Mark Speiser
, Ginger Lerner-Wren, and Howard Finkelstein
sparked an international movement …

Treatment Court Nominated for International Award

Fort Lauderdale, FL – Broward County’s ground-breaking Mental Health Court is pleased to announce it has been nominated for the prestigious Innovating Justice Awards for 2013. The awards are given annually by HiiL, a foundation for international justice in The Hague, Netherlands. The prizes go to projects around the world that develop innovative ways to deliver justice. HiiL chooses finalists for the award based partly on votes cast online by the public. The awards will be announced on Dec. 11. They carry a cash prize of 50,000 euros (about $67,000), which HiiL uses to promote the spread of the winning innovation worldwide.  Voting runs from Oct. 7 to 18. To vote, click here(JAABLOG will post a reminder when voting starts on the 7th … )

Since it was launched in June 1997, Broward’s Mental Health Court has provided a compassionate, alternative form of justice to an estimated 16,000 people with mental illness who had been arrested. Before the court’s inception, mentally ill defendants routinely spent months in jail for minor crimes such as loitering or disorderly conduct, rather than getting treatment they needed, according to Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, a co-founder of the program.

Broward’s court was the first in the nation focused solely on crimes caused by mental health, and it tackled a highly complex national problem. For the past 16 years, this specialized therapeutic court has swiftly identified individuals with serious mental illness in need of appropriate mental health treatment and support and diverted them out of the jail system and into community-based treatment.   Research demonstrates that the approach is smart justice that saves tax money, reduces recidivism, and promotes public safety, while respecting the dignity and human rights of offenders.

The court has been widely emulated, by at least 250 cities across the country, and dozens more in the works. Congress embraced the concept as a national model, passing legislation in 2000 to expand diversionary criminal justice strategies. The HiiL Foundation recognized the  achievement, and nominated the program in the category of Successful Innovations.

The court was a bold innovation which emerged from desperation.  Our mental health system of care was in shambles, our jail was over-crowded, and a task force was formed to seek solutions,” said Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren, who has presided over the court since its first day.  “We had no money, but we had a courageous community with a shared vision to deliver justice. Broward’s influence has been profound across the country and internationally.”

For more information about the awards and nominees, and to cast an important vote, visit the foundation, or visit the Mental Health Court’s Facebook Page.

                                    WELL DONE!

60 Minutes: Untreated mental illness an imminent danger? (9/29/13)


Criminal lawyers have been busy panicking all week due to the impending October 1st deadline for criminal courts E-filing.  Training sessions have been held in the main courthouse for both judges and lawyers (there’s another one for attorneys about to start in the jury room as of the time of this post), and everyone has noticed the recently installed swanky new touch screen oversized monitors on each judge’s dais. 

Everyone can breath a sigh of relief though, as the October 1st deadline seems likely to be pushed back in Broward and other places as well.  Clerk of Courts Howard Forman helped to clear up some of the confusion just a few minutes ago, explaining that Clerks from Broward, Hillsborough, Lee and Miami-Dade Counties have requested an extension of the deadline from the Supreme Court, and hope for it to be granted by Administrative Order any day now.  And while it’s anyone’s guess as to what the Supremes may do, if the biggest counties need more time, it’s a safe bet they’ll get it.  The AO should post here shortly, so check it out.  In the meantime, everyone is still urged to register for E-Filing, while all the problems presented by criminal E-filing are ironed out …

State v. Cunningham UpdateGarrett Cunningham’s case has been assigned to Matt Destry’s division.  Johnny McCray for the Defense, and Katie Bogenschutz for the SAO.  Things may change, however, if any of the parties decide to ask to send this mess to an out of county judge or prosecuting authority …