Law 952 - Re-envisioning the Lawyer’s Role: Trauma Informed Lawyering and Restorative/ Transformative Justice

Claudia L. Peña

Claudia L. Peña

Lecturer in Law
B.A. Mills College, 2003
J.D. UCLA, 2008
Course Description:

Restorative Justice (RJ) is a true alternative to the criminal and juvenile justice systems. It requires a paradigm shift from thinking about crime as ‘a breaking of the law’ to thinking about crime as ‘a harm experienced by multiple people’. A trauma-informed practice is necessary when engaging with vulnerable populations and/or any client who may have experienced trauma. Trauma-informed lawyering is an imperative component of Restorative Justice practices and as such, will make up a significant portion of the instruction. This J-term course will introduce students to the concept of Restorative Justice systems, initiated by the Maori people of New Zealand, and adapted by countless organizations and judicial systems all over the world. In learning about the RJ model, students will learn:
1. the guiding principles of RJ and how they compare to binary/retributive/punitive justice systems,
2. how RJ is currently implemented and the different forms it takes,
3. the barriers and obstacles to RJ implementation,
4. the major critiques of RJ, and
5. how the use of RJ can be expanded in other areas of legal practice.

Trauma informed (TI) lawyering is an approach to legal advocacy that involves developing awareness of manifestations of trauma in legal interactions, adapting communications skills and legal strategies, recognition of the imperatives of legal ethics when working with mentally ill or traumatized clients, and developing clinical-legal partnerships and referral networks as needed. We will discuss in-depth all forms of trauma including “vicarious or secondary” trauma caused by exposure to people who have been traumatized, and “institutional trauma” effected by the harmful ways in which under-resourced organizations are set up and how the lack of TI training at an institutional level can traumatize practitioners and other employees. Though trauma-informed advocacy can be relevant to any area of law, it is fundamental to restorative justice practices. Restorative justice concepts are based on an understanding of systems of oppression, their impact on vulnerable people and human responses and behaviors based on those experiences; training on identifying trauma and its impacts is a basic requirement to that end.

Course Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the course, students will have knowledge and skills necessary to:
- Identify the needs of all clients and work collaboratively with those clients to have their needs met
- Identify trauma and understand its impact on clients and practitioners<
- Adapt both communication and legal strategies to be responsive to that trauma
- Use “motivational interviewing” as a technique to interview clients
- Describe the principles of restorative justice and existing restorative justice processes used nationally and internationally
- Analyze whether restorative justice programs and practices adhere to restorative justice principles
- Examine both criminal legal system and restorative justice processes from the positionalities of survivors, those who harm, and community
- Envision ways restorative justice can work towards ending mass criminalization
- Co-facilitate a restorative community conference circle
- Employ strategies to reduce the impact of vicarious and institutional trauma