Our volunteers in Teleservice, HelpChat, and our email help responders, as well as trusted servants for some groups, say that there appear to be more and more folks being ordered by the court system (judges, probation officers, lawyers, etc.) to attend A.A. meetings. How should your group respond? This is a matter for a group conscience, and once a decision is made about handling these new folks, how do we let them know that they can or can’t get attendance verified? And how do we do it in a pandemic where most meetings are still held online?
The Fourth Tradition states that each group is autonomous, and thus can decide whether or not to cooperate and sign “court cards” or provide some other attendance verification. This was true prior to the pandemic; some groups used to state “no court cards” on the schedule, when almost all meetings were in person. The presumption often was that unless the group so stated, that court cards would otherwise be signed.
Some court-connected entities have told their clients that screenshots of zoom meeting photo grids, where the court-ordered newcomer’s picture appears, would provide the necessary verification. This clearly violates A.A.’s anonymity strictures, and so we are hoping to avoid this practice by implementing something mutually agreeable. But the groups need to act.
Especially if you are a group’s trusted servant (secretary, treasurer, IGR, or GSR) please raise this issue and help your group make a decision (via a business meeting, just like any other matter of group conscience) about whether to provide attendance verification, and how to then implement that decision.
Implementation could be as simple as designating a “court card signers” who is willing to communicate with newcomers via chat during the meeting and subsequent emails to verify attendance. (If you’d like, you can set up a group email account to be used for many purposes, including this one.) One important function is for this service position to tell the newcomer that it is outside A.A.’s purview to determine what is or is not acceptable verification. It’s also important to be clear with newcomers that A.A. is not affiliated in any way with any outside enterprise: this includes any part of the legal system. Attendance verification, if provided, is simply for the newcomer’s convenience and at their request.
Make announcements in the meeting about attendance verification and how to achieve it. But screen shots of meeting photo grids are not allowed, in order to protect all members’ anonymity.
In the meantime, our San Francisco Public Relations Committee and Marin PI/CPC are trying to inform various elements of the court system about what A.A. does and does not do. This is an ongoing effort, to emphasize our singleness of purpose (helping the alcoholic who still suffers).
For more reading on this matter, please refer to these materials:
Alcoholics Anonymous as a Resource For Drug & Alcohol Court Professionals
How A.A. Members Cooperate with Professionals
Information on Alcoholics Anonymous