An Rsvp to Professor Wexler's Warm Tj Invitation: Unable to Join You, Already (Somewhat Similarly) Engaged
58 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2006 Last revised: 20 Feb 2008
Professor David Wexler, one of the pioneers of the Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ) movement, recently extended a warm invitation to law school clinicians and members of the criminal defense bar to join him in attempting to expand the application of TJ to criminal defense practice. He calls upon these individuals to help contribute to his agenda by explicitly recognizing and promoting a special kind of criminal practitioner, which he calls the TJ criminal lawyer. Wexler suggests that such lawyers would have a far broader role than traditional defense attorneys as they would serve as therapeutic change agents within criminal courts by focusing on and encouraging client rehabilitation.
This article is an RSVP to that invitation. As a clinical professor and former public defender, I argue that Professor Wexler's call to action is not only misguided, but potentially dangerous. In particular, his proposal for creating a new model of criminal defense practice, although well-intended, largely misapprehends the already complex nature of quality and zealous criminal defense work. Moreover, it runs the risk of conflicting with existing legal and ethical standards, displacing long-recognized defense community norms, and undermining the rights of criminal defendants. Thus, despite the warmth with which it was extended, I respectfully decline Professor Wexler's invitation. Rather, as this paper further explains, I plan to continue with my prior (somewhat similar) engagement of providing quality and zealous defense representation to the criminally accused and encouraging my clinic students to do the same.
Keywords: criminal, defense, legal clinic, therapeutic jurisprudence
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