National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy


Michael L. Perlin is Professor of Law Emeritus at New York Law School (NYLS), founding director of NYLS's Online Mental Disability Law Program, and founding director of NYLS's International Mental Disability Law Reform Project in its Justice Action Center.  He is also the co-founder of Mental Disability Law and Policy Associates.  He has written 31 books and nearly 300 articles on all aspects of mental disability law, many of which deal with the overlap between mental disability law and criminal law and procedure. His most recent books are International Human Rights and Mental Disability Law: When the Silenced are Heard (Oxford University Press, 2011), Mental Disability and the Death Penalty: The Shame of The States (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), And a Prescription for Dignity: Rethinking Criminal Justice and Mental Disability Law (Ashgate, 2013). His five-volume treatise, Mental Disability Law: Civil and Criminal (2d ed.) (Lexis-Nexis, 1998-2002), is universally seen as the standard text in the area; the seven-volume third edition of that work (co-authored with Prof. Heather Ellis Cucolo) will be forthcoming in 2017. An earlier book, The Jurisprudence of the Insanity Defense (Carolina Academic Press, 1995) won the Manfred Guttmacher award of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law as the best book published that year. Another book, Sexuality, Disability And The Law: Beyond The Last Frontier? (co-authored with Alison Lynch, Esq.) will be published in 2016 (Palgrave Macmillan).

Professor Perlin’s recent articles include "International Human Rights and Comparative Mental Disability Law: The Role of Institutional Psychiatry in the Suppression of Political Dissent." Other recent journal articles have focused on the ADA and persons with mental disabilities ("Can Sanist Attitudes be Undone?"); the impact of the ADA on the rights of institutionalized persons to have voluntary sexual interaction and to refuse antipsychotic medication ("...Sex, Drugs, the ADA, and Psychiatric Hospitalization;" and "Hospitalized Patients and the Right to Sexual Interaction:  Beyond the Last Frontier?"); the inadequacy of counsel in right to refuse treatment cases; how the link made between deinstitutionalization and current widespread homelessness is mythical; "sanism" and pretextuality in judicial decision-making and the development of our laws; the insanity defense; and "therapeutic jurisprudence." Presentations at recent NARPA conferences include, "Annie Hall Goes to Court: The State of Legal Advocacy in the Mental Health System," "The Right of Institutionalized Persons with Mental Disabilities to Voluntary Sexual Interaction: Beyond the Last Frontier?," "Planning the Ending of a System Reform Class Action Lawsuit: How will you know when you've won?," "Regulation of the Use of Seclusion and Restraints in Mental Disability Law," "If My Thought-Dreams Could be Seen": Unasked (and Unanswered) Questions About the Role of Neuroimaging in the Criminal Trial Process," and "On Desolation Row: How Sexual Predator Laws Adversely Affect the Rights of Others with Mental Illness Labels Who Are Caught in the Criminal Justice System,", and "'To Memorizing Politics of Ancient History': International Human Rights, Comparative Mental Disability Law, and the Role of Institutional Psychiatry in the Suppression of Political Dissent."

Before becoming a professor, Perlin was the Deputy Public Defender in charge of the Mercer County Trial Region in New Jersey, and, for eight years, was the director of the Division of Mental Health Advocacy in the NJ Department of the Public Advocate. He has represented thousands of persons with mental disabilities in individual and class actions, and has represented criminal defendants at every level from police court to the US Supreme Court (second-seating Strickland v. Washington, and representing amicus in Ake v. Oklahoma, and Colorado v. Connelly). He directed the online mental disability law program at New York Law School from 2000 to 2014, and through that program, offered 13 courses to lawyers, mental health professionals, and disability advocates. Through this program, he has also taught mental disability law courses in Japan, Nicaragua, Finland, Israel, Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Sweden. He has done extensive work in China with the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law—Asia office where he has conducted “Training of Trainers” workshops in Xi’an, China to teach experienced death penalty defense lawyers how to train inexperienced lawyers, employing the online distance learning methodologies used in the NYLS online program. He has also done advocacy work on behalf of persons with disabilities on every continent. In the fall semester of 2012, he served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist, teaching and consulting at the Islamic University of Jogjakarta, Indonesia. Four years earlier, also as part of the Fulbright designation, he taught in the Global Law Program at Haifa.

In his spare time, Professor Perlin plays the clarinet in the Lawrence Township Community Band. He is an avid fan of baseball and opera, and is currently at work on an article on the jurisprudence of Bob Dylan.

(article on Michael Perlin & the jurisprudence of Bob Dylan, from The New Yorker, 11/18/02)

"To Memorizing Politics of Ancient History": International Human Rights and Comparative Mental Disability Law:
The Role of Institutional Psychiatry in the Suppression of Political Dissent - Keynote from NARPA Annual Rights Conference, November 2006