What Would You Do?

It was the day of the final hearing in a heavily litigated case and one of the lawyers was drunk. As the judge in the case, I didn’t know it, but the lawyer representing the other party had been talking to opposing counsel before I entered the hearing room and could tell. The sober lawyer said, “Your honor, I’d like to request a continuance.” The tipsy lawyer, mildly slurring his words, objected. “My client and I are ready to proceed,” he said. By this time, I realized there was a problem and granted the motion. Later, I found out that the unimpaired lawyer drove the impaired lawyer home and personally took responsibility for helping his colleague get help with his drinking problem.

The point is simple. Those of us working in the field of workers’ compensation litigation should not lose sight of the fact that our fellow lawyers and judges are real people who deserve our respect and even our compassion. The sober lawyer that day could have done any number of other things. He could have publicly accused his fellow lawyer of being intoxicated. He could have said nothing and sought to proceed with the hearing so he could win the case by exploiting the situation. Instead, he asked for a continuance without blaming his colleague for the problem. I will never forget it.

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