Holistic Advocacy: An Important but Limited Institutional Role


Many criminal law practitioners and academics have promoted “holistic advocacy” as a way to improve the institutional quality of indigent criminal defense services. Although holistic advocacy may greatly enhance a public defender’s practice, it has practical, professional, and ethical limitations as an institutional model. This article explores these limitations. I begin this article by presenting the holistic advocacy model and its benefits. I then examine the potential hazards of holistic advocacy as an institutional model in light of a public defender’s unique client responsibilities. Collateral consequences are examined in particular, to illustrate how holistic advocacy can offer many benefits, but also raise potential problems if overemphasized institutionally. Finally, I conclude that while holistic advocacy may help to decalcify entrenched and sometimes myopic “traditional” defense practices, the holistic advocacy model should be implemented with caution, and a traditional trial practice model should remain the institutional priority.

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