It was through her patient, guiding spirit that the lawyer assistance program was able to offer compassion, comfort and immediate confidential help to lawyers, judges and members of their staff who suffered from addictions and other types of mental health disorders.
“JML,” as the State Bar staff and volunteers often referred to her, received her undergraduate degree in nursing from the University of South Alabama (1985) and earned a graduate degree in counseling from Auburn University (1990). She was a licensed registered nurse as well as a certified master level addiction and mental health counselor.
Her competence was widely recognized and sought-after. She served on the advisory board for the Alabama Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association, was a board member of the Alabama Lawyer Assistance Foundation and was selected to serve on the Chief Justice’s Drug Court Task Force. Recently, she had been reappointed to the American Bar Association’s Committee on Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP). At the time of her death, she was helping develop national policy recommendations to address judicial impairment issues. She was named editor-in-chief of the CoLAP newsletter, Highlights. The fall 2009 issue of that publication carried her very frank, open, first-person account of her own struggles with addiction but captured her positive outlook:
“My journey in recovery has been filled with many lessons, many of which I had to relearn in the face of reality. Today I cherish the essence of being a woman and what that means to me. I truly marvel at my femininity. I obtain strength from my intuitiveness and compassion for others through an attribute of sensitivity. More importantly I learned that what I think about myself reflects in everything I do. I love being a woman, a mother, and a professional. I am an alcoholic and a drug addict and I know beyond any shadow of doubt that recovery is possible.... As a professional I carry this message of recovery to lawyers, judges, and law students suffering from addictions and other mental health disorders. I am truly privileged and humbled to do this work and I am grateful everyday to be alive.”
Jeanne Marie was a loving wife to her husband, Montgomery attorney Arthur Leslie, and to her two grown children, Arthur and Culle. We are all better people for having known and been able to share a little slice of life with her.