ABA book helps lawyers defend clients with emotional, cognitive and social impairments

A new book from the American Bar Association, “Representing People with Mental Disabilities: A Practical Guide for Criminal Defense Lawyers” provides an invaluable guide to advocating for clients with mental illnesses or intellectual and developmental disabilities.

For criminal defense lawyers of all types, clients with mental disabilities are a part of their practice. This ranges from the white collar criminal defense lawyer who represents an executive charged with tax evasion who functions despite a variety of conditions he keeps hidden, to the public defender assigned as standby or advisory counsel for the defendant who wants to represent himself at trial, to the sole practitioner representing the man with Asperger’s charged with possession of child pornography on his computer. Clients’ diagnoses have the potential to limit plea bargains or enhance a sentence, and to affect their well-being by limiting access to treatment or support.

Editor Elizabeth Kelley has sought expertise from public defenders, criminal law specialists, academic researchers, social workers, neuropsychologists and forensic and clinical psychologists to compose this practical resource for attorneys. “Representing People with Mental Disabilities” can serve as a cover-to-cover resource as well as a reference book, where each chapter contains pertinent information and direct references to other relevant sections so that attorneys can best assist their clients. 

Kelley is a criminal defense lawyer with a national practice focusing on representing people with mental disabilities. She co-chairs the Criminal Justice Advisory Panel of The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability, serves on the editorial board of the ABA’s Criminal Justice magazine and served three terms on the board of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.