American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 52, Issue 1 (2016)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


Family drug courts (FDCs) were first established in 1994 as one judge’s response to substance abuse in the majority of his dependency-court cases.1 Since then, hundreds of similar specialized dependency courts have been established around the country. FDCs are based on an adult-drug-court model established in response to the apparent revolving door of drug offenders in criminal court. Drug courts and other problem-solving courts seek to identify the social and psychological dysfunction that brought the individuals before the court. Problem-solving-court judges adopt therapeutic jurisprudence to assess the dysfunction, prescribe appropriate services, and provide support, encouragement, and accountability. Procedural justice, characterized by judicial leadership and participant autonomy, is one of the psychological tools used to successfully adopt therapeutic jurisprudence. Successful problem-solving courts rely on judicial leadership for the network of providers and to engage with the participants. Additionally, the voluntary nature of problem-solving courts ensures participants are given autonomy and allowed to exercise voice and control in the process.