Repression and Denial in Criminal Lawyering

52 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2005 Last revised: 19 Mar 2017

See all articles by Susan A. Bandes

Susan A. Bandes

DePaul University - College of Law


Legal scholars as well as laypeople are fascinated by the question of how criminal lawyers can defend people accused of heinous crimes. This topic is commonly addressed as part of a well-established discourse about the morality and ethics of criminal defense. A separate conversation needs to occur. Its topic is how, in an emotional sense, one defends people accused of terrible crimes, and what toll such defense takes, both professionally and personally. This article first explores the defense mechanisms employed by criminal defense lawyers, and how these mechanisms affect lawyers both as advocates and as people whose work is comfortably integrated into their lives. Second, it suggests that the mechanisms and strategies discussed are not unique to defense attorneys, but are common in legal practice generally. Finally, it argues that the legal profession needs to overcome its aversion to acknowledging and addressing the emotional aspects of lawyering, and suggests some possible paths toward this goal.

Keywords: Criminal law, legal profession, psychology, emotion and law

Suggested Citation

Bandes, Susan A., Repression and Denial in Criminal Lawyering. Buffalo Criminal Law Review, Vol. 9, No. 2, February 2006, UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 789764, NYLS Clinical Research Institute Paper No. 09/10 #16, Available at SSRN:

Susan A. Bandes (Contact Author)

DePaul University - College of Law ( email )

25 E. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL Cook County 60604-2287
United States
(312) 362-8701 (Phone)


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