By Scott R. Mote, Esq., Executive Director of the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program
The Judicial Advisory Group is comprised of judges and a magistrate who work with the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP) to provide confidential assistance related to mental health and substance use disorders to the Ohio judiciary.
To understand JAG, it is important to know more about OLAP first. The Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to helping Ohio's judges, attorneys, and law students obtain treatment for substance use disorders and mental health issues.
OLAP receives about 30 new inquiries each month. We get calls/referrals from colleagues, judges, magistrates, disciplinary counsel, certified grievance committees, admissions committees, defense counsel, spouses, children, law school administrators and professors, and the occasional client. Concerns raised include depression, drinking, illegal and prescription drugs, internet porn, sexual compulsion disorder, gambling, anxiety, bipolar disorder, anorexia and bulimia, adult attention deficit disorder, vicarious trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder. You name it, it affects our profession. We have assisted more than 3,600 law students, lawyers and judges, and helped them save their careers, families, etc.
If a member of the judiciary is concerned about another judge or if a person is concerned about their own mental well-being, they would contact the Judicial Advisory Group, which works directly with OLAP to help judges get the help they need.
Below are frequently asked questions about JAG and OLAP.
How can JAG/OLAP help me?
If you are concerned about your mental health or a substance use disorder, such as drinking, OLAP will meet with you to provide confidential assistance. We have assisted more than 3,600 law students, lawyers and judges, and helped them save their careers, families, etc. We help with depression, anxiety, mental health disorders, burnout, substance use disorders (drinking, street and prescription drugs), gambling disorders, and more. Once you complete an assessment with an OLAP clinician, we will:
Give you a list of recommendations, such as confidential advice about individual problems, including finding counseling and help deciding between outpatient, inpatient, and other treatment programs
Help arrange and implement formal interventions, if necessary
Provide you with reputable resources for counseling services, treatment and support groups
Arrange for monitoring services
Is JAG/OLAP really confidential?
Yes. If you contact JAG or OLAP about yourself or a colleague, you can rest assured that your call and anything you discuss with OLAP will be protected by strong rules of confidentiality. We are 100% confidential.
Professional Conduct Rule 8.3 provides an exemption from the duty to report knowledge of ethical violations when that knowledge was obtained in the course of OLAP's work.
Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 2.14 provides a like exemption when we are working with judges.
R.C. § 2305.28 provides qualified immunity from civil liability for OLAP staff (B and C) and for anyone who provides information to OLAP (D).
If you or someone you know is having problems with substance use, alcohol use, addiction or mental health, don't let fears about the disciplinary consequences prevent you from contacting us. No potential disciplinary situation will be made worse by contacting OLAP.
Is JAG/OLAP part of discipline?
No. OLAP is totally separate from the Ohio Supreme Court's Office of Disciplinary Counsel, and all local certified grievance committees. However, the disciplinary counsel sends some legal professionals to OLAP for help.
If I contact JAG or OLAP, will anything I tell you be disclosed to the disciplinary counsel?
No. Our compliant lawyers and judges get through the disciplinary process, and rarely have grievances filed against them again. For those who do what we and their treatment providers recommend, life turns around, and they get to be happy and productive lawyers and judges, wives and husbands and partners, colleagues, and friends again.
If I am working with JAG/OLAP, and I later become involved in the discipline process, will OLAP disclose it?
No, not unless you ask us to do so in writing. If you later become involved in the discipline process, you may choose to disclose your participation with OLAP. OLAP does not disclose it unless you ask us to do so in writing.
I think I have a drinking/drug/mental health problem. Will I be disciplined if I seek help?
No. Substance use and/or mental health disorders do not violate the rules of professional conduct and are not necessarily ethical violations. If left unchecked, though, drinking/drugs/mental health issues may lead a lawyer to commit an ethical violation. The Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court and grievance committees only prosecute violations of the rules of professional conduct and seek to prevent lawyers who may be impaired from harming the public. There is no reason not to seek help.
I am worried about a colleague who is a judge. If I call JAG, will the judge know that I am the one who called?
No. We will not disclose your involvement without your permission. But, when you allow us to use your name to confront the person, we have better success at getting the sick person to obtain treatment. It’s understandable that you might not want to use your name in the matter, because you might feel like you are “snitching” and you do not want to get the person in trouble, but if the same colleague were having a heart attack, you would most likely call 911, and get help as soon as possible. You would not hesitate to tell the 911 operator your name. Why is it different if your colleague is slowly dying from a substance use disorder or a mental health issue? Substance use disorders and/or mental health issues are just as serious as a heart attack. Many people will only get sicker or die from these disorders if they do not seek professional help.
When you call JAG/OLAP concerned about a colleague, we do not contact the disciplinary counsel. We are not a policing agency. We do not mandate people to seek help or to take the help that we recommend. We do as much as we can to encourage the person to seek relief. When you are concerned and you allow us to let that person know that you are concerned, we will have a better way of helping the individual. When the unwell person knows that another colleague is worried about their mental well-being, that person is more likely to accept help.
When you do not provide your name and wish to remain anonymous, we cannot move forward until we have enough information to confront the person. This usually requires compiling information from others in the office or family members who notice that a person needs professional help.
What will JAG/OLAP do if I call about a colleague?
A member of JAG or an OLAP clinical staff member will speak with you to get as much detail as possible about the situation. We will discuss possible ways to proceed.
What if I do not live in Columbus?
OLAP helps legal professionals in all areas in Ohio. Our main headquarters is in Columbus, but we have associates in Cleveland and Cincinnati. We also travel around the state to meet your needs.
What is the cost of OLAP's services?
We do not charge a fee unless you have a recovery contract with us. Do not let concern about cost keep you from seeking help. We never deny assistance because of money issues.
In addition to being a caring colleague and friend, legal professionals also have a responsibility and duty to protect the public and to maintain the integrity of the profession. If you notice that an attorney or judge might be experiencing age-related cognitive decline, depression, anxiety or other issues that are affecting them as a human being, let alone their ability to practice competently, it is time to help. Not only are you helping them personally, but you are protecting the public from a person who is not doing his sworn oath of helping people.
For more information on OLAP or JAG, call (800) 348-4343 or go to www.ohiolap.org.