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Judicial candidate stumps at AA meetings

Posted By -NO AUTHOR- On 01/03/2004 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

A south Florida assistant public defender is on the defensive after reportedly delivering stump speeches at her AA meetings.

Members of the half-century-old Alcoholics Anonymous, a group of recovering alcoholics who meet to gain support in their addiction battle, traditionally take the anonymity part very seriously.

So when Gisele Pollack got up and told members she was running for a Broward County judgeship and talked about improving drug court and sentencing laws if elected, some members cried foul, reports the Miami Herald.

”I was appalled because she should know better,” fellow AA member and attorney Lynn Barrett told the paper. ”She’s using the meeting as a free political forum, and people are there to get help.”

Pollack, 45, disputes the criticism, insisting she shares her “story” as a way to encourage others following in her footsteps to sobriety.

”It’s not a campaign speech,” she said. ”It’s my story, and if I left out that I was running for judge, I wouldn’t be giving a truthful story.”

Pollack admits she distributes campaign fliers with her picture and full name, but stresses she’s careful to do so only after the AA meetings end.

”Part of campaigning is networking, and these are the people I know and network with,” she said. ”I’m allowed to break my anonymity any time I want.”

Members who deem the 12 AA traditions as sacrosanct feel Pollack has crossed the line.

According to AA literature, tradition No. 12 describes anonymity as “the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.”

What’s more, AA tradition No. 10 holds that members should not take stands on political issues to avoid drawing the organization into controversy.

Pollack’s colleague, Broward County Chief Assistant Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, told the Herald he appreciates both sides of the controversy. Finkelstein himself struggled with the issue when he published a book about his drug addiction in 2001.

”I have two conflicting responses,” he told the local paper. ”AA meetings are not to be used for anyone’s self-aggrandizement. They are for everyone’s benefit. On the other side, it’s key to her recovery to talk about what’s going on in her life, which includes running for judge.”


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