparently non-objecting attorney Mark C. who simply decided to commit fraud in lieu of doing what he was told he would have to do to hang onto his license.

  3. You don't sentence people to AA, period.

    You sentence them to select from a range of options: an certified drug/alcohol treatment facility (at their expense), and you offer to accept, in lieu of participation there, participation in either a Rational Recovery group (secular AA, if you will) or AA, their choice. If you're in the sentencing game and you don't have a Rational Recovery group available for folks, you start it so that you can offer the option, or you stop mandating AA. Simple.

    You no more sentence people to AA as their only option than you would sentence them to have their chakras tuned.

  4. I was ordered to 30 AA meetings or 2 days in jail per day missed. I refuse to go to a cult meeting again after attending one with what seemed to be homeless people. I am following "The Sinclaire Method" using Naltrexone and it is working great! I am going to forge the sheet and take my chances. Church and State is a bad mix. I'm going to fight back! It's my American duty!!

  5. The language of the 12 Steps uses the term "God," and many members of AA, Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and similar fellowships do believe in such a deity, this is not a requirement for participation.

    The 6th edition of the book "Narcotics Anonymous," published in 2010, includes the story "Atheists Recover, Too." In this story, a NA member describes how uses a commitment to his own recovery and service to others as his own "Higher Power."

    This may not be enough to convince a Court that mandatory 12-step meeting attendance w/ out some alternatives is not a 1st Amendment violation. It is, however, enough for the many Atheists & Agnostics who remain committed members of 12-step fellowship.

    I would also like to respond to the comment that AA is a "cult." I do know what definition of "cult" "Anonymous" uses, but AA has no leaders, requires no financial contribution, and welcomes members regardless of whether they believe in Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, The Mighty Thor, or nothing whatsoever.

    If this is a "cult," then so is the local library.