Therapeutic Jurisprudence: New Zealand Perspectives – a new book for law reformers everywhere

TJ nz photo

David Wexler, co founder of the concept of Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ) introduces a seminal book edited by Warren Brookbanks, Professor of Law, The University of Auckland, New Zealand entitled Therapeutic Jurisprudence: New Zealand Perspectives.

Wexler acknowledges discrepancies between the fluidity of responses necessary for administrating therapeutic justice, and the robust structures required for administering the law.  He illustrates the disjunction between content and structure by way of a metaphor.  Wexler adopts the analogy of wine and bottle, whereby TJ practices are considered ‘wine’ and the categories of legal landscape, or structures for application, ‘bottles’.  Although the metaphor, like all metaphors, has its limitations, the concept remains clear.  Namely, the simultaneously generous and creative adoption of therapeutic legal structures is necessary for the implementation and facilitation of the radically restorative infusion of new practice models of justice.

This pioneering text reflects on the application and implications of a therapeutic judicial system within New Zealand. The book is divided into two sections, Part One: Theoretical Issues, explores theories of TJ practice, and is perhaps best aligned with Wexler’s analogy of ‘wine’; whereas Part Two: Practical Issues, examines the facilitation and structure of TJ, and is thus best aligned with the concept of ‘bottle’.

A selection of chapters examining both the theories and practice of TJ as applied to the judicial system within New Zealand, were contributed by former law Masters students at the University of Auckland in response to a course on Therapeutic Jurisprudence, taught by Professor Brookbanks in 2011 and 2012.  These include discussions on the exploration of the role of narrative competence in law, the role of apology, problem gambling, employment dispute resolution and   problem-solving courts.  The remaining chapters were provided by other New Zealand academics and researchers working within TJ related fields of practice, and include discussions on restorative justice, TJ and the coronial jurisdiction, TJ and corrections and the Maori experience of law.

The introduction by the general editor, Warren Brookbanks, presents therapeutic jurisprudence as a healing agent, intended to facilitate the capabilities of law to restore rather than merely prescribe punishment. As such, TJ principles are identified as being adaptable and applicable to justice in general. In a section entitled “Therapeutic jurisprudence and the common good”, Brookbanks enlivens utopian ideals of how to best aid rehabilitation, whereby the healing and wholeness of both victim and offender is at least aspired to, if not entirely realized. To this end, throughout the book various practice domains in New Zealand law are explored from a TJ perspective, offering meaningful signposts, marking a road to the intentional administration of justice as a means of restoration and reconciliation.

Review by E. N. Brookbanks

Therapeutic Jurisprudence: New Zealand Perspectives can be purchased here in hardcopy or e-book form or both.

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