As a North Carolina Superior or District Court judge, you are faced with some of the most difficult and important responsibilities and decisions one can encounter in life as part of your daily job description. When you were elected or appointed to the bench, no one could have prepared you for the cumulative emotional impact that often results from continual exposure to our greatest unresolved social problems. As a judge, you are exposed to trauma at every level of society. Over time, this perpetual exposure can wear anyone out emotionally. We often are of the mistaken belief that legal training somehow inoculates us from normal human reactions to trauma. It does not.
The unrelenting exposure to trauma and demands of this position can sometimes be overwhelming, and lead to personal issues such as alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, and other serious problems. Like all members of the legal profession, judges sometimes face these same problems separate and apart from job-related causes. A judge’s problems and distress, however, are more likely to go unnoticed and untreated for longer because of the very nature of a judge’s role in the legal system.
- The sheer volume of distressing material judges encounter on a daily basis.
- Judges work in isolation, unable to debrief distressing material.
- Colleagues and associates may be hesitant to express concern because judges hold a position of power.
- Judges may be reluctant to seek help because they hold visible, public positions and the fear that asking for help will negatively impact their status and reputation or chance of re-election.
The LAP offers support to judges who are suffering from alcoholism, addiction, depression, anxiety and mental health issues. No matter how large or small the issue, the LAP is here to help. Every service provided through the LAP is subject to the strictest confidentiality and completely free.
What does LAP do?
We help judges deal with and recover from a wide range of issues including, but not limited to, anxiety, stress and burnout, depression and suicide, anger management, trauma, compassion fatigue and secondary trauma (from perpetual exposure in the court room to trauma), substance abuse, life balance, process addictions (like food, gambling or sex), and grief and loss.
Our trained staff provides short-term counseling and crisis management, intervention assistance, assessments, referrals to outside resources (such as therapists and treatment centers), long-term aftercare case management and follow up, on-going support, or just a safe space to discuss your issues.
The LAP also has a network of volunteer judges throughout the state who have recovered from these very same issues and who assist judges who are just beginning their own journey of recovery. LAP volunteer judges understand the pressure and the realities of facing and recovering from these issues while holding a very public, elected position, and their insight and experience is invaluable. Just knowing you are not alone and that other judges have struggled with the same issue and emerged stronger on the other side can offer meaning and a renewed sense of hope as one begins the journey of recovery.
Authority to Assist Judges.
Rules of the Standing Committees of the North Carolina State Bar
Section .0600 Rules Governing the Lawyer Assistance Program
.0619 Judicial Committee
The Judicial Committee of the lawyer assistance program Board shall implement a program of intervention for members of the judiciary with substance abuse problems affecting their professional conduct. The committee shall consist of at least two members of the state’s judiciary. The committee will be governed by the rules of the lawyer assistance program Board where applicable. Rules .0616 and .0617 of this subchapter are not applicable to the committee.
History Note: Statutory Authority G.S. 84-22; G.S. 84-23
Readopted Effective December 8, 1994
Amended February 3, 2000
How do I know if I should contact the LAP?
The LAP provides comprehensive assistance for any issue judges face. Whether you just need help coping with day-to-day anxieties, or you are suffering from addiction or suicidal thoughts, we are here to help. There is no issue too big or too small.
These conditions are highly treatable, especially in the early stages. Asking for help, however, runs counter to our legal training and instincts. Most judges enter the profession to help others and believe they themselves should not need help. The good news is that all it takes is a phone call. The LAP works exclusively with lawyers and judges. Since 1979, the LAP has been a trusted resource for hundreds of judges and thousands of lawyers in overcoming these conditions.
If you are concerned about the well-being of a judicial colleague, you can also contact the LAP to give an anonymous and confidential referral. We will never reveal your name to anyone unless you want us to as part of an intervention. Please see our confidentiality guarantee which assures your communication is treated as confidential.
The LAP offers support at all stages.
One of the primary goals of the LAP is to provide assistance to judges before any of these problems become debilitating or cause a judge to commit an ethical violation. Contacting the LAP before a problem escalates is one of the best investments you can make, which is why we offer counseling, support, and referrals to any North Carolina judge seeking our services.
If you are suffering from substance abuse, depression, or other mental health issues, you are not alone. The quicker you recognize the issue and ask for help, the quicker you will be on the road to recovery. Contact the LAP today.