Who Cares About the Present, Let’s Live in the Past! Part I

Part I        The Committee of Bar Examiners, a Meeting.

“Hem haw, Hem haw, now let’s come to order. Yes, yes. Quite, quite.”

“Hem, hem. Welcome everyone.”

“Well, we’re here to discuss the file of Genevieve Mercier, a bar applicant of gravest concern.”

“Ah yes. Hem, hem.  How is it that her file was passed along to our most glorious and upright office?”

“If I may, it appears that it was her answer to Question 25 on the glorious Character and Fitness Application, an application which is mandatory to complete in order to apply to sit for the bar exam.”

“And what was the question?”

“The question asks the applicant: “Within the past 5 years, have you been diagnosed with or have you been treated for bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, paranoia, or any other psychotic disorder?””

“And what was her answer?”

“She disclosed that she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.”

“Oh my.”

“Quite upsetting.”

“You know, I hear those people can be very unstable.”

“Hem haw, quite quite!”

“Well, upon her disclosure of this information she was required to fill out Forms 7 and 8.”

“And what do those forms require?”

“Form 7 is an Authorization to Release Medical Information.  Form 8 is a Description of Mental Health or Substance Abuse Condition or Impairment.”

“And she promptly signed and returned these forms?”

“No she did not.  She initiallly refused to sign the forms, making some silly argument about doctor/patient confidentiality.  We threatened her and told her she couldn’t sit for the bar until she signed them.  So she eventually complied.”

“But this initial noncompliance was a red flag to us.”

“As it should be!  Everyone should be willing to disclose confidential medical and mental health information to the powers that be!”

“Quite right!”

“Hem, hem!”

“Well, after her initial refusal to sign the releases, we decided further investigation into her diagnosis was warranted.”

“So what did you do?”

“We sent her a letter informing her of our current investigation and requiring her to produce all psychiatric medical records from the past five years and any hospitilzation records from the past ten.”

“Did she comply?”

“Oh she did.  And let me tell you, those records were juicy.”

“Oh my, how scandalous, do tell!”

“Well, she’s had two psychiatric hospitalizations in the past year, she’s seen 5 different doctors, half of which diagnosed her with poly substance abuse.  It appears that she was doing quite a lot of partying during law school.”

“Doesn’t she know better than to be honest with doctors about those kinds of things?  I mean, didn’t we all do quite a lot of partying in law school?”

“I sure did. I just was just lucky it never ended up in any medical record– I know better than to tell the truth to doctors.”

“Well I bet she’s learned her lesson now!”

“Hem, hem, quite, quite!”

“Well now what do we do with her?  Her records show a bipolar and polysubstance abuse diagnosis, cocaine dependency, opiate dependency, a benzodiazepine overdose, chronic marajuana use, and cough syrup abuse.  Not to mention her inpatient admission for depression last fall.”

“Wait, what’s this?”

“It looks like a letter from her therapist, a recent one.”

“What does it say?”

“Oh nothing useful.  Just talks about how much progress she’s made, how she’s gotten clean, how capable and competent she is and ends with an opinion that she’ll make a great attorney.”

“Well who cares about that, that’s the PRESENT, not the PAST.”

“Yeah, and we live in the PAST here, fuck any progress she’s made!  She’s a bipolar drug addict, it’s the past that counts!”

“And do we really want someone like her, a bipolar chick, practicing law here in this great and backwards state?”

“Well I don’t know what to do with her.”

“Let’s kick her to Lawyer’s Assistance and see what they have to say.”

Part II                Lawyer’s Assistance Program, a brief exchange

“Hey did you see that new file?”

“Yeah, the drug addict bipolar chick?”

“That’s the one! What do you want to do about her?”

“Eh, let’s just send her to one of those expensive evals.  They’ll know what to do with her.”

“And if she can’t pay we don’t want her as an attorney in this state anyway.”

“Hahaha! So very true.  Ship her on down.”

To be continued……

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8 responses to “Who Cares About the Present, Let’s Live in the Past! Part I

  • cabrogal

    Yeah, and we live in the PAST

    Blood oath they do.

    Stylised, formal medieval rituals based on centuries of precedent whereby they imagine they can determine guilt or innocence. And the way scientific evidence is treated in the courtroom is more akin to superstitious savages going pop-eyed at a lighter than educated post-enlightenment professionals weighing the quality and relevance of technical evidence.

    Here in Australia they still wear horsehair wigs and black silk gowns.
    And do you know what the black gowns signify?
    That the entire Australian Bar and judiciary are still in mourning over the death of Queen Victoria (I kid you not)!
    I’m not sure what the horsehair signifies unless it’s just the usual thing you expect to find covering a horse’s arse.

    I hope you’re getting your back up and preparing for a fight.
    Didn’t you follow this career path to kick up a stink in the attempt to achieve justice?
    If you can’t even do that for yourself you probably had no future in the profession anyway.

    • gmercier4388

      Wow that’s archaic! I had no idea that’s what the robes meant.

      And there is some stink that is being kicked up. I’ve made contact with a local advocacy center that represents people with mental disabilities to get advice, and possible representation, about which parts of the Lawyer’s Assistance recommendation can be challenged.

      More details to follow in posts-to-come about exactly what I’ll be fighting. There’s some pretty provisions in their recommendation and I’ll definitely be appealing those. I don’t think I’m going to have any luck fighting the rehab rec though. With my medical records being as damning as they are and considering the backwardsness of the state I live in, rehab is probably inevitable. The problem with fighting that provision– other than the fact that I’ll lose– is that that will hold up my licensing determination for ages, possibly a year+, and if I lose it will be yet another year before I can get a license. And without a license I can’t practice, and no job + $100k in loans makes for a certain destitution.

      Part of being a good lawyer is knowing which battles to fight. And there will certainly be battles fought! Right now it just doesn’t look like fighting rehab prospectively will be a good move– and hey, I might get reimbursement for going if I win my appeal later down the line.

  • fancybrackets

    Hi,
    I’m not sure my comment is welcome, so feel free to tell me to fuck off if you feel like it, after all this is none of my business. Nonetheless…

    I understand how you would like to erase your past since you’re so concentrated and committed to your present and future. Still, your past is there and since the past is what we rely upon to gain experience and create precedent, it’s understandable that your past is under close scrutiny.
    You don’t want a job as a clerk or a hairdresser, you want to be a lawyer. It’s great but it’s also a job of great responsibility. If I were to hire a lawyer, say, because a relative was murdered, I’d want to be damn sure that their judgement is not clouded by any drug whatsoever.
    I honestly would be happy to be given this chance at all. It wouldn’t have been unthinkable or unreasonable for them to set a rule that says if someone has ever had serious drug problems, they cannot be a lawyer under any circumstance. But they haven’t said no, they said maybe.
    It’s wrong that you have to pay for it personally, I agree, but you paid for college because you wanted to be a lawyer, you’ll probably pay for the bar exam too. It’s just something else you’ll have to pay for, just another act of atonement if you want.
    It feels wrong, it feels like they are intruding, it feels like they have no right. As far as I know, it’s going to be like that in the future too: you will probably have to take drug tests every now and then for the rest of your career. They are going to be intruding forever.
    So the only thing you can do about it is ask yourself one simple question: is it worth it?

    By the way, an advice from someone who may be just a little too inclined to paranoia (but maybe not): are you using your real name on this blog? Because if you are, it’s going to be under close scrutiny too, so be careful what you write. Unfortunately as of now you are in no position to push your luck…

    Best of luck!

    • gmercier4388

      Comments are always welcome, and we’re always free to disagree with one another!

      First of all, the blog is NOT under my real name. If you check out the “About Me” section it explains this and my reasons for doing so. Not having this under a pseudonym would be a bad sign for my sanity.

      Also, it’s not the case that the bar could make a blanket rule that anyone with a drug problem couldn’t be an attorney– that violates the ADA. Not to mention the fact that such a restriction would be disgusting. People have pasts, but those pasts are not necessarily predictive of the future. If the past were allowed to have such power, why would anyone ever change? If we were bound by the person we were yesterday, what would be the point of self improvement?

      Moreover, I maintain that I never had a serious drug problem. I partied a lot but so did lots of my other classmates. Most importantly, and relevantly in terms of precedence, my recreational activities NEVER interfered with my school or work. I have a stellar record on both fronts. I’ve never, never even been late to work– nor have I received negative feedback about my work product. And I had a job all throughout my last year of law school, hospitalizations be damned. That employer has no idea that I have any diagnoses or that I was even a partyer. I never let me drug use interfere with school or work.

      As far as wanting an undistracted, clearheaded attorney– good luck. Attorneys are overworked, meaning their minds are probably a zillion places at once, not solely focused on your one case out of many. Not only that, drugs are not the only thing that can prevent someone from being clearheaded (and I want to point out that I’m sober now, which is relevant). A divorce, money problems, even indigestion can cloud your thinking. I agree that attorneys have great responsibility but having a past record of drug use doesn’t mean someone can’t handle that responsibility with the same, or better, skill as anyone else. To say otherwise is frankly discriminatory– and substance abuse history is a disability under the ADA.

      Thanks for taking the time to read the post and for sharing your comment. We don’t have to agree– it’s the dialogue that’s important. 🙂

  • Gretchen Getsinger

    I admire your courage and fortitude for sharing yourself in this way. I’m sure that you speak for many others who are silent. I’ve learned that you are where you are for a reason and at a place to discover seeds of opportunity, however you might find them, however you may choose to plant those seeds and grow. This is what I hope for you.

    In my early years I found out the hard way that I suffer from Clinical Depression. I was fortunate to have had a really caring psychiatrist and he taught me how to appear as if ‘normal’ in the world where any mental illness is treated as if the sufferer had made a poor moral choice due to lack of character. He saved me from being institutionalized. I’ve always been grateful..I’ve been even more grateful since I read your account of having been institutionalized.

    I’ve found a lot of relief and have learned how to find happiness and my own true worth, to grow and keep growing from participation in a 12-step Program and from continuing going to therapy for 30+ years. Some people think I’m crazy because of this, but, quite frankly, I know who the crazy ones are and keep safely away and maintain my health from seeking out community where I’m loved and supported and where I love and support back.

    It was the hard way, but worth it.

    The best to you!

    • gmercier4388

      Continued therapy is definitely a great thing to seek! I see a therapist now even though I’m stable because I think it’s important to have someone to check in with, and consult with in case things start to slip.

      I’m glad things have worked out for you– and that you’ve managed to stay out of the hospital! Those places are the worst. Life with a diagnosis is never easy….

      Thanks for your kind words and for taking the time to stop by 🙂

  • riselikeair

    You kind of remind me of phoenix rising from the ashes. I agree about knowing what battles to fight when. Once you’ve crossed the initial hurdles you can always fight for more justice for yourself or others later. Wishing you continued success – when success feels elusive make sure you remember all the little and big victories along the way.

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