Wellness Wednesday: Judge McCaffrey Redux

Last Friday, the Rutland courthouse that houses the criminal and family units was renamed the Francis B. McCaffrey Courthouse.  Governor Scott marked the occasion with this executive proclamation, while the Rutland Herald covered the dedication ceremony.

Judge McCaffrey passed away in October 2018.  Shortly thereafter, I posted this blog about him and his unceasing efforts to promote wellness in each and every person he encountered.  The words I heard during the dedication ceremony spur me to write again on Judge McCaffrey and wellness.

A common theme emerged in the remarks delivered last Friday: Judge McCaffrey looked for the good in everyone.  Not as a part of a search to determine if it was there, but because he knew it was there, but might need help to be drawn out.  To me, Judge McCaffrey looked for the human in the being.

That’s part of attorney wellness.

Many attorneys are coping with behavioral health issues, often rooted in anxiety, stress, depression, and substance abuse.  As we work to de-stigmatize those issues within the profession, our task includes looking for the human in the attorney.

Long ago, I prosecuted a disciplinary case against a lawyer whose practice cratered as a result of significant mental health issues.  Deadlines were missed, clients were lied to, a lot of harm resulted.

During the case, I learned something that I’ve never forgotten: each and every day, that lawyer woke up fully intending on doing better than yesterday.  Intent on digging out of the hole into which the attorney had slipped.  In other words, the good in the attorney still existed and it fought valiantly to defeat the disease.  Alas, battles were lost along the way.  Perhaps because, back then, we weren’t providing much in the way of reinforcements.

I believe that the good exists in every attorney.  Our job with lawyer assistance is to help lawyers to keep it thriving, without making them fear that asking for help will affect their license to continue to do good.

If you or someone you know is like the lawyer who woke up intent to make each day different than the day before, let me know.  We will help the good in you.  Because, as Judge McCaffrey taught us, we know that it’s there.

Francis Bernard McCaffrey Jr. Obituary