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Advocacy

Therapeutic Jurisprudence in Education and Training

Heather Cucolo

Heather Ellis Cucolo, Michael L. Perlin and Alison Lynch are cited in an excellent article:

Intellectual Activism and the Practice of Public Interest Law

by David C. Yamada. David will be hosting a Therapeutic Jurisprudence workshop at Suffolk Law School at the end of September.

"At the 2015 International Congress of Law and Mental Health, two TJ-affiliated American attorneys, both presenting on topics related to mental disabilities and sexuality, illustrated how practitioners can operate in an intellectual activist mode, blending scholarship and practice. Mental health lawyer Heather Ellis Cucolo presented her paper on representing civilly committed sexual predators:

During my representation of this population, my clients continuously voiced frustration and a complete lack of hope in ever being considered anything other than a sexual deviant. I will detail the failures of treatment as it currently exists and propose a new approach that incorporates intimacy training and in certain cases, seeks to encourage and support the development of healthy intimate relationships during civil commitment confinement.

Similarly, disability rights lawyer Alison Lynch presented her paper on the rights of the mentally disabled to engage in voluntary sexual activity:

An inquiry into the rights of persons with mental disabilities to voluntary sexual interaction forces us to review the sexual mores of previous centuries, mores that still dominate the public, judicial and legislative debates on this question in the context of this population. I will discuss the historical trends of what was considered “appropriate” sexual behavior for persons with disabilities in three specific contexts: international human rights law and domestic civil rights law, the impact of the “civil rights revolution”   on   persons   with   mental   disabilities,   and     “therapeutic jurisprudence.”

As their conference paper topics attest, Cucolo and Lynch are tackling difficult, uncomfortable legal subjects in their scholarship and practices. Both are both graduatesof the New York Law School (NYLS), having worked under the tutelage of professor and TJ authority Michael Perlin.103Cucolo, a 2003 graduate, has six years of experience as a deputy public defender in New Jersey, representing those accused of sexually violent offenses. She also has worked as an administrator and adjunct professor for NYLS’s Online Mental Disability Law Program. She has produced a significant body of scholarship reflecting these interests.

Lynch, a 2013 graduate, currently practices as a disability rights attorney in New York after doing similar work in New Jersey. Her publication record on mental healthlaw topics is remarkable for a recent graduate.105  In a 2014 talk that she presented at a conference sponsored by the Society of American Law Teachers, she discussed how the relationship between therapeutic jurisprudence and public interest practice has infusedher work:

My choice to advocate on behalf of people with mental illness, and my desire to contribute to the academic literature on the subject, has been guided by my realization that the values of TJ can not only improve my clients’ interactions with the legal system, but can improve my perception of my work and skill. I am a more successful, and a morefulfilled, attorney in part because I take the time to recognize and plan how my clients can gain therapeutic benefit from our interactions. This isn’t social work. This is lawyering. You learn more in interviews, you more clearly articulate your position, and you gain more trust when you take the time to consider TJ in practice.

However, for those students who come into law school with no idea about what they want to practice, lawyers in general and law professors in particular can use TJ to encourage students to think about public interest work.

I cite Cucolo and Lynch because they exemplify how intellectual activism, here filtered through the philosophical lens of therapeutic jurisprudence, nurtures the practice of public interest law. Given the sensitivity of their respective legal subjects, their work simply must be buttressed by multidisciplinary research and analysis, drawing on insights from psychology, psychiatry, and popular culture. Furthermore, the mentoring role of Perlin, whose own TJ-related work embraces the intellectual activist model, shows how law professors can support the development of future lawyers and educators in a “scholar-practitioner” mode."

 

As Mental Health Courts Grow, So Does Chance to Humanize Justice

Heather Cucolo

Huffington Post Article January 22, 2015

What is the relationship between the criminalization trend and need to humanize justice for persons with mental health disabilities? One only needs to turn to the extensive body of legal scholarship by internationally-recognized mental health disability law and human rights professor Michael Perlin for the answer -- sanism. As defined by professor Michael Perlin in his article "Sanism and the Law":

Sanism, an irrational prejudice against people with mental illness, is of the same quality and character as other irrational prejudices such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and ethnic bigotry that cause (and are reflected in) prevailing social attitudes. It infects both our jurisprudence and our lawyering practices. Sanism is largely invisible and largely socially acceptable.

According to Perlin, "This pattern of prejudice against mentally disabled individuals keeps them from receiving equal treatment under the law" (see The Hidden Prejudice).