Thursday, March 01, 2007


Don't let those antidepressants overexcite you!

What brought me to write this post was a story about poor old Sol Wachtler, the New York judge who lost it all for a woman. The details of that affair are summarized in Leonard Levitt's review of "Obsession," the tell-all about the Republican trash who populated Sol's life—

In November 1992, Sol Wachtler, Chief Judge of New York State, past candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court and future candidate for New York governor, was arrested by the FBI. He was charged with blackmailing and extorting money from his former girlfriend in a half-baked yet diabolical threat to kidnap her teenage daughter. The girlfriend happened to be his wife's first cousin.

That would be real-estate heiress Joy Silverman—

During her third marriage, she hooks up with Wachtler, whose own marriage has bogged down in middle-aged ennui and who has become a trustee of Joy's multi-million dollar trust fund (in what arguably was a violation of the state's judicial ethics).

And you knew there had to be a Bush in it somewhere—

The two strike a kind of Faustian bargain. Wachtler introduces Joy to his Republican circles. She fund-raises for, and is befriended by, none other than President George Bush. She then lobbies unsuccessfully for Sol's appointment to the Supreme Court, while he plots, equally unsuccessfully, to have Joy appointed ambassador to Barbados.

When Joy went looking for love in all the wrong places, Sol sent threatening notes to Joy's daughter under a fake name in hopes that Joy would turn to him for help. Instead she turned to her dear friend FBI Director William Webster who put some 80 agents on the case.

This massive force was eventually able to root out Judge Wachtler, who ended up doing 13 months in the pen. He also surrendered his membership in the New York bar—a very foolish move since the New York bar does not normally disbar its members for anything less than a triple homicide.

At 76 Wachtler, who teaches at a law school, is now appealing for reinstatement of his license to practice law. I do admire his gumption, but until black ex-felons can get jobs as janitors I really don't see how this would be quite fair. Nevertheless, this is New York and Mr. Wachtler's case has just passed a hurdle. According to Daniel Wise,

In a brief order, a panel of the Appellate Division, 2nd Department, on Feb. 6 referred Wachtler's application for reinstatement to the court's Character and Fitness Committee for evaluation, including a report from his treating physician.

Now here comes the hard part—

Hal R. Lieberman, a former chief counsel of the 1st Department's disciplinary committee ..., said the referral means that Wachtler has passed the "threshold" for reinstatement but "still bears the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that he has the requisite character and fitness to be reinstated."

So I continued reading, all the while wondering if my little peccadillos would keep me out of law school, and I came to Judge Wachtler's escape hatch—

According to news reports, he suffered from drug-induced bipolar disorder.

Drug-induced bipolar disorder

Now I'm somewhat familiar with the ways of madness, but this was a new one. What kind of drug could provoke bipolar disorder (previously known as "manic-depression")? I googled for "drug-induced bipolar disorder" and found a total of 19 references, including a number of duplicates. But, sure enough, it's a recognized pathology. And the cause? Antidepressants!

The most interesting reference was a study reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The good news is that the mania is milder and the duration may be shorter than in cases of spontaneous mania. The bad news is that practically all classes of antidepressants may cause it. From the abstract—

The patients with antidepressant-associated manic states also had significantly less severe levels of delusions, hallucinations, psychomotor agitation, and bizarre behavior, according to a standard rating instrument, than the patients with spontaneous mania. For further study the patients with antidepressant-associated mania were divided into subgroups taking four individual classes of antidepressant drugs: tricyclics (N = 19), fluoxetine (N = 13), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) (N = 8), and bupropion (N = 6); three patients taking combinations of drugs were not included in these analyses.

So many people take these drugs that I just thought you should know. And let's hope that Judge Wachtler doesn't get depressed and go back on the hard stuff.

Related posts
Lessons in judicial comportment (4/7/05)
A woman with a future in Republican politics (7/11/05)


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