Remembering a gentle visionary who imagined a better legal profession

Bruce Winick, a University of Miami law professor and co-founder of the therapeutic jurisprudence movement, passed away last year after a battle with cancer. His life and work were discussed at a program dedicated to his memory at the Congress of the International Academy of Law and Mental Health, held this week in Berlin.

Therapeutic jurisprudence, or “TJ,” was co-founded by Bruce and fellow law professor David Wexler (now at the University of Puerto Rico) to prompt a deeper examination of the law’s therapeutic or anti-therapeutic qualities. In essence, TJ asks us to consider this question: How can the law, legal profession, and legal practice promote psychologically healthy outcomes?

The Berlin session was devoted to remembering Bruce and his voluminous body of work, made all the more impressive by the fact that he lost most of his vision as an adult. My fond image of Bruce comes from academic conference sessions, during which he would alternately listen intently and briefly nap, while regularly petting his guide dog, Bruno. He reveled in the give-and-take of those discussions and had a keen knack for offering insightful questions and comments.

Even as his health deteriorated from cancer, Bruce worked furiously to complete a book manuscript on what he called the “re-imagined lawyer,” acknowledging the crisis of heart in the legal profession today and examining how the law and legal practice can be changed for the better. He didn’t quite finish the book, but colleagues associated with the Therapeutic Jurisprudence Center that he founded at Miami are committed to bringing it to publication.

I have a special appreciation for Bruce and David Wexler, because two years ago they gave me such a warm welcome to the TJ community, and I became fast friends with both. Reluctant to ally myself with more narrowly defined theoretical or ideological frameworks in my legal scholarship, I did not find a comfortable intellectual home for my work until I belatedly discovered therapeutic jurisprudence. Since then, TJ has become a very meaningful and important association for me.

***

The University of Miami’s law school has a web page dedicated to Bruce, here.

For previous blog posts on therapeutic jurisprudence, go here.

Two of my recent law review articles have been built around a TJ theme:

Therapeutic Jurisprudence and the Practice of Legal Scholarship (University of Memphis Law Review, 2010)

Employment Law as if People Mattered: Bringing Therapeutic Jurisprudence into the Workplace (Florida Coastal Law Review, 2010).

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