The Center for Court Innovation celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Midtown Community Court with speeches by New York State Chief Judge Jonathan
Lippman, Center for Court Innovation Director Greg Berman, and others.
V. WOLF: Hi, I’m Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation. Tonight I’m at
the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Midtown community Court. Over
250 people have turned out—judges, city and state officials, representatives of businesses, not-for-profit organizations,
and the community at large, to honor the nation’s first community court.
Founded in 1993, the
Midtown Community Court has been dedicated to developing innovative and effective responses to low-level crime. A
typical sentence at the Midtown Court seeks to both restore the community and also link an offender to services to
help them rebuild their lives and discourage them from reoffending. Errol Lewis, host of Inside City Hall and tonight’s
emcee, said the court would not be possible without public and private entities working together.
LEWIS: We don’t have a theme tonight, but if we did it would be public-private partnerships. Midtown is
the product of many different players from the public and the private sectors coming together to support justice
WOLF: Tonight’s honorees included New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman,
the Shubert Organization, which as Broadway’s largest theater owner, provided key early funding support to the court,
and Nicole Robinson, a client of the court, who has made huge strides in turning her life around. Greg Berman, director
of the Center for Court Innovation, introduced Judge Lippman.
GREG BERMAN: Now you probably
don’t need me to tell you what kind of public servant Judge Lippman is. All you have to do is pick up the New
York Times to figure that out. But suffice to say over the last couple years since he became the chief
judge, he’s taken on a dizzying array of issues that basically no other public leader had the courage to touch, everything
from civil legal services, to human trafficking, to bail reform.
WOLF: Lippman noted how the Midtown
Court serves not only Times Square and surrounding neighborhoods but the entire justice system by serving as a laboratory
to test new reforms. He explained how his recently announced initiative to start special courts for victims of sex
trafficking was initially tested at the Midtown Court.
JUDGE LIPPMAN: The Midtown Community Court
is serving as a crucial test case. Before launching our statewide initiative to really shut down this evil, this
form of modern day slavery, we chose to pilot a new approach to women arrested for prostitution at the Midtown Court.
We learned an enormous amount about how to identify victims, how to link them to services and help them get off the
streets. We are now adapting these lessons to sites around the state, so the victims of trafficking will not be victimized
again by the justice system or by our society.
WOLF: The final honoree of the evening
gave a human face to the policies being tested at the Midtown Court. The court’s director, Courtney Bryan, introduced
Nicole Robinson. First you’ll hear Bryan, and then Robinson.
COURTNEY BRYAN: She was
victimized and abused as a young child, abandoned by adults who should have cared for her. Nicole’s story is incredible.
Sadly, it is not the exception. There are countless victims of trafficking who are hidden in plain view. In our schools,
in our courts, in our neighborhoods. Thanks to her bravery and her hard work, and with the support of several individuals
and agencies here in this room tonight, Nicole’s future is bright. She has no criminal record and has legal immigration
status and her own apartment. She’s in a leadership program with GEMS, a wonderful organization that works with survivors
of commercial sexual exploitation. She’s studying for the GED and plans to go to college.
ROBINSON: When I came through Midtown three years ago, I finally was treated like a person, a whole person
– not as a number or as a criminal, or looked at as a victim, or as any other label. I really appreciated being treated
with respect and felt like my voice was finally being heard. I finally felt comfortable to trust and let people into
my life. And now three years later, those people are my family. If I could say one thing to you all tonight, it’s
to take time to get to know the person before judging them based on a label.
was just a sample of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Midtown Community Court, which took place October
21, 2013 in the Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan. To learn more about the court or the Center for Court Innovation,
please visit www.courtinnovation.org. Don’t forget that you can subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes and follow up
on Facebook and Twitter. I’m Rob Wolf of the Center for Court Innovation. Thanks for listening.