The Champion

November 2009 , Page 14 

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An Overview of the Ethical Issues Created by Problem-Solving Courts And the Mentally Ill Client

By Steven N. Yermish

The NACDL Task Force Issues a Report and Calls for Reform

As a consequence of the large proportion of defendants having drug abuse or mental illness issues, courts in many jurisdictions over the last 20 years have established specialty or community courts.1 The first of these was the drug court in Miami, Fla., which was created in 1989. These courts were created in response to findings that drugs and drug-related crime account for a substantial percentage of the caseload in state criminal courts today.2 

These problem-solving courts adopt a therapeutic approach, and are specifically designed to provide a rehabilitative or treatment alternative to the traditional adversarial model of the criminal court.3 As a result, the function of defense counsel in these courts has changed to one in which the attorney is expected to take a “best interests of the client” approach and cooperate with the court. Concomitantly, zealous, adversarial advocacy is discouraged. This representation model compromi

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