Sunday, August 10, 2008

kanBARoo Court. 46B Installment. "Bureaucratic Reflex" Defined

Of all the California Supreme Court State Bar cases, In re Nadrich (1988) 44 Cal.3d 271 gives the State Bar Court the high court's harshest and most on-point dressing down, defining "bureaucratic reflex" in passing. Beyond the gross defects in legal reasoning charged to the State Bar, the story reveals the State Bar's utter callousness. Nadrich's auto accident had inflicted perpetual severe pain, which to relieve, his physician prescribed Percodan, an opiate. The physician subsequently breached his medical duties by abandoning the patient, after cutting off the addictive pain reliever. Nadrich now had an addiction almost impossible to treat, the price, intolerable pain. Nadrich fell into despair and clinical depression, which forced him to close his law practice. To finance his Percodan habit and freedom from exceptional pain, at vastly inflated street prices, Nadrich accepted two offers to serve as intermediary in transactions to buy LSD.

The case could be a poster for bureaucratic reflex, although the court emphasized instead the Review Department’s refusal to consider mitigating circumstances. Despite the distorted focus, the Supreme Court describes the State Bar Court perceptively. The State Bar Court recommended disbarment for the:
sole stated reason [that]: "[Petitioner] was a professional dealer in illegal drugs for a substantial period of time and did not cease to be so until arrested. A lawyer who engages in such conduct should be disbarred." (In re Nadrich, supra, 44 Cal.3d at pp. 277-278.)
The Supreme Court denounced the State Bar Court’s reasoning in terms implying, from the first sentence, the Review Department was incompetent:
This statement betrays an oversimplified and unsupported view of the law. First, it suggests, incorrectly, that we discipline attorneys simply to punish them. [Citation.] (Cf. 37th Installment ["moralism"].) Second, it implies, also incorrectly, that we will not consider substantial mitigating circumstances in cases involving serious offenses. [Citation.] Third, it intimates, again incorrectly, that we apply rigid disciplinary standards, and that we analyze attorney discipline cases in the abstract instead of resolving each case on its own particular facts. (In re Nadrich, supra, 44 Cal.3d at p. 278 [emphasis added].)
The third—the one the case really is about—exactly defines "bureaucratic reflex."

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