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Thursday, August 26, 2010

What Can You Accomplish as a Lawyer? Renowned Lawyer and Legal Scholar Bruce Winick Has Died

I've just received the sad news that my friend and former colleague Bruce Winick, distinguished professor of Law & Medicine at the University of Miami School of Law for some 36 years has died.  Bruce will be most remembered as the co-founder, along with David Wexler of the University of Arizona, James E. Rogers School of Law, of the extraordinary scholarly and law reform enterprise known as Therapeutic Jurisprudence. TJ to its many friends, is the scholary study of how law and legal procedures influence the psychology of those who are subject to it (or practice in it), as well as the law reform project of altering the law to optimize its psychological advantages and minimize its psychological disadvantages.  TJ had its intellectual problems.  As Elyn Saks argued some years ago, there are all too many circumstances when the psychological consequences of legal choices are cross cutting (as for instance in forcibly medicating a person suffering severe psychosis).  Still, one would be hard pressed to name a body of academic legal scholarship that has had more law reform significance in the past quarter century.  Scores of drug courts, mental health courts, and other "problem solving" courts of all kinds in the US, Europe, Australia and elsewhere no doubt, trace their intellectual DNA to TJ.  In an era when criminal law in the US has been dominated by a widespread surrender to populist punitiveness, TJ was practically the only significant counter force in law reform.

Amazingly, Bruce came to TJ well into his career,  after years of impressive legal accomplishments including overturning New York's death penalty in the late 1960s, litigating many of the most influential selective service cases in the Vietnam era, and joining with Miami colleagues Irwin Stotzky and Ira Kurzban in litigating the Haitian refugee cases before the Supreme Court in the early 1980s.  Bruce was the author of more than ten books and scores of law review articles, mostly in the last decade and half during which he was functionally blind.

More than anything I will remember Bruce's sheer joy at being a lawyer and a law professor.  Oblivious to the slings and arrows that puncture most egos, Bruce was simply carried away by a sense of the enormous privilege it was to argue before courts on behalf of clients, to teach law and medical students, and to share his ideas though his prodigious ability as a writer and speaker.  In this latter aspect, Bruce will be with us for decades to come.  Just today, well before I heard the news, I was reading several of his articles on TJ and civil commitment (also the subject of 2005 book) for some of my own research on reforming California's civil commitment law. 

Posted by Jonathan Simon on August 26, 2010 at 03:51 PM in Criminal Law, Jonathan Simon, Judicial Process, Legal Theory | Permalink


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There is now a proper obituary up on the Miami Herald website that provides more accurate and detailed information about Bruce's career.


Posted by: Jonathan Simon | Aug 27, 2010 3:39:28 AM

thanks for this lovely remembrance of this stunningly decent human being. Bruce was a consummate mensch and, especially given the decline of his vision, an absolute inspiration. He will be sorely missed. May his memory be a blessing to all those who loved him.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Aug 26, 2010 8:22:23 PM

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