Apr 28, 2014

Local paper prints old news about me

I am one of the first people in the mental health recovery community to run for a substantial public office, so it's not surprising that the local paper would find this interesting.  Today, the Cincinnati Enquirer published a story about me, headlining my law license suspension 16 years ago.

The real story about my life is not about my falling down. It is about my recovery, and the work I have done since then to improve people's lives. The man who prosecuted my law license discipline case agrees. Last year, when the Enquirer published a suicide prevention article I wrote, this gentleman sent me a note.
I have often thought of you and wondered what had happened to you after your suspension. I observed your transformation from the time of your deposition throughout your diagnosis and argument in the Ohio Supreme Court. I was amazed at how well you argued. You established that while mental illness is not a complete defense it can be use in mitigation. It is still the landmark case on the subject.
I am sorry you could not return to law but you can do more good and help more people in need that you ever could as an attorney. I hope you and your family are happier now as a result of your change. I am proud that you dug yourself out of what I feared was an insurmountable hole. I am delighted that you are doing so well. Congratulations.

Kathy was a psychiatric social worker and for many years has been co-chair of GLSEN working with schools to prevent bullying which often lead to suicides She also has a younger sister who is bipolar so we have a special interest in the work your are doing.
I am now retired and living in a condo. We would welcome hearing from you but understand if you never want to hear from me again.

Best wishes.
Bob Laufman
My story has not been hiding. It is part of my Amazon profile, and my Blogger profile. The court decision is on the Ohio Supreme Court website. The local Bar Association and the Ohio Supreme Court have funded my work.  The recovery process I describe in my book and on this blog is what helped me. The local Bar Association knows I have spoken with other lawyers who have been dealing with mental health issues. And these days, I do campaign finance work for judges.

Here is the message I sent back to Bob Laufman.

Thank you so much for your kind note. I just read it aloud for my wife. It made my day. I always understood you had a role to play. I've been at peace with it all for many years.

For years I have considered myself the poster child for the do-gooder kicked out lawyer. I attribute my recovery to the unwavering support of my family, the right diagnosis and treatment, and the willingness of people to send me opportunities. I've considered ways to normalize my status, perhaps transitioning from ‘suspended’ to ‘retired’ or some sort of restricted practice where I could do some public policy work or teach, but I never thought it worth the effort. I should probably go after it, just to complete the story.

I have always done justice-connected work, starting in the late 1990s when I designed the website for the Collaborative Law group and the Center for Mediation of Disputes. I was on the SAMI initiative, one of the early mental health jail diversion initiatives, from 1998-2003. In 2000--2001 I wrote the NAMI Ohio mental health training curriculum for courts and jails. I took that training across the state and to Kentucky, where it became mandatory for deputy jailers across the state, part of a jail suicide prevention initiative. I wrote a NAMI policy paper on the Olmstead decision, and authored a guardianship support program. I've been Nadine Allen's campaign treasurer for the past two campaigns. Now I am doing that with Ted Berry Jr.

Would you be interested in doing some sort of programming around mental health and recovery in the profession? I have no idea where the law has gone since my case came up, but I’m interested in having a real dialogue about it. It’s time for me to tell my story.

Finally, what I remember most about the Supreme Court hearing was the number of people who talked about being inspired by the character Atticus Finch. I have always considered him a false hero. My hero is Boo Radley, the outsider guy who really saved the lawyers kids.

Please call me any time. My home number is ....

If anyone wants to have a chat about all this, call my campaign phone number. (513) 494-6280.


Anonymous said...

How about the people you stole from and the that you owe who trusted you while you did practice law. you aren't addressing that issue! while you are tooting your horn repaying those people would go a long way in regaining someone's trust.

Paul Komarek said...

You are right to ask about this.

Let me set the context. I do not mean to minimize the damage I was responsible for. My illness is bipolar II disorder. It mostly shows up as depression, and is frequently misdiagnosed, which is what happened to me. I always followed my doctor's advice. I was switching from one inappropriate medication to another, each more powerful than the last, and designed for a mental health condition that I did not have.

The medication for depression kicked me into active mania. Mania disconnects a person's sense of good judgment. Meanwhile, the depression did not stop. I cycled between days where I could do nothing, and days where I felt I could handle anything and disregard every risk. Towards the end of the active phase of my illness I was both depressed and manic at the same time, and could not function at all.

The right medication fixed that. It was like throwing a switch. Once I regained my capacity to function in the world, I still had consequences to deal with, including all of my bad conduct and all of my mistakes of judgment.

I repaid everything covered by the Supreme Court's Client Security Fund, which includes all the mishandled money as well as refunding fees for services paid for but not performed. I had additional negligence liability from cases where I made errors and was too sick to respond to in a timely fashion. These debts were resolved through my bankruptcy. Nobody objected to the discharge of my debts in bankruptcy.