Tuesday, November 5, 2002
Governor Appoints Four New Members to State Bar’s Lawyer Assistance Program Oversight Committee
By ALLISON LOMAS, Staf Writer
Two local attorneys, a psychologist and a former teacher have been appointed to the committee that oversees the State Bar of California’s program to assist attorneys struggling with substance abuse, Gov. Gray Davis announced yesterday.
James E. Blancarte, David S. Hobler, Dr. Dorothy M. Tucker and Richard Carrillo are the newest members on the State Bar’s Lawyer Assistance Program oversight committee.
The Lawyer Assistance Program was created by an act of the state Legislature in August 2001 to rehabilitate attorneys with impairments caused by drug and alcohol abuse or mental illness.
The oversight committee supervises the program’s operations and establishes administrative procedures. The State Bar Board of Governors, the governor, the Assembly speaker and the Senate Rules Committee appoint 12 individuals to four-year terms on the committee.
The panel must be composed of doctors, substance abuse experts, and attorneys. At least one member must be in recovery from an addiction.
The governor, who is authorized to appoint two attorneys and two members of the general public to the oversight committee, has made his first appointments to fill the four vacancies.
Blancarte, an attorney, admits that he has no practical experience in drug and alcohol abuse treatment, but he said he hopes to bring administrative experience to the table. He suggested that a 10-year stint as member of the Los Angeles City Fire Commission helped him to develop his administrative expertise.
Blancarte, a partner at Blancarte, Lopez, Sussman & Schwartz, said he was notified yesterday that he had been selected to join the oversight committee.
It was a “sad coincidence,” he said.
Blancarte explained that yesterday morning he attended the funeral of a classmate whose premature death, he said, was due, at least in part, to substance abuse. He said the classmate had a “stellar academic record,” was hired by a prestigious firm, and then lost his license and became homeless after getting involved with drugs.
This loss brought “into focus how important this appointment is,” Blancarte said. “I know that there are folks out there who are struggling,” he said, adding, “everyone knows someone who is suffering or is rehabilitated.”
Research data presented by Janis Thibault, the director of the Lawyer Assistance Program, suggests that Blancarte is right.
It is estimated that approximately 15 to 18 percent of attorneys will have a substance abuse problem at some point during their life, Thibault said. On the other hand, only one in 10 people in the general population will abuse substances.
Thibault added that studies also have shown that as many as two out of three disciplinary cases before the State Bar may involve either a substance abuser or a person with a mental health disorder.
The director explained that the program is a “proactive” mechanism intended to protect the public through early intervention and outreach. The program is also more “cost effective,” than dealing with these problems through discipline, she said.
In addition to working at the entertainment firm, Blancarte has worked as a legal analyst on television covering controversial issues such as the O.J. Simpson trial, the Rodney King case and the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
The self-proclaimed “veteran of public service” has served as the presidential appointee to the Hispanic Alliance for Free Trade and as president of the Mexican American Bar Association.
Hobbler, also a lawyer, has 30 years of litigation experience at private law firms and at the Marin County Public Defender’s Office. He is also the founder and director of Fit in Recovery, a health education and environmental fitness consulting group.
Tucker has spent the last two decades working with the Los Angeles Police Department as a police psychologist. She is a past president of the California Psychological Association and a founding member of the Black Women Forum.
Tucker is a former member of the State Bar Board of Governors, having been appointed to different terms by then-Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and then-state Sen. Bill Lockyer.
Carrillo, a former teacher and police officer, is currently an investigator for the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company