They were extraordinary words for a judge in an extraordinary situation. Before her, she said, was a "wonderful lawyer," but also a man controlled by drugs. Pained but resolute, she ordered well-known defense lawyer Arthur M. Reynolds Jr. to jail -- until he guarantees that he will enter an intensive drug treatment program.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Nan Huhn said in a hearing on Nov. 15 that she had no choice. " ... I am letting other judges have in front of them, representing their defendants, a person who I know is on drugs," she told Reynolds. "And I can't do that anymore. ... I am violating my oath of office as far as I'm concerned. ... It can't happen anymore. It is wrong. It is wrong for him to be in that position."

Cases such as this one have set off a wrenching debate in the legal community over how the profession should handle lawyers -- who swear to uphold the law -- when they become addicted to illegal drugs.

When should lawyers and judges intervene? Is there a way to protect the public without sacrificing the addicted lawyer? And finally, can lawyers expect a break for the same activity that can land their clients in jail?

Huhn's decision earlier this month was the climax of a saga that began in 1989, when the judge, who suspected Reynolds had a serious drug problem, charged him with contempt of court for repeated tardiness and missed court dates. When he pleaded guilty to one violation, she placed him on probation -- with the key condition that he get counseling and submit to twice-weekly drug tests.

Then 11 days ago, Huhn said she had done all she could. She noted that Reynolds had tested positive for opiates or cocaine several times. "I think ... drugs are in control of this man," she said.

Obviously saddened, Huhn sent him to jail, pending a hearing Dec. 3 on whether he had violated probation.

Reynolds has blamed some of the positive tests on novocaine administered by his dentist and said he was perplexed by the other results. He denied drug use and has not been charged with any criminal drug violations.

The jailing came at a terrible time for Reynolds, who had been handling perhaps the biggest case of his life, the highly publicized murder trial of Chander "Bobby" Matta, which had been set to begin in Arlington today. Now his client is hiring another lawyer.

Huhn's actions were a personal tragedy for Reynolds, but they were also a blunt reminder to the legal profession that it had better come to grips with this painful and pressing drug problem.

There have been other reminders as well.

On the same day Reynolds was jailed, three floors above Huhn's courtroom, the D.C. Court of Appeals was grappling with a similar issue. The attorney for a lawyer charged with professional misconduct argued that the punishment should be tempered because of that lawyer's addiction to cocaine.

And this past summer, two D.C. lawyers -- Lloyd N. Moore and James McWilliams -- took the witness stand at the federal trial of Mayor Marion Barry and testified about their own drug involvement.

Few lawyers or judges have tackled the drug issue as forthrightly as Huhn. But more and more are trying.

One group of lawyers argues that the profession should treat drug addiction as it has learned to treat alcoholism. Under legal rulings in D.C. courts and elsewhere, alcoholic lawyers guilty of professional misconduct can get a second chance if they adhere to a strict rehabilitation program. This theory says that drug addiction is a disease, too, and should be treated the same way.

It's a tough idea to sell, said former prosecutor Steven Tabackman, a strong advocate of this theory, because "of the public perception that somehow we are sanctioning drug use." That's not the idea, said Tabackman.

If the goal is to protect the public from incompetent or unethical lawyers, he said, then lawyers must be encouraged to step forward and seek out the bar's confidential counseling programs without fear of punishment. "If we take away the lawyer's practice, one primary incentive for him to deal with the problem is gone," he said.

But others argue vehemently that lawyers are sworn to uphold the law, and illegal drug use should trigger some sanction -- particularly if the lawyer is guilty of misconduct. D.C. Bar Counsel Thomas E. Flynn, who prosecutes discipline cases, argued that as things now stand, few lawyers come forward anyway, unless they have gotten into trouble. The real victims, he said, are their unsuspecting clients.

Former D.C. Superior Court Judge Reggie Walton, now deputy at the Office of National Drug Policy, blamed the legal profession for this predicament.

"For a long time," said Walton, "lawyers have thought that it's all right to dibble and dabble in drugs on the side and they could avoid what happens to their clients," he said. "We have not as a profession let the word go out that this will not be tolerated."

When Walton's office called in the heads of the professional sports leagues about two years ago to persuade them to take a harder line on drugs, one person asked why they should be so tough when other professions were dodging the issue. " ... We're already tougher than lawyers are," Walton recalled the man saying. It was a comment that hit home with this no-nonsense judge.

Still, there is no national consensus on how to deal with this problem, nor any hard and fast rule in the District, Maryland or Virginia. But the drug addicts are there, in ever increasing numbers, as shown by the lawyers who have sought help from bar counseling programs in these jurisdictions.

The problem, hidden away for years, is becoming increasingly and embarrassingly public. There are no easy solutions, as Judge Huhn knows all too well.

" ... It's very tough for me to do this because I find this person, Mr. Reynolds, to be a wonderful lawyer and deep down a wonderful person," Huhn said at the Nov. 15 hearing. "But I have to do my job. And I haven't been doing it. Keating Shots At the Keating Five hearings before the Senate Ethics Committee last week, chief counsel Robert Bennett noted in a debate on Senate practices that "major league baseball punishes any act which is, ... 'not in the best interest of baseball.' "

Could that have been a curve ball tossed in the direction of John M. Dowd, who is representing Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)? Dowd, in case you've forgotten, was the league's special counsel in the Pete Rose gambling affair. Dowd's report led the late commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti to suspend Rose for life.


Judge Nan Huhn was taking on all comers the day she sent Arthur M. Reynolds Jr. to jail. A Channel 4 artist in the courtroom using binoculars was ordered to put them away. Huhn said they were "disruptive."

"They're opera glasses," the artist argued.

Huhn retorted: "Well this is not an opera."

And there was this bouquet for the Legal Times. When the weekly trade paper was brought up by one of the lawyers, Huhn said she didn't read it. "I can't say on the record what I think of the Legal Times," Huhn announced. "But anyway, judges do not read it as rule."

Huhn wouldn't like to take any bets on that, would she?