'Have You Seen Dignity?': The Story of the Development of Therapeutic Jurisprudence

26 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2017

Date Written: March 13, 2017


This paper will be presented at a special event, hosted by the Victoria Legal Aid Society and RMIT University School of Law (Melbourne, Australia), on March 31, 2017. It traces the development of therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) over the past three decades, and explains its impact on legal education, legal scholarship and legal practice. In it, I explain the initial insights of David Wexler and the late Bruce Winick, consider these insights in the context of the state of mental disability law in the late 1980s and early 1990s (when TJ first emerged), with a focus on their early essay collections and the initial TJ conference that I ran at New York Law School (where I taught for 30 years) in 1993.

I then discuss how TJ expanded beyond the relatively-narrow framework of “just mental disability law”, and the significance of that expansion, TJ’s internationalization, and its expansion from law to psychology, criminology, social work, and other disciplines (though interestingly, not, to any significant extent, psychiatry).

After this, I consider the impact it has had on traditional trial courts and case law, and the, focus on its significant impact on “problem-solving courts” – mental health courts, drug courts, and others. I then consider my own work from the past few years, and how I approach the full range of substantive topics in my writing from a TJ perspective.

Next, I look at what David Wexler has been thinking about lately – about what he calls the “vineyards of the law,” and about his metaphor of “wines and bottles” – and the impact that will likely have on TJ’s future. I then share some ideas about how TJ-focused lawyers need to start thinking more seriously about how TJ should inspire them in dialogues they have with their clients, and conclude by speculating about what must be done in the future to insure that TJ continues to reinforce dignity in all aspects of the entire legal process.

Keywords: therapeutic jurisprudence, mental disability law, legal education, criminal law and procedure, problem-solving courts, lawyer-client relationships

Suggested Citation

Perlin, Michael L., 'Have You Seen Dignity?': The Story of the Development of Therapeutic Jurisprudence (March 13, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2932149 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2932149

Michael L. Perlin (Contact Author)

New York Law School ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://https://www.nyls.edu/faculty/faculty-profiles/emeriti_faculty/

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