Therapeutic jurisprudence

Therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) is a term first used by Professor David Wexler, [ University of Arizona Rogers College of Law] and University of Puerto Rico School of Law, in a paper delivered to the National Institute of Mental Health in 1987. Along with Professor Bruce Winick, University of Miami School of Law, who originated the concept with Wexler, the professors suggested the need for a new perspective, TJ, to study the extent to which substantive rules, legal procedures, and the role of legal actors (lawyers and judges primarily) produce therapeutic or antitherapeutic consequences for individuals involved in the legal process.


In the early 90’s, legal scholars began to use it when discussing mental health law, including Wexler and Winick's 1991 book, "Essays in Therapeutic Jurisprudence". The TJ Approach soon spread beyond mental health law to include TJ work in criminal law, family and juvenile law, health law, tort law, contracts and commercial law, trusts and estates law, disability law, constitutional law, evidence law, and legal profession. In short, TJ became a mental health approach to law generally, and these advances were documented in Wexler and Winick's 1996 book, Law in a Therapeutic Key: Developments in Therapeutic Jurisprudence.

The approach was soon applied to the way various legal actors -- judges, lawyers, police officers, and expert witnesses -- play their roles, suggesting ways of doing so that would diminish unintended antitherapeutic consequences and increase the psychological well-being of those who come into contact with these legal figures. In 1999 in a Notre Dame Law Review article (Hora, Schma and Rosenthal, “Therapeutic Jurisprudence and the Drug Treatment Court Movement: Revolutionizing the Criminal Justice System’s Response to Drug Abuse and Crime in America,” 74 NDLR 439 (1999),) TJ was applied to drug treatment courts (DTC) drug court for the first time and the authors asserted that DTCs were TJ in action and that TJ provided the jurisprudential underpinnings of DTCs. TJ has emerged as the theoretical foundation for the increasing number of "problem-solving courts" that have transformed the role of the judiciary. These include, in addition to DTCs, domestic violence courts, mental health courts, re-entry courts, teen courts, and community courts. Winick and Wexler described this new judicial model and demonstrated how principles of TJ can be used by the judges in these new courts in their 2003 book, Judging in a Therapeutic Key: Therapeutic Jurisprudence and the Courts.

Reframing roles

Therapeutic Jurisprudence also has been applied in an effort to reframe the role of the lawyer. It envisions lawyers practicing with an ethic of care and heightened interpersonal skills, who value the psychological well being of their clients as well as their legal rights and interests, and to actively seek to prevent legal problems through creative drafting and problem-solving approaches. The impact of TJ on lawyering was documented in Stolle, Wexler, and Winick's 2000 book, Practicing Therapeutic Jurisprudence: Law as a Helping Profession. TJ also has begun to transform legal education, in particular clinical legal education. These developments were documented in a 2005 symposium issue of the St. Thomas University Law Review, "Therapeutic Jurisprudence and Clinical Legal Education and Skills Training." In 2008, Wexler published an edited volume dedicated to therapeutic jurisprudence and the criminal defense attorney. The book is entitled Rehabilitating Lawyers:Priniciples of Therapeutic Jurisprudence for Criminal Law Practice(Carolina Academic Press 2008).

External links

* [ Professor David Wexler's faculty profile]
* []
* [ Professor Bruce J. Wincik's webpage]

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