Some are saying fall is in the air. Frankly, I’ll believe it when I’m finally able to put away my collection of electric fans strategically place around my apartment. I’ve got so many one could say my interior decorating style is “early American fan.”

I’ve lived in Santa Monica for 41 years and I can’t remember a heat wave like the one we’ve experienced the past two months. For example, last week, while making notes for a column, drops of perspiration actually landed on the page. I’ve heard of “sweating a deadline” but this was ridiculous.

Mark Twain observed, “Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it.” Does complaining count? My friends are so irritated with my griping they’re giving me the same look Kenny Rogers gets when he sings “The Gambler” in the GEICO Insurance commercial.

But some friends are enjoying the hot weather, especially beach goers. Take Daniel “Danny” Brookman who’s been surfing for over 50 years. A long time Venice resident with his wife and three boys, and with an office on Main Street in Santa Monica, Danny has been practicing law since 1972. He has represented thousands of clients, including the late drug guru, Dr. Timothy Leary, and actor Robert Downey, Jr.

But Danny’s primary focus is as an acknowledged expert in alcohol and drug related crimes, rehabilitation and intervention therapies. For those in legal trouble with drug and alcohol addiction his goal is to keep them out of the already overcrowded prison system and get them proper treatment to hopefully get their lives back on track. It’s serious and emotionally draining work for which surfing provides a much needed escape.

Personally Danny’s traveled extensively through Europe, Asia, Central and South America. Professionally he’s appeared in national magazines such as GQ, People and U.S. Weeklyand on TV, including the “Today Show.” (He also “appears” for coffee every morning at Starbucks, which is how we met.)

Surfing offers Danny balance. After frustrating days in court, surfing ties him to nature and fosters his concern for the environment.

While surfing in Venice a few years ago, Danny helped save two swimmers from drowning. In his work, he’s also been fortunate in saving many clients from the ravages of drug and alcohol addiction. It long ago became obvious to Danny that at the root of much crime (i.e. drunk driving, domestic violence, etc.) are issues of substance abuse.

Addiction and abuse affects an entire universe of the individual. Family members, friends, jobs – are all impacted. And the truth is, just about everybody has a parent, child, sibling or friend who’s experienced addiction.

Danny notes that fortunately our court system has finally begun to recognize drug usage as a social and medical issue rather than just a legal one. In many areas of criminal law, rehabilitation, intervention and counseling have begun to replace incarceration.

And politically there’s a reform groundswell brewing. As a country we seemingly can’t agree on anything, but sentencing reform is getting support from both sides of the aisle. And with good reason.

While the U.S. accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, it accounts for 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. We have more people in prisons than China. We have more prisons than universities and, in some states, more prisoners than college students.

In the U.S.,we spend $80 billion a year on mass incarceration. And a substantial percentage of inmates are in prison for non-violent crimes connected to addiction.

Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), at opposite ends on the political spectrum, are teaming up to reform sentencing guidelines. To his credit, President Clinton criticized his own 1994 Crime Bill. “We wound up putting so many people in prison that there wasn’t enough money left to educate them.”

As Danny notes, substance abuse reaches across all strata of society, rich and poor, privileged or not. But, he’s ever inspired by the adage that to save a life is to save the universe.

And I’m ever inspired, if fall is really here, that I can finally put my collection of fans into my storage locker. Ah, to be able to write a column by hopefully filling it with humor instead of sweat.

Danny’s email is: Danny@DanielBrookmanLaw.com. His office is at 2665 Main Street, Suite 210 (310) 396-5900. Jack is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth and jnsmdp@aol.com.

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