Letters to Courts

SA member C, facing trial for an offense related to his lust addiction, asked his SA home group if they would write a letter, which he could give to the court, stating that he had attended SA meetings for a number of months with a proper motivation. He believed that such a letter would help him at his trial.

A number of SA old-timers were asked whether they had any experience of helping a member in this way and whether, according to SA’s 12 Traditions, there were any objections.

  1. In my experience and understanding, this sort of thing is outside of SA's primary purpose. If we begin offering services outside our scope, people will come to SA seeking things other than sobriety. This kind of well-meaning violation of the Traditions has caused serious problems in AA in the past. I recommend contacting SA’s non-sexaholic Trustee, who has 30 years of experience in all levels of service in AA, and nearly 4 years as a Trustee for SA. Page 106 of AA Comes of Age contains some of Bill W’s remarks on singleness of purpose.
  2. To my mind, there is nothing in our Traditions which forbids an SA group from helping one of its members in this way.
  3. In [a US city] we do sign an attendance form each time [certain members] come to a meeting. I personally could not write about proper motivation since there is no way I can truly know. I have gone to court to be with the person to show my support. If I did write something, it would merely be based on his attendance and whether they had a sponsor or not.
  4. I believe it would be okay for a local SA group to write a letter to the court. I suggest that they be careful to be accurate and say only what they know to be true.  For example, they could report how faithfully he attended meetings, whether he had a sponsor, and whether he was working the Steps (this last, the sponsor should know). It's hard to know whether a member has the "proper motivation," but the group can report on whether he fulfilled specific parts of the program.
  5. Sure - groups, sponsors and friends often vouch for other members. A few of us just testified for a fellow member during a court hearing last week.
  6. First, each group is autonomous except in matters that affect other groups or SA as a whole - this should be the guiding principle if the group does decide to write the letter. Second, our primary purpose is to carry the message. A third guiding factor is that no one speaks for SA. Putting these together makes clear to me that any individual can act to support C outside of SA but that would be a personal act and not an SA approved action. If a collective of SA members wanted to support C and write about his attendance, his work and his motivation then anonymity becomes a factor to consider. Whilst C may choose to forgo his anonymity with respect to his participation in the fellowship, those writing the letter may choose not to. Who we see here and what we say here let it stay here. In summary, I believe that anyone from the program, together or alone can and should support C in his proceedings and if they are so inclined provide a character witness as to his work towards self improvement but they should be cautious whether in writing or in speaking to not violate the principles, steps and traditions. That unfortunately was the easy side of the question, what shouldn't we do. It is much harder to say what should we do. The prospect of writing or testifying without speaking for SA, without affecting another group (which could be your own group if you speak as an individual and bring consequences to your own group) in the spirit of carrying the message and without breaking anonymity is very difficult. It may go something like this as an example: We the undersigned attest to the fact that we attend a twelve step recovery group for sexual addiction with C. He regularly attends the meetings, has a sponsor and reports on his progress in his step work. His progress in his recovery is evident from his willingness to take risks sharing his struggles and his triumphs and how he uses the twelve steps and the other tools of the program to better himself and the situations he faces daily.  I believe that with such a letter (take what you like and leave the rest), a sincere and honest statement can be made and submitted. Those who take this action need to be aware that they could be called to testify and the same principles should guide them if this were to occur. I will pray for C and those in his home group who are supporting him.
  7. I would recommend against this letter from the group. Once it is submitted to the court it becomes a matter of public record. Neither the group nor any individual would have any control of how it might be used. Another part of this is giving testimony as to his motivation for attending. How could anyone know for sure his true motivation? In AA we sign slips that a person has attended but do not attest to their motivation. In The Precautions page 181 of the White Book and in Discovering The Principles there are many warnings about submitting something that can become public property. There is also the possibility that if this person has an unadjudicated crime on their record those who sign could be called to court to testify or be charged for not reporting it. I have gone to court with AA sponsees of mine but just for support, not to testify. The legal ramifications that could stem from this could be bad. I believe that is why the literature recommends that we do not do interviews with the media or cause media exposure. Once it becomes public property, like a court document, you have no control over it. In the state of New York a person in an AA meeting admitted to a crime during discussion. One member from the group went to the police with it and the whole group was subpoenaed to testify and those unwilling to were charged with contempt of court. It was pointed out that anonymity does not exempt one from testifying. It does not give one privilege like being a lawyer. There are many of us who would love to help those in court but to involve SA could be very detrimental to the fellowship and breaks Traditions 10, 11 and 12.
  8. I am not an oldtimer but want to add some comments on the discussion: (a) The legal system and habits are different in different countries. (b) During an interrogation, a member can declare himself that he attends SA-meetings, we cannot ask members to not speak the truth. Those interrogations are confidential, as is the whole file; but the lawyer from another legal party (victim,...) can read it and bring it into the public forum during the court session. (c) I know that in my country it is quite common that offenders declare they (have the intention to) join AA-meetings, as they also declare they are following another therapy. (d) The question is whether members of an SA-group should bring out a written declaration to confirm the accused person is attending SA-meetings. I think that the maximum possible could be that a member can state in his own name that so and so attends meetings (only with the permission of the accused member; and while the co-fellow is willing to break his anonymity). I do doubt however how much weight this private declaration of a member will have in court. It is clear that the poor weight of this declaration might not justify the breaking of one’s anonymity and the loose interpretation of the 11th tradition. (e)  I know of a case in my country and juridical system where the accused member explained he was working on his problem and when asked, he gave the name of SA. At that the judge said, attending such an Anonymous Program might be good, but attendance can not be controlled by the authorities. So, it wouldn't have been worth the effort to get a declaration from any SA-member.