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In re Member of Bar of Supreme Court of State of Delaware, Cairns

Supreme Court of Delaware

July 21, 2017


          Submitted: July 18, 2017

          Before VAUGHN, SEITZ, and TRAYNOR, Justices.



         This 21st day of July 2017, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) On February 5, 2016, this Court suspended the petitioner, Timothy P. Cairns, from the practice of law for twenty-one months, retroactive to November 12, 2014.[1] Cairns was eligible to petition for reinstatement on or about August 12, 2016. He filed his petition for reinstatement on March 31, 2017. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel did not object to Cairns' petition.

         (2) The Board on Professional Responsibility held a hearing on Cairns' petition and filed its Report and Recommendation with this Court on July 18, 2017. The Board recommends that Cairns be reinstated with a single agreed-to condition that Cairns continue a monitoring program with DE-LAP for one year. Neither Cairns nor the Office of Disciplinary Counsel have filed any objections to the Board's Report.

         (3) The Court has reviewed the Report and Recommendation carefully. The Court has determined that the Board's Report and Recommendation should be adopted in its entirety.

         NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED the Board's Report and Recommendation (which is attached) is hereby ACCEPTED. Timothy P. Cairns, Esquire shall be reinstated, effective immediately, as a member of the Bar of this Court subject to a one-year period of monitoring with DE-LAP.



         No. 291, 2017

         Board Case No. 113239-R


         This is the Report and Recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware (the "Board") in the above-captioned matter. A hearing was held on May 25, 2017, in the Leonard L, Williams Courthouse, Grand Jury Room 2900, 500 North King Street, Wilmington, Delaware. The Panel of the Board consisted of William T. Deely, Esq., Gary W. Ferguson and Robert S. Saunders, Esq. (Chair) (collectively, the "Panel"). Petitioner Timothy P. Cairns was represented by Charles Slanina, Esq. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel was represented by Jennifer-Kate Aaronson, Esq.


         On September 23, 2014, at approximately 10:50 p.m., Mr. Cairns fell asleep while operating his motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, crossed the roadway dividing line and struck an oncoming vehicle, injuring the driver of that vehicle.

         On November 12, 2014, the Supreme Court granted Mr. Cairns's request to transfer to disability inactive status. By Order dated February 5, 2016, the Supreme Court suspended Mr. Cairns from the practice of law in Delaware for a period of 21 months retroactive to November 12, 2014. Mr. Cairns was eligible to petition for reinstatement on or about August 12, 2016.

         Mr. Cairns filed a Petition for Reinstatement on March 31, 2017. On April 12, 2017, ODC filed an Answer in which it did not oppose reinstatement. The Panel held a hearing on May 25, 2017.

         At the hearing, Mr. Cairns presented his own testimony and testimony from four witnesses, each of whom recommended reinstatement: Alice O'Brien, a licensed professional mental health counselor with substantial experience counseling patients with addictions, who has treated Mr. Cairns;[1] Laura Davis Jones, Esq., a member of the bar and managing partner of the firm where Mr. Cairns previously practiced and has recently worked as a law clerk;[2] R. Judson Scaggs, Esq., a member of the bar and Chairman of the Delaware Lawyers Assistance Committee, which assists Delaware attorneys who are impaired by alcohol or other substance abuse and addiction problems, or by emotional or mental illness or dysfunction;[3] and Carol Waldhauser, executive director of the Delaware Lawyers Assistance Program ("DE-LAP"), which facilitates treatment, support and monitoring for judges and lawyers going through quality of life or quality of professionalism issues, including alcoholism.[4] Mr. Cairns also submitted four exhibits, which were pre-hearing letters or reports to the Panel from each of the other witnesses, each of which was admitted without objection.

         ODC stated at the hearing that, following further investigation after the filing of its Answer, it supported reinstatement and believed Mr. Cairns should be welcomed back to the bar.[5]

         On June 6, 2017, a transcript of the hearing was provided to the Panel.


         Immediately after the accident on September 23, 2014, Mr. Cairns contacted Ms. Jones[6] and DE-LAP.[7] He entered a twenty-eight day residential treatment program at a rehabilitation facility, Father Martin's Ashley.[8] He successfully completed and was discharged from that program.[9]

         Mr. Caims diligently pursued recovery and rehabilitation.[10] Mr. Cairns complied with his discharge instructions from Father Martin's Ashley, which included 90 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in 90 days.[11] He entered into a two-year Agreement of Understanding with DE-LAP (which he later voluntarily extended) and executed consents and releases so that Ms. Waldhauser could coordinate services and verify his compliance with the agreement[12] Ms. Waldhauser met or spoke with Mr. Cairns weekly, including approximately 460 face-to-face contacts and approximately 92 phone calls.[13] Mr. Cairns has accepted and complied with all of her treatment recommendations.[14] Random testing confirmed that Mr. Cairns had not slipped in his recovery and consumed alcoholic beverages or controlled substances.[15] Mr. Cairns was on probation as a result of the criminal charges that arose fiom the accident, and Ms. Waldhauser received favorable reports on Mr. Cairns from the probation department[16]

         DE-LAP referred Mr. Caims to Ms. O'Brien, and Ms. O'Brien began treating Mr. Cairns as a client in November 2014. For the first year, Mr. Caims met with Ms. O'Brien weekly or bi-weekly and, since then, monthly.[17] Ms. O'Brien also observed Petitioner in weekly group therapy sessions from December 2014 to June 2015.[18] In total, she has counseled Mr. Caims for more than one hundred hours.[19] Mr. Cairns complied with all recommended treatment and counseling.[20] Ms. O'Brien testified that she has never had a client as determined as Mr. Caims.[21]

         Beginning in the fall of 2014, Mr. Cairns also actively participated in weekly meetings of a lawyer support group with Mr. Scaggs, and regularly communicated with Mr. Scaggs by phone and email.[22] Mr. Scaggs testified that Mr. Cairns has been extremely diligent in his recovery, and a "model" of the "activities, lifestyle choices [and] attitude" that exemplify diligence.[23] Mr. Cairns has also assisted other lawyers with addition or substance abuse issues through DE-LAP.[24]

         In February 2016, Mr. Cairns came back to his prior firm as a law clerk and has been working as a law clerk since then, approximately 25 hours per week.[25] He and the firm engaged counsel to assist them in crafting procedures to ensure that his employment as a law clerk did not constitute the practice of law.[26] As a law clerk, Mr. Caims has worked directly for Ms. Jones, principally doing research and writing, and has done excellent work.[27] Because of his continuing work as a law clerk, Mr. Caims has remained aware of recent developments in the law.[28] Ms. Jones believes that Mr. Cairns is competent and fit to return to the practice of law, and her firm expects that he will return to his position as a partner if he is reinstated.[29]

         Mr. Cairns has been sober since September 23, 2014, [30] and is committed to remaining in treatment and recovery.[31] Ms. O'Brien explained that an alcoholic who has remained sober for a year is considered to be in remission, and further explained that in her field sobriety for 2.5 years is considered a mark of rehabilitation.[32] Ms. Jones believes Mr. Cairns is rehabilitated and has seen no signs of slippage in his recovery.[33]Mr, Scaggs also believes that Mr. Cairns has rehabilitated himself and is ready to practice law again.[34] Mr. Scaggs noted that Mr. Cairns has integrated himself into a community of others in recovery and is active in helping others within the community, [35] and explained that in his experience, this integration is a "very good indicator" that Mr. Cairns will continue his recovery "for the long-term."[36] In addition, Mr. Scaggs states that Mr. Cairns "has demonstrated - for an extended period - the emotional stability, candor, good judgment and willingness to make positive lifestyle choices that are the hallmarks of strong and lasting recovery for attorneys."[37]

         Ms. Waldhauser testified that Mr. Cairns's alcoholism is in remission, that he has rehabilitated, and that he has put safeguards in place so that his recovery will continue.[38] Her report to the Panel concludes as follows:

Mr. Cairns is fully aware that the root of his past personal and legal problems in the past was his substance abuse disorder, bis lack of coping skills and his lack of support Accordingly, Mr. Cairns too is aware that his long-term sobriety and recovery depends on the following: (a) his abstinence from alcohol; (b) his continued participation in the 12 Step Fellowship; his continued involvement with both The Delaware Lawyers Assistance Program (DE-LAP) and the Lawyers Assistance Committee.
Mr. Cairns' proactive, constructive activities and treatment consistently throughout the past two and on-half years are clear evidence that he has taken the responsibility for his own personal health and fitness. Presently, Mr. Cairns' conduct and general moral character could not be better. Moreover, Mr. Cairns:
A. Has treated problems of health and wellness and today, as confirmed by all licensed health care professionals, is fit to practice law,
B. That a number of years have elapsed since the last offense of unprofessional conduct that led to his initial disability;
C. That his current attitude about the prior offenses, e.g., acceptance of responsibility for, and renunciation of, past wrongdoing ...

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