“Warning: Protracted Litigation Can be Hazardous to Your Health”
Karin Huffer (1995)
Karin Huffer (1995)

So says Karin Huffer, whose experience as a marriage and family counselor in private practice and the wife of a businessman who was brutally defrauded in the courts uniquely qualifies her as an expert on the subject.

Huffer discovered that many of the legal system's victims suffer from a variant of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which she has termed "Legal Abuse Syndrome." The condition derives from the abusive and protracted litigation that many plaintiffs commonly encounter in the courts.

According to Huffer, you may be suffering from Legal Abuse Syndrome: 1) if you feel deeply disillusioned and oppressed as a result of your experience with the legal system; 2) if you have been frustrated in your effort to obtain justice; 3) if you feel your dreams and plans for your life were torn from you by a system that supposedly was there to protect your rights and property; 4) if you fear that the system will defeat you at every turn and there is nothing you can do about it; and 5) if you feel you have been victimized several times over by the perpetrators, by lawyers, judges, bailiffs and other court personnel. As a consequence, you may suffer from tension and anxiety and have recurring nightmares, and you may also feel emotionally and physically exhausted, numb, disconnected and vulnerable.

Huffer does not call for sweeping reforms of the judicial system to eliminate the corruption that underlies its various abuses. She is no firebrand. Instead, as a dedicated health-care professional, she has concerned herself with helping the stricken to cope with their psychosocial problems — to accept what they cannot change and enable them to function once more as normal, productive individuals.

To this end, she has written a pioneering book that addresses the plight of legal abuse victims from a psychological, therapeutic perspective. Her objective is to move the victim beyond his or her predicament and toward a more positive way of thinking and behavior. Huffer illustrates her approach with the cases of seven victims who suffer from Legal Abuse Syndrome, detailing their pain and anguish and the various stages of the therapy they have undergone to recover their emotional health. While the eight-step program she describes may not remove the thorn from the hearts of legal abuse victims, it will deaden the pain and help sufferers rechannel any destructive thoughts they may harbor.

Despite her mental-health orientation, Huffer is well aware of the troubling conditions that exist in modern American society. On one hand, trusting citizens have been taught they can rely upon Constitutionally protected rights to safeguard them against criminal activity. However, betrayals by lawyers and the failure of courts to provide basic due process rights have assaulted their sensibilities, ignited their rage and turned them into victims and even vigilantes. Clearly, we have entered a time when more vigorous solutions are called for than just compassionate psychoanalgesia.


Karin Pearson Huffer holds a master of science degree in marriage and family therapy from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and is the author of Overcoming the Devastation of Legal Abuse Syndrome, Fulkort Press, 1995.  She is a frequent lecturer and consultant on litigation-related traumatic stress and can be reached at legalabuse@adelphia.net or through her Web site: http://www.legalabusesyndrome.org.