La. R.S. 37:221 – The Louisiana Legislature Provides Absolute Confidentiality and Privileges to the Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Following the Louisiana Supreme Court’s decision in Dumaine, the Louisiana legislature visited the issue of whether or not statutory confirmations of privilege and confidentiality should be provided to members of the Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. As a result of these discussions, the legislature enacted without amendment La. R.S. 37:221, which accomplishes the following:
1. It recognized that alcoholism and drug addiction in the judiciary and among the members of the Louisiana State Bar posed a serious health and ethical problem for the people of the State of Louisiana. Moreover, the legislature recognized the symptoms of this disease process, which revolve around denial. Consequently, the alcoholic practitioner had to be confronted with specific instances of misbehavior or unethical conduct. The legislature recognized the difficulty in bringing these specific instances of misconduct to light and confronting the alcoholic with them if there was a companion danger that the revelation of the instances could be utilized to sanction the attorney in any way.
2. Accordingly, Section (A)(4) of the statute was written to include the following language:
“It is hereby declared to be the public policy of the State of Louisiana to promote and encourage the use of counseling by peers and the intervention process in order to initiate successful treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction among the judiciary, members of the Louisiana State Bar Association, law students and prospective lawyers. The intent of this Section is to further this goal by providing for a privilege, confidentiality of information, and tort immunity for the Louisiana State Bar Association, the Louisiana Bar Association’s Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Lawyer’s Assistance Program, Inc., the Louisiana Bar Foundation, their officers, directors, agents and employees, and persons who furnish information and participate in the counseling and intervention program of the Louisiana State Bar Association’s Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Lawyer’s Assistance Program, Inc., a non-profit corporation whose activities are determined by the Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. (Emphasis added)
3. The statute goes on to prescribe specific and particular rights of confidentiality and civil immunity. As a result, members of the Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse or the Lawyer’s Assistance Program, Inc. (LAP, Inc.) may interact with practicing alcoholics who are attorneys and confront them with their behavior and elicit confessions of misdeeds occurring as a direct result of their disease of alcoholism without the attorney or the member of the judiciary being fearful that these acts of misconduct will be reported to the disciplinary counsel or to any other tribunal or entity.