Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, December 3, 2001


Page 5


State Bar Names Janis Thibault to Lead Diversion Program


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The State Bar of California on Friday named marriage and family therapist Janis R. Thibault, a  manager of the California Medical Board’s drug and alcohol diversion program, to direct the lawyer’s Attorney Diversion and Assistance Program.

Thibault will work out of the State Bar’s Los Angeles office, running the new program to assist attorneys to overcome addiction and other substance abuse problems.

The program was created this year by Senate Bill 479 by Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco.

Expenses are to be paid for with a $10 fee to each active California State Bar member.  The charge is listed on the dues bill that was sent to lawyers last month. About $1.3 million is expected in the coming fiscal year.

The State Bar Board of Governors is scheduled later this week to approve six appointments to a 12-member program oversight board this month. Gov. Gray Davis also is to make four appointments, and the speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee will make one each.

At least one board member is required to be recovering  from addiction.

Thibault brings her experience from a similar program set up for physicians. She was a case manager in that program for five years before becoming its director.

“About 1,500 doctors have participated in the medical board’s program since it began in 1980,” the State Bar said in a release. “Historically, it has a success rate of between 69-74 percent—success meaning participation for five years, a minimum of three years of uninterrupted sobriety and lifestyle changes which enhance sobriety.”

Thibault said she hopes to replicate the successful components of the medical board’s program while tailoring the bar’s efforts to best serve an attorney population. “There are some proven practices, so there won’t be a need to invent a brand new structure,” she said in the State Bar statement.

Lawyers with substance abuse problems may enter voluntarily, or they may be referred to the program as part of a discipline probe by the State Bar’s office of chief trial counsel or the State Bar Court. Lawyers who are ordered into the program by the State Bar would have to go inactive or be subject to other limitations on their ability to practice.

State Bar officials recently reported to the Board of Governors that about 300 attorneys currently on probation have some type of alcohol or drug condition. The number represents one-third of all California lawyers on probation, the State Bar said.

Thibault’s duties include overseeing the hiring of staff, developing a budget, placement of statewide support groups, creating formal rules and regulations to govern the diversion program, development of MCLE courses and outreach efforts.


Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company