Monday, May 25, 2009

New Book on Problem-Solving Justice

This week sees the release of another new book devoted to the subject of problem-solving courts. Edited by Paul Higgins and Mitchell Mackinem, Problem-Solving Courts: Justice for the 21st Century? (Praeger) is a collection of essays that detail both the pluses and the minuses of this new approach to jurisprudence. (Full disclosure: I wrote one of the chapters.) The book is another indicator that academia is beginning to take problem-solving justice seriously.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Upcoming Events

As we get closer to Memorial Day and the start of summer, it is worth mentioning that June promises to be a busy month for us. The week after next will be a particularly special one:

On June 2nd, in a lunchtime ceremony in the courtroom, the Midtown Community Court will honor the successful graduates of several of its programs, including Midtown's job training initiative for ex-offenders.

On June 3rd, the Staten Island Youth Court will hold an induction ceremony for its second class of participants.

And on June 4th, the Youth Justice Board will present their findings on how to enhance alternatives to detention to an audience of city and state policy makers at the law firm of Patterson Belknap.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Farewell to Maggie

Today we said goodbye to Maggie, who has been part of the administrative spine of the Center for a decade. With expertise in both finance and development, Maggie's influence was felt in every corner of the Center. In her time with us, the organization more than doubled in size and launched more than twenty new projects (and I'm sure that I'm forgetting some). Basically, Maggie helped us move from infancy to maturity as an agency, becoming more sophisticated and professional with each passing year. We owe her a great debt that I hope was at least partially repaid by this afternoon's memorable farewell party, which featured a truly remarkable and funny film made by Rob and Robyn in tribute to Maggie. I'd feel bad about Maggie leaving if I wasn't sure that a) she will stay in touch, and b) she will be an enormous success in the days ahead as she pursues a medical education.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Robin Hood Foundation

Last night I attended the Robin Hood Foundation's annual gala at the Javits Center (they have supported our work in Red Hook, Midtown and Harlem). According to the New York Times, in deference to these troubled times, Robin Hood has downshifted on the glitz and glamour of the event, which draws thousands of Wall Street types each year. Still, the event didn't lack for star power: the host was Jon Stewart and Aretha Franklin and Black Eyed Peas provided musical entertainment. I'm not generally a huge fan of these kinds of events, but you've got to hand it to Robin Hood: not only did they pull off an enormous and complicated event without any discernible hitch, but they also raised a truly staggering amount of money (a reported $72 million, including a challenge grant from George Soros) to support efforts to fight poverty.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Legal Accents, Legal Borrowing

I just received a review copy of James Nolan's "Legal Accents, Legal Borrowing: The International Problem-Solving Court Movement." Over the years, Nolan has been a (mostly) critical observer of our work, so I don't expect this new book to read like a mash note to the Center for Court Innovation. Still, based on a quick skim of the contents, I think the book tells an interesting, and mostly under-reported, story: the growing interest overseas in adapting problem-solving pilots from the U.S. and some of the challenges that inevitably come up in the translation process.

Odds and Ends

Last month was an intense one in terms of fundraising. Like many folks in the world of criminal justice, the focus of our efforts was figuring out how to respond to the federal stimulus RFP. It is a credit to Jill, Maggie and the rest of the development team that the whole process went as smoothly as it did.

While we wait to see whether any of our proposals were successful, the Center is buzzing with activity. Just a handful of examples:

We've had a breakthrough with the Staten Island youth court -- thanks to Raye's hard work, it appears that we've finally reached consensus with the Richmond County DA's Office and the local defense bar on diverting selected misdemeanor cases from adult criminal court to youth court.

The Red Hook youth baseball league, sponsored by the Red Hook Community Justice Center, is in full swing and headed for the playoffs. Those interested in checking it out might circle June 6th on their calendars: it is also the date of the annual waterfront festival.

Val and Mike are actively working with administrators at the Office of Court Administration to figure out how the courts should respond to the Rockefeller drug law reforms recently passed in Albany.

The Midtown Community Court is busy preparing a graduation ceremony in early June for individuals who have come through the court's various programs, including drug treatment and the fatherhood initiative.

The Youth Justice Board is just a few weeks away from releasing its report on how to promote alternatives to juvenile detention. I've read an early draft and must say that it is an impressive piece of work.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sad, Sad, Sad

Yesterday, the field of judicial innovation lost one of its leading lights. Judge Hugh Stansfield, chief judge of British Columbia in Canada passed away after a long battle with cancer. I didn't know Hugh well, but what I did know impressed me greatly. He visited New York several times as part of his efforts to bring a community court to Vancouver. In my conversations with him, Hugh was serious and thoughtful about his work but quick to laugh at the absurdities of life. He was possessed of enormous energy, charm and charisma. So much so, that I sought him out a few months ago and asked him to appear at an event that we helped organize at the New York Times on the future of community justice. Although he eagerly agreed to participate, Hugh had to cancel at the last minute when his health took a turn for the worse. It was the last I heard from him. He will be missed.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Springsteen Covers the Clash

This is something that would have flipped my wig had it happened when I was a teenager -- Springsteen covering "London Calling" at a recent concert. Unfortunately, it ends up a little like the Nike/Spider-man combination -- better in concept than execution. Still worth a listen if you have any interest in either artist.