What if our laws and legal systems focused on creating psychologically healthy outcomes for parties involved in legal matters and for society as a whole? What if considerations of economics (leaning right) and rights (leaning left) in creating law and policy were screened through the lens of psychological well-being of people affected by those laws and policies?
Long-time readers may recognize that I have aligned myself with therapeutic jurisprudence (“TJ”), a school of legal thought that examines the therapeutic and anti-therapeutic properties of the law, legal practice, and legal education. In essence, TJ asks if our laws and legal systems lead to psychologically healthy results, and it implicitly favors initiatives designed to make them so.
I discovered the TJ community as a result of my work on workplace bullying and employment law & policy, and I have found it to be a welcoming and natural home for my legal scholarship and public education work.
Now I have taken this affiliation a step further by joining the Advisory Group of the International Therapeutic Jurisprudence in the Mainstream Project, which “seeks to promote the use of Therapeutic Jurisprudence…approaches in mainstream legal settings through a variety of activities,” including a blog (photo above) and:
- Linking the latest research and resources with the people who are doing this work “on the ground” in courts and tribunals – judges, lawyers, prosecutors, managers, staff and court support workers.
- Encouraging and sharing TJ scholarship among academic and students in law and other disciplines.
- Linking people with expertise in this area with others who want to explore how TJ can make their courts and tribunals more effective.
The Project is the brainchild of TJ co-founder and law professor David Wexler (Puerto Rico), Australian magistrate judge Pauline Spencer (Victoria), and law professor and retired judge Michael Jones (Arizona).
The Project’s Advisory Group (list and bios here) is drawn from 18 countries and “includes judges, lawyers and prosecutors, academics and students in the field of law and other fields such as psychology.”
How do we make the promotion of psychologically healthy outcomes a prime objective for our laws and legal systems?
In a field so dominated by considerations of logic, reasoning, economics, rights, and procedure, psychology and human emotion are often regarded with some discomfort for their lack of precision and, well, messiness.
And yet, it makes perfect sense to me that the psychological well-being of individuals and society as a whole should be a primary lens through which we view and develop the law and its institutions. This is far from being the dominant viewpoint among lawyers, judges, and policy makers, but that reality only makes it more important for us to gather together (often virtually) to promote the mainstreaming of TJ.
This is among the many reasons why I am delighted to be more closely affiliated with this global assemblage of lawyers, professors, judges, and students. They inspire me with their dedication to the hard work of making the world a better place.
Of possible interest
I’ve written two law review articles expressly built around ideas of therapeutic jurisprudence. They can be freely accessed here:
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).