I talked Thursday about what lawyers need to do for one another and how the profession can better take care of it’s practitioners. Today, however, I want to talk about what lawyers, law makers, and policy makers can do for society.
Laws are often built around what is known as the “reasonable person” standard. First off, there is no such thing as a “reasonable person.” Everyone has their oddities. Yet applying a reasonableness standard to those suffering mental illness is especially problematic.
And some of you might be thinking that at least there is an insanity defense. But that is very hard to prove because the law doesn’t understand the gray nuances of mental illness. Even if it is proven, it comes with a separate set of problems.
Moreover there are so many public policies that were clearly written with no consideration of the impact mental illness can have on an individual. When addiction and other conditions with underlying mental illnesses are penalized, it is our society and the ideals of our nations that suffer.
The ideals of the law are to make everyone equal. Justice should be blind to the advantages or disadvantages you face. Yet we are a long way from realizing that ideal. Instead, justice is too often blind to the dark tales of mental illness.
There are too many tales of society’s failures relating to mental illness, certainly too many to repeat here. These tales however cannot be forgotten. Rather, they must serve as the body of evidence that proves that we must do better if we are to be considered a truly just society.