Coming attraction: The International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence

Launching the TJ Society at a July conference in Prague

Steady readers of this blog may be familiar with my work in the field of therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ), a school of legal philosophy and practice that examines the therapeutic and anti-therapeutic properties of laws and public policies, legal and dispute resolution systems, and legal institutions. TJ values psychologically healthy outcomes in legal disputes and transactions, without claiming exclusivity in terms of policy objectives. For nearly a decade, TJ has played a significant role in shaping how I look at law and public policy, especially as related to workplace issues.

Now I am delighted to be playing a role in forming the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ Society), a new, non-profit, learned association established to advance the field of therapeutic jurisprudence on a global scale.  The TJ Society shall advance these overall purposes by supporting legal and interdisciplinary scholarship; identifying and promoting best professional and judicial practices; sponsoring conferences, workshops, and seminars; and hosting and participating in print, electronic, social media platforms.

As of mid-June 2017, the founding trustees of the TJ Society are engaged in the following activities:

  • Planning for a panel discussion to launch and discuss the TJ Society, to be held at the July 2017 Congress on Law and Mental Health in Prague, Czech Republic, hosted by the International Academy of Law and Mental Health;
  • Finalizing articles of incorporation and initial by-laws;
  • Creating a global advisory council of law faculty, attorneys, judges, and scholars and practitioners from complementary fields, a group that we anticipate will grow significantly over time;
  • Developing a website for the TJ Society; and,
  • Consolidating, where applicable and desired, existing TJ activities under the TJ Society rubric.

The TJ Society will be a membership organization, with annual dues set at an affordable, accessible level. During this summer, we are building the basic infrastructure of the organization. However, the following months and years will engage a lot more people and involve a lot more activities. The latter include, but are hardly limited to:

  • Inviting members of the TJ Society to form and join affinity groups based on shared subject-matter interests and geographic proximities;
  • Building our social media and web presence to offer a virtual home for members of the TJ Society and its friends; and,
  • Developing the TJ Society to support and co-sponsor TJ-related events and activities around the world.

The creation of a membership organization devoted to TJ has been a topic of discussion for several years and became more focused at a 2016 TJ workshop held at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. From there, a small group of devoted TJ adherents began establishing the groundwork for this fledgling TJ Society.

We hope to build an organization that is “flat” in nature, with a board of trustees committed to the spirit and practice of servant leadership and the fostering of a TJ community that is grounded in participation, exchange, and mutual learning. The TJ Society should not be an end in itself, but rather a conduit and steward for supporting and expanding the reach and influence of TJ, while offering a friendly and engaging “home base” for those who identify with it.

The initial members of the board of trustees are, in alphabetical order (with some additional board-related designations listed):

  • Astrid Birgden, forensic psychologist, Australia
  • Amy Campbell, law professor, USA
  • Kathy Cerminara, law professor, USA
  • Heather Ellis Cucolo, attorney, USA (board director)
  • Martine Evans, law and criminology professor, France
  • Michael Jones, law professor and judge (ret.), USA
  • Shelley Kierstead, law professor, Canada (board vice chairperson)
  • Michael Perlin, law professor, USA
  • Pauline Spencer, magistrate judge, Australia
  • Nigel Stobbs, law professor, Australia
  • David Wexler, law professor, USA
  • Michel Vols, law professor, The Netherlands
  • David Yamada, law professor, USA (board chairperson).

In addition, these four distinguished individuals will be serving as Honorary Presidents of the TJ Society, in recognition of their signature, core contributions to this field:

  • Peggy Hora, California state court judge (ret.) and international authority on creating solution-based courts
  • Michael Perlin, professor emeritus at the New York Law School and leading mental health & disability law expert
  • David Wexler, law professor at the University of Puerto Rico & the University of Arizona and co-founder of the TJ movement
  • The late Bruce Winick, University of Miami law professor and co-founder of the TJ movement.


(July 2017: This post was slightly revised to reflect new additions to the board of trustees.)

For more about therapeutic jurisprudence, click here to visit the Therapeutic Jurisprudence in the Mainstream blog.

If you’re interested, here are links to four law review articles I’ve written that have strong TJ-oriented themes:

Human Dignity and American Employment Law — University of Richmond Law Review (2009) — Sets out the theoretical frameworks and arguments for making human dignity the centerpiece of American workplace law, including incorporating TJ principles.

Employment Law as If People Mattered: Bringing Therapeutic Jurisprudence into the WorkplaceFlorida Coastal Law Review (2010) — Makes the case for applying TJ to the law of the workplace.

Therapeutic Jurisprudence and the Practice of Legal Scholarship — University of Memphis Law Review (2010) — Dissects the modern culture of legal scholarship and proposes TJ as a framing perspective for engaging in scholarly work.

Intellectual Activism and the Practice of Public Interest LawSouthern California Review of Law and Social Justice (2016) — Discusses how legal scholarship can shape law reform initiatives, with reflections on my work concerning workplace bullying and unpaid internships and how perspectives like TJ have informed those efforts.

2 responses

  1. The whole concept of therapeutic jurisprudence is great. My favorite phrases from your blog are: “committed to the spirit and practice of servant leadership,” “grounded in participation, exchange, and mutual learning,” and “creating solution-based courts.”

  2. I do wonder though if appropriate therapeutic help will be made available for those driven up the wall because of the legal system’s social Darwinist approach to access to pragmatic legal problem solving. Nobody in America seems to care. Nobody blinked when Derek Bok said that the majority of Americans have basically no practical access to vindication of their legal rights in our system.

    Precarity is a precarious existence, lacking in predictability, job security, material or psychological welfare. The social class defined by this condition has been termed the precariat (google definition).
    What can one say about bullying/mobbing induced precarity in terms of fairness/justice, therapeutic jurisprudence, and psychological health and welfare?
    Does a social Darwinist legal system contribute to the condition of precarity, or to a precariat? Can we talk about the legal system’s precariat in terms of psychological welfare?
    Does legislatures’ negligence in allowing targets and victims of bullying/mobbing to slip through the cracks as a result of not providing appropriate causes of action for workplace bullying/mobbing create a damaged, legal-related or legal-caused precariat as a result?

    We seem to have a legal system allowing for extraordinary and outrageous harm and damage to people and the creation of a lifelong bullied, mobbed and victimized precariat.

    I think one possible solution for complex mobbing cases in municipal workplaces would be to use the municipalities’ civil Grand Jury oversight jurisdiction to allow for the subpoena of parties into Restorative Justice processes. My encouragement, in part, to our county civil Grand Jury in the 1980’s to support a community mediation service led to the establishment of one. I tried to use this volunteer venue to encourage bullies and mobbers to sit down with me and was met with, “what’s in it for me” and refusal I think the laws regarding subpoenas could be modified so that in particularly complex and onerous cases of workplace bullying/mobbing, parties could be subpoenaed into a process where responsibility and restorative justice could be achieved and life could go on.

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