Standards on Substance Abuse: Standard XX. Substance abuse among attorneys

Standards prepared by the Supreme Judicial Court Standing Committee on Substance Abuse

Table of Contents

Standard XX

Any judge or clerk-magistrate who believes that substance abuse is a factor in the professional performance of an attorney appearing before him or her should refer the attorney to a lawyers' assistance program, or, if the performance amounts to professional misconduct, report the misconduct to  the Board of Bar Overseers. If the issue of professional performance arises in connection with an imminent  proceeding in an active matter, the judge or clerk should make inquiries and, if necessary, postpone the proceeding.


The most extensive lawyers' assistance program is Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, a group of lawyers and judges who stand ready, willing, and able to assist other lawyers and judges who have problems with alcoholism and addiction. A judge who becomes aware of unprofessional conduct by a lawyer is required to "initiate appropriate investigative or disciplinary measures." See SJC Rule 3:09, Canon 3(B)(3)(b). If the attorney was assigned the case by the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), the court should notify CPCS, pursuant to G.L. c. 211D, §10. The Board of Bar Overseers is bound by specific rules regarding what to do with an alcoholic or addicted lawyer. See SJC Rule 4:01, §13, pars. 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, which address the response by the Board of Bar Overseers to the issue of incapacity of a lawyer.



Main number (617) 557-1000
Clerks' Offices Emergency Number (857) 275-8036
Clerk's Office for the Commonwealth (617) 557-1020

Francis V. Kenneally, Clerk

Clerk's Office for the County of Suffolk (617) 557-1100

Maura S. Doyle, Clerk

Public Information Office (617) 557-1114

Jennifer Donahue, Public Information Officer


John Adams Courthouse
1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500
Boston, MA 02108

Help Us Improve with your feedback