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Seeking the High Ground

“Man is nourished by that which is beyond the personal. He dies from preferring their opposites.” These are the concluding two sentences of Jacques Lusseyran’s book Against the Pollution of the I, which I discussed in this column last month. Today, I would like to explore what this means in legal education and how Lusseyran’s sentiment was illustrated for me recently by my experience teaching an intercession course in Addiction and the Law at Campbell.

The Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University has been the beneficiary of unusually gifted deans who have shared, as far as I have been able to observe, a thoroughly commonsense approach to legal education a desire to turn out not just great legal minds, but great lawyers. The Campbell law deans have been willing to focus not just on the mind, but on the heart, the spirit, and on the well being of those being trained in the law.

Former Dean Leary Davis, who continues to teach at Campbell, and who was in large part responsible for my teaching there in January, has made a major contribution to the profession in looking at and evaluating the quality of life that lawyers create for themselves. Former Dean Pat Hetrick, who also continues to teach at Campbell, maintained the tradition; early on, bringing in PALS speakers in to talk with students about the impact of alcoholism and other drug addictions on the profession. Dean Whichard seems to have picked up the baton with the school getting ready to graduate not just lawyers, but lawyers who are also trained as mediators. All of these progressive efforts by the school are commonsense to the practitioner, but are often neglected in legal education that forgets that both the lawyer and his/her client have emotional and spiritual needs that go beyond a linear analysis of the law. My experience teaching at the law school brought home once more, that these less obvious parts of our human nature are parts that need just as much nurture as our minds, and in the long run more than anything else, determine how happy we are in law practice.

My class at Campbell was a lot of fun. Let me tell you just a few of the things we talked about. We started with just trying to expand awareness, to get an understanding that though our Constitution addresses many social issues, that no matter what the biggest emotional issues of our time might be gun control, abortion, etc. that no social issue in our history has ever been so significant that it has resulted in the Constitution being amended not just once, but twice. Only chemical addiction has had such a profound effect on our society and our legal system.

We looked a little at how alcoholism grew up as being a part of our legal structure. In early colonial time it was customary at meetings or in the tavern to toast the King. During the pre-Revolutionary period it became customary as an expression of a more democratic view to toast everyone in the tavern. At this time, because of the rum trade, spirit alcohol was for the first time freely available and inexpensive enough for every man. Drinking became part of the revolutionary spirit and taverns were the hotbeds of the revolution. In fact the traditional emphasis on rights that distinguishes American democracy from that of any other modern democracy can be traced to the traditional rebel mindset that is so commonly a part of the alcoholic personality. Alcoholism is a disease of isolation and the familiar revolutionary banner “Don’t Tread on Me” could have been designed by any alcoholic. The expression of the American right to drink, and drink cheaply, found expression early on in the new republic in the Whiskey Rebellion.

Ultimately these excesses led to the development of the Temperance Movement in the 1830’s. The temperance movement was led largely by ministers who attacked drinking, and the conduct that goes with excessive drinking, as immoral. The Abolitionist movement sprouted from the moral fervor of the Temperance movement. After the Civil War we entered another period of extensive addiction with the advent of crude addictive pain killers for the many civil war wounded. Patent medicines, made largely of alcohol and some opiate, became common and the addiction problem grew. Toward the end of the century revulsion at the excesses of addiction led to our first drug laws and Prohibition. Prohibition brought organized crime and eventually repeal came. Repeal and new drugs have brought, over the last twenty years, the “drug” exception to the Fourth Amendment and serious erosion of constitutional protections through criminal and civil forfeiture proceedings.

One group of students looked at the erosion of Fourth amendment protections by drug forfeiture statutes and concluded the loss was real and substantive. Another group of students addressed the question, “In a global market are third world countries that do not have first world technology inevitably dependent upon underground drug economies to support their economic development ?” These students found that in one country up to 85% of the capital came from illegal drugs. Their answer was probably so.

Another group looked at the sophisticated public relations efforts by George Soros backed groups to get marijuana and heroin legalized through the medical marijuana initiative. This group found that the emotionally motivating pro-legalization arguments are a result of the untrue things said about the drug fifty years ago. Current information about the effect of marijuana on learning and motor coordination (marijuana is soluble in fat not water, therefore it tends to stay in the body and concentrates in fatty tissue like the brain) is largely not discussed in the debate.

The class as a whole and one group in particular spent time looking at the emergence of drug courts and family courts. The class read Therapeutic Jurisprudence and the Drug Treatment Court Movement: Revolutionizing the Criminal Justice System’s Response to Drug Abuse and Crime in America, 74 Notre Dame Law Review 439 (1999). We talked about the emergence of drug courts as something similar to the emergence of equity courts in England, where the existing courts were failing to fairly address legal issues and a new procedural mechanism grew up to try to bring justice.

Drug courts treat chemical addiction like it is, as a process disease. Even though we are all familiar with chronic diseases that have to have continuous treatment we still live in an age that wants the antibiotic, the wonder pill that is going to effect an immediate long term cure. Drug courts represent how facing the reality of what addiction is really about offers whole new opportunities to deal with it as a disease and to separate the criminals who are addicts from the addicts who happen to have committed crimes.

For me the most intriguing topic a group of students worked on was — How would you propose in the year 2000 to reconcile law as a dividing force and a healing force? Law as a reductionist tool is important the skills to analyze, to divide, to separate, to break things apart. But at one time the role of lawgiver, spiritual leader and medical healer were all combined. In older times the role of mediator, healer, listener, of someone who understands acceptance, were part of the lawyer’s role. It is not either/or but both/and. One can learn to be a zealous advocate and also how to participate in the team approach of the drug court, where it is the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney versus the disease.

My experience teaching at Campbell taught me that the need for law to be not just a dividing force but also a healing force is as important today as ever. The fact of the matter is that I talk to lawyers week after week who are unhappy being lawyers. If there is one common theme in their complaints it is that there practice of law is all about dividing and too little, if at all, about healing. Jacque Lusseyran, a man blinded in his youth who was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp, believed that for Man to live he must be nourished by that which is beyond the personal. If the practice of law can move at least some of the time into the area of healing for others, we have moved beyond the personal, we have moved to a higher ground that feeds some essential part of the human spirit. The Campbell law deans have been willing to focus not just on the mind, but on the heart, the spirit, and on the well being of those being trained in the law. By doing so they are apt to graduate not just lawyers, but people who are concerned about their clients as people. This kind of lawyer is one who will have maximized his or her chances of enjoying the practice of law. I congratulate the Campbell law deans for having the vision to see the direction in which the high ground lies, and thank the students I got to know there for outlining it clearly.

– by Don Carroll

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