Monthly Archives: June 2016

‘An Open and Inviting Court’: Judge Joe Perez of the Orange County Community Court Talks Procedural Justice

Joe Perez, the presiding judge of the Orange
County Community Court
, discusses how the principles of procedural
 inform both design and process in his courthouse. Perez is a lifelong resident
of Orange County whose father was the first Spanish-speaking attorney and judge in the county. The interview with
Robert V. Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation, took place while Judge Perez was in
Chicago to speak at Community Justice 2016. Wolf interviewed Judge Perez’s predecessor and the
founding judge of the Orange County Community Court, Wendy
, in 2008.

        Joe Perez speaks during a panel on race and legitimacy at Community Justice 2016.Judge
Joe Perez speaks during a panel on race and legitimacy at Community Justice 2016.

The following is a transcript.

JUDGE JOSEPH PEREZ:    The words, “I’m proud of you,” go so far
with this population because no on in the criminal justice system has ever said that.

ROB WOLF:        
I’m Rob Wolf, director of communications at Center for Court Innovation here in Chicago at Community Justice
2016 where people from all around the country and even around the world have come to learn and discuss justice reform,
new strategies, new ideas, new programs, and research. Lots
of topics have been discussed and are being discussed during this two and a half day conference. With me right now
is someone who presented and also practices community justice, Judge Joseph Perez, who is the presiding judge of
the Orange County Community Court. He has presided there for the last two years, but he’s in fact been a judge
for the last nine years.
 Today we were
going to talk a little bit about procedural justice. PEREZ, could you tell me a little bit about what procedural
justice looks like at the Orange Country Community Court?

PEREZ:  Well,
to start with, we’re unique in that we are a standalone court in the middle of Santa Ana where what we’ve
tried to do is have a one-stop shop where people who don’t even have to be charged with crimes can come in to
get services. Who do we have there? We have the Healthcare Agency of Orange County, which can provide healthcare
services.  Once a month during our homeless courts,
we bring in a nurse practitioner with a line of nurses to assess and treat the homeless. We have Social Services
Agency of Orange County there which also provides assistance. Food stamps, cash aid if they qualify to assist them
in that regard. We also have vocational rehab from the state to assist people in getting jobs.
  We have the Veteran’s Administration there and they are
there because unfortunately in my county, Orange County, California we have a large population of homeless that’s
in fact there was a study that was recently done that specifically targeted Orange County, which is a fairly high
socio-economic status county, and it came out and it said virtually every veteran that is discharged into the county
of Orange would have been homeless by for family or friends.
an extraordinary issue. We have Veteran’s Administration Office there. We also have legal aid that comes in
several times a week that can assist people with civil legal actions. We have a place where people can bring their
children to be watched while they go into court or seek out these services.
 All of those kids get to go home with a book. This is an extraordinary opening and inviting
court. We have a sandwich board outside that says, “Visitors are welcome. This is not just for people that are
charged with crimes.”

WOLF:   That’s a key tenet of procedural
justice that you are open and welcoming, and I suppose transparent about the services you offer, and make it easy
for people to come and go. I suppose it’s not a confusing place as someone comes in and they aren’t there
particularly for a court purpose, but they want assistance in one of the areas you’ve just described. That’s
easily accessible.

PEREZ:  Yeah. The whole environment of our collaborative court is
to defuse and deescalate the intensity of the criminal justice system, frankly. We have pews in my courtroom instead
of seats. I can’t take credit for it. My predecessor, Judge Lindy Linley, she built that place from the ground
up.  You walk into our court, we get people from all
over the United States, all over the world, come into our court and say, “Wow, this is an extraordinary place.”
This is not like you would think of a courtroom. It’s an inviting place. It looks like a church for crying out
loud with really nice chandeliers.
a beautiful place. With an open area, we don’t have bars that separate our inmates. We have a glass panel and
the reason why she did it, it’s brilliant. So they can see out. They feel a little bit close and connected to
those that are not in custody and they can also see visually and hear auditorily what these folks are doing to stay
out of trouble.

WOLF:   This is in the courtrooms?

This is in the courtroom.

WOLF:   That is in the courtroom where they have access
or they can hear everything that’s going on.

PEREZ:  Yeah, and they can see everything
that’s going on. We don’t try to separate them like many do. We want them to be able to see and hear what
we’re doing for those that are in custody because it’s a learning experience. A lot of what we do in our
court is teach and provide the services necessary to keep them from coming back. Procedural justice, in my opinion, making people feel comfortable, and making them feel like they’re
heard. When a judge cares and they see it, and they feel it, and I do care very much, and my caring is to keep them
from ever coming back. To stay out of the system, to provide them whatever services are necessary that we can provide
and keep them from coming back.
celebrating with them as they move theirselves along. The fact that you care and if they see that, it’s an extraordinary
thing because all of a sudden, they want to be able to tell you, and impress you, and say, “Look, I’m doing
this, judge. Take a look at what I’m doing.” The words, “I’m proud of you,” go so far with
this population because no one in the criminal justice system has ever said that when you think about it.

WOLF:   In fact, it’s probably a lot of judges or it’s in the traditional mode
the way people thing of judges, they don’t think of a judge saying to a defendant, “I’m proud of you.”
It’s not like that’s something you do naturally. It also has been substantiated by research that one of
the components of procedural justice is in fact the relationship between the judge and the defendant. It’s allowing them to have the voice, the understanding of the procedures, a sense
that they’re being treated fairly. In fact, speaking that way to a defendant embodies those principles that
research has shown have had positive results/impacts on defendant compliance and acceptance of sentences, and long-term

PEREZ:  It has to be sincere. The interesting thing, and this is
mentioned this week, that the personality of the judge is pervasive throughout the court. The staff, the bailiffs,
everybody in my courthouse really comes back to you. I’m a second generation judge. My father, he was the first Spanish-speaking attorney in Orange County and then from there, he became
the first Spanish-speaking judge. I remember being a toddler running around my father’s court and there was
this sense of peace. I don’t know how to explain it, but it started with my dad. He was a very generous, kind,
caring judge, and it had a heck of an impact on me.
I remember lawyers coming in and saying, “That’s your father?” “Yes.” “Let me just
tell you something. We love coming to this court because we are all treated so fairly. Everyone’s listened to.”
There is not a person that walked into that court that wasn’t treated with respect. I don’t care whatever
you were charged with and that’s the way it should be.

That’s remarkable. It’s interesting because you talked about somebody being handcuffed, but being treated
nicely. Procedural justice doesn’t mean that the court is in any way abdicating security. There’s metal
detectors and there’s accountability. None of those things are being abdicated when when you do engage in procedural

PEREZ:  Not at all. It’s how you do it as far as I’m concerned. You
make reasonable boundaries. Everything we do in our court, and I say this to defendants all the time, “Everything
we do is geared for one reason and that’s to graduate you and see that you never come back.” Look around. I have them look around and I say, “Look at everyone here
including the prosecutor. All of us want you to succeed.” Have you ever heard that in any other courtroom? The
answer is no. The prosecutor wants to send you away and there’s this adversarial environment where people are
arguing. Our is not that way at all. Quite the opposite.
up these courts is another issue and I’ve talked about it. There is a lot of abrasiveness in setting these courts
up. I’ve mentioned previously that my predecessor, she was told, “You continue on this path, someone challenges
you on election, we may not support you,” and she said, “I’m doing it.” I’ve had people
call me the Clappy Court. Perez’s Court is the Clappy Court.

Because you applaud?

PEREZ:  Yeah, exactly. Social worker with a robe I mentioned.

WOLF:   A hundred times.

PEREZ:  I’ve had probation officers
say, “So you’re going to hug a thug?” The interesting thing is those folks that make those statements
have never been a collaborative court and they certainly have never been in mine. There has not been one person that
has walked into my court and has seen what we do and walked out and said, “This is a waste of money or time.” In fact, we’re saving money. Since 1995, we got a yearly report that
goes out talking about our statistics. Since 1995, when the court began, the number is somewhere around 110 million
dollars that we have saved in costs for jail. When I go in front of the legislature, I go in front of those that
want to shut us down, it’s not necessarily legislature, but when I try to speak about what we do, all I do is
I say, “We’re saving lives and money.”

WOLF:   Very

PEREZ:  Does anybody have a problem with it? Seriously, we have the data to
back it up. These people are not coming back. Some do of course, but the recidivism rate has basically been turned
upside down. I’ve told the legislature that, “I wish you guys had a camera in our court to see what we
do. After you watch and you see what we’re doing here and you have a problem with it, then talk to me, but don’t
throw stones from outside without knowing what we do.”

WOLF:   I just want
to ask you one more thing and it’s something that you mentioned when you participated in the panel yesterday
on race, legitimacy, and community justice. You said something to the effect that it was, “Important for a judge
to look like the people in the community the courthouse is serving.” I wonder if you could just say a little
bit more about that. Explain why you think that.

PEREZ:  Well, I think what they need
to do is understand the community that they’re in and if possible, come from that community. Like I said, my
father grew up blocks from where we were. It’s heavily Hispanic and you can see when people come in, they see
the last name of Perez and they think, “Oh, this is someone that may understand what I’ve gone through.”

WOLF:   Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me and sharing with me
some of the work you’ve been doing at the Orange Country Community Court.

It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.

WOLF:   I’ve been talking to Judge
Joseph Perez of the Orange County Community Court, and we are both here at Community Justice 2016 in Chicago. If
you want to find out more about what happened at the conference on The Center for Court Information website at
and you can listen to more podcasts, including one I did a few years ago with Jude Linley, who founded the court.
Thank you very much for listening.

Jails as Psychiatric Facilities: Addressing Mental Illness in the Justice System with Judge Steve Leifman

Judge Steve Leifman, associate administrative judge of the Miami-Dade County Court Criminal Division and presiding
judge of its Criminal
Mental Health Project
, has worked at the intersection of mental health and the criminal justice system
in Miami-Date County for decades. In this podcast, he
outlines the challenges of addressing the high occurence of mental illness in Miami’s courts and prisons, the
fraught history of incarcerating those with mental health needs, and ways in which the justice system can change
its response to those living with mental illness.

Hello and welcome to the New Thinking podcast. This is Avni Majithia- Sejpal from the Center for Court Innovations.
Today, I’m joined by Judge Steve Leifman who is the Associate Administrative Judge at the Miami-Dade County
court in Florida and the presiding judge of Miami’s Criminal Mental Health Project. Welcome to our podcast,
Judge Leifman.

JUDGE STEVE LEIFMAN: Thank you very much.

wanted to start by talking about Miami. The statistics say that Miami has a very large population of people dealing
with mental illness, almost 10%, which is more than any other urban community in the U.S. You have said that the
county jail serves as the largest psychiatric facility in the state of Florida. Why do you say that?

Miami-Dade County has a very high prevalence of mental illness, as you’ve stated, with any urban area in the
United States. That really comes from a couple factors. One, we start with our own norm of mental illness such as
probably 3 to 5%. Then we pick-up a couple percent from our weather. A lot of times family members or people with
mental illnesses, they don’t want to be in Chicago or New York during the cold winters and so they end up coming
out to south Florida to escape the bad weather.

Then also during the Mariel Boatlift in the ’80s,
Castro literally emptied all the psychiatric facilities onto the boats, so the people that were actually fleeing
for political freedom from Cuba. Between the other factors and our own norm, it’s a very, very high prevalence.
Unfortunately, Florida also is very poor in its funding of mental health issues depending on the data anywhere from
48 to 50th per capita in mental health funding.

Only about 1% of the people in the county who
actually need services get access to the services that they need and so there’s a large unmet need. Many people,
unfortunately, will end up in the acute systems of care which sometimes means the Dade County jail.

When we say mental illness, what are we talking about?

LEIFMAN: We are not talking about sociopaths.
We are talking about people that have been diagnosed with an organic brain illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar
disorder, or major depression.

MAJITHIA-SEJPAL: Then I wanted to ask you about the 11th Judicial
Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project which you helped to establish in the year 2000. What’s the history behind
it, why was it created, and what does it do?

LEIFMAN: It actually started as a result of a case
that I had in 2000 where I had a defendant who turned out to be a Harvard educated psychiatrist who had an onset
of schizophrenia and had become homeless, and was recycling through the criminal justice system. It was really pretty
traumatic for all of us involved in the case. He had a full blown psychotic episode in my courtroom and it was an
eye-opener into how inadequate our community mental health system was as well as the court’s response for people
with mental illnesses.

If you had a serious mental illness and you were arrested on a low-level
misdemeanor charge, the court on the vast majority of cases, we were just releasing people back to the street telling
them to go see a psychiatrist for competency restoration. We are putting people who are very ill back out on the
street without any access to treatment and so I was able to bring together a meeting of all the traditional and non-traditional
stakeholders. We literally mapped out how our criminal justice system intersected with our community mental health
system and frankly it didn’t.

I think once we had mapped it out and realized how poor of
a response we had, we had an obligation and a responsibility to make some significant change. It was for everybody’s
sake to improve public safety, to spend our tax dollars more efficiently, and equally important to help people who
have illnesses have access to recovery.

We decided we needed a two-part approach. We needed to
stem the flow of people coming into the system that were coming in unnecessarily and we also needed to have an approach
where people that did penetrate the criminal justice system so that we could get them out if it was an appropriate
thing to do. We created a very expansive, what’s called, Crisis Intervention Team Police Program.

Over the years, we have actually trained over 4700 police officers including every single agency in Miami-Dade
County and it has made a startling difference. Between 2010 and 2015, we handled 48,669 mental health calls and only
made 109 arrests. It had a significant impact on the reduction of our jail. It actually helped us close one of our

We also realized that we also needed to set-up post arrest diversion program. We initially
set-up a misdemeanor diversion program whereby any individual with a serious mental illness who’s arrested for
a misdemeanor, if they meet criteria for involuntary hospitalization, generally within 3 days, we have them diverted
from our jail into one of our community crisis stabilization units.

We reset the case for a couple
weeks. During that period, A, we allow them to become more stable, but at the same time my team is working on lining
up their benefits, finding them housing, getting all these supports in place that people need for recovery and it’s
been phenomenally successful. Our recidivism rate dropped from over 70% to about 20% today. Our state attorney allowed
us to expand it to our non-violent felony cases.

We put into play about five years ago, a felony
diversion program and that program has a recidivism rate of only about 6% for those that complete the program which
is about 70%. The program alone has saved the county between 35 and 40 years of jail bed days. When we set-up the
third program, that diverts people from competency restoration hospitals and keeps them in a local facility. Instead
of just [inaudible] on the restoring competency, we actually focus on reintegrating them back into the community.

MAJITHIA-SEJPAL: Would you say that deincarceration is the way forward?

LEIFMAN: I think
jail should be the last resort for people with mental illnesses. It shouldn’t be the first entry point for people
with mental illness, which it has become. Our jails have become the de facto mental health facilities all around
the country and it’s really not fair. Most of these individuals have serious trauma issues and arrest often
re-traumatizes them.

Their lives are generally so fragile to begin with that even a day in jail
can help further the stigma against them, sever ties from employment, from housing, from family, and make it even
that much more difficult for them to reintegrate. Now there are some people that do commit crimes that are offensive
enough or dangerous enough that need to be in bars, so the program really is about identifying the people that don’t
need to be in jail and making sure that we get them out.

One of the things that we do now is we
use a risk assessment tool. We evaluate everybody that comes to our program and line-up the right services for each
individual. The key is to really understanding what the individual needs, doing our best to line-up the right services
for that particular individual, and then help reintegrate, reassociate them back into the community. If you do that
with all the supports and services that they need, this population can do very well.

In fact,
what most people don’t understand is that, number one is, people with mental illnesses are no more dangerous
than the general population and on medication they’re actually have a much lower propensity for any violent
crimes than people without mental illness. Sadly, they’re much more likely to be victims of violent crimes than

The other thing I don’t think people understand is that most people with mental
illnesses have much better recovery rates than actually people with diabetes and heart disease. The key to these
illnesses just like most illnesses is identifying them early and treating people early. I think the problem arises
when we ignore the problem and we see people who have been sick for many years, and have had many psychotic episodes.

What we’re trying to do in our community as well is working with our school system now to educate all
of our teachers so that they can do a better job identifying kids that are showing signs and symptoms of mental illness
so that we don’t wait for them to grow-up in our system to try to get them access to treatment at a much earlier
stage. We look at this as not as a court problem or a court solution, but really a community problem that requires
a community solution.

It really requires a community to come together and to make the structural
changes that are necessary that help access treatment for people.

courtroom, how do you balance responding to the treatment needs of defendants with the need for public safety?

LEIFMAN: If somebody commits a violent offense, now that is not someone that’s probably a good candidate
for our program. The people that we accept in our program are, A, generally charged with committing low-level non-violent
offenses nor do they have histories of committing violent offenses. There are very good risk assessment tools on
whether or not that they’re going to commit further crimes in the future and so we do use those.

may sound counterintuitive, but the people that are scoring moderate to high risk are the ones that we want in the
program because those are the ones you want to wrap your arms around, get them the right services, follow them more
closely and monitor them so that they’re not picking up new offenses. The people with low-risk don’t need
that kind of court supervision. They’re going to be absolutely fine back in the community and the chances of
them reoffending are very, very, very low.

I think as communities look to set-up these programs,
the key is to take the moderate and higher risk people who are going to get out of jail anyway, and make sure that
we’re appropriately monitoring them, and helping them change their ways, getting them housing, getting them
case management, getting them peer specialists so that we know that they are going to stay out of trouble and stop
committing offenses.

By doing that, you get better outcomes, you spend your dollars more wisely,
and you have a bigger, better impact on improving our public safety.

experience in dealing with mental illness in the justice system over the decades, have you seen a change in the justice
system response to mental illness?


LEIFMAN: That’s a great
question. Yes. There have been [inaudible] in how the courts are beginning to approach and deal with people with
mental illnesses. There’s a lot of initiatives that are going on and particularly since prevalence is just so
high in the criminal justice system.

We started several years ago, an organization called the
Judge’s Leadership Initiative and we created a parallel group called the Psychiatric Leadership Group. We now
go around the country training judges on how to identify people with mental illnesses, how to respond better in court,
and how the judge can be the community facilitator to bring people together to make the structural changes that are
necessary to have a better improved response.

There’s a national movement going on right
now. We’ve begun this initiative called Stepping Up. More than 250 counties in the United States representing
more than a third of the American population have passed these resolutions agreeing to step up to reduce the over
representation of people with mental illnesses.

The jails are now spending almost $70 billion
a year to partially deal with this problem and it’s enormously expensive. It cuts into infrastructure projects,
it affects our tax base, and it’s such an unnecessary waste of money because we don’t get good outcomes
from what we do today.

MAJITHIA-SEJPAL: I also wanted to talk to you about a very interesting
book called Crazy by the reporter, Pete Early, which was personal, but also investigative look at mental illness
in the justice system. He got access to the Miami-Dade County Jail for research. Were you involved in that decision?
Was it an easy decision to give him access or were there reservations about it?

I felt that it was incredibly important for someone to tell the story. While the focus was on the Miami-Dade County
Jail and some of the horrors that went on there, we could have been any jail in the United States. He did a brilliant
job documenting what goes on and I think it really was illuminating for a lot of people in the country, and helped
us take a critical look at our own system. We’ve been able to almost use his book as a blueprint on how to improve
our system.

The difference between today and when he wrote that book are night and day. We closed
down the horrible 9th floor that he highlights in his book. We opened up 2 jail floors that are just for people with
mental illnesses. Instead of sticking our heads in the dirt and resisting what was going wrong, we fixed it.

MAJITHIA-SEJPAL: Would you say that opening up the jail to scrutiny from a reporter has actually benefited

LEIFMAN: There is no doubt. It wasn’t just Pete. We also opened it up to our local
CBS affiliate. Inevitably the Justice Department came in and took a hard look at our jail, and all those things helped.
Since that day, we have special training for our corrections officers. There has been a significant reduction in
violence on those floors since we’ve made those changes and we’re getting people out of the system, and
not keeping them so long, so it’s less of a burden on the justice system and the jail system to begin with.

MAJITHIA-SEJPAL: I wanted to ask you about the state of mental illness in the justice system today, what
you think the challenges are, and what the future can perhaps look like.

LEIFMAN: I think we’re
turning a corner. We have a long way to go, but we have finally acknowledged and recognized that we have a problem.
It’s also interestingly pleasantly enough one of the only non-partisan issues that we have seen in my legislature
as well as in congress. Part of the problem that we have today is, aside from inadequate community resources to handle
some of these and the capacity to handle some of these problems, all of the laws regarding both treatment and financing
for mental health were really written 40 and 50 years ago.

These laws were all written at a time
when most people with serious mental illnesses were still in state hospital. It really requires a modernization of
the laws so that they better reflect the science, research, and medicine of psychiatry and mental health. As we begin
to do that, I think we’ll start to see this great change.

MAJITHIA-SEJPAL: On that note,
I think we will conclude this podcast. Thank you so much for your time, Judge Leifman.

Sure. Thank you for doing this.

MAJITHIA-SEJPAL: I’m Avni Majithia-Sejpal and you’ve
been listening to the New Thinking podcast. To hear more of our podcast, visit our website at
Thanks so much for listening.


‘My Partner, My Enemy’: New York State Judge John Leventhal

Judge John Leventhal is the author
of “
Partner, My Enemy
,” a book chronicling his experiences presiding over the Brooklyn
Domestic Violence Court
, the first felony domestic violence court in the nation.
In this
New Thinking podcast, Judge Leventhal discusses memorable
cases from his tenure, the domestic violence court model, and why he felt it was important to write a book about
domestic violence. Judge Leventhal presided over the Brooklyn Domestic Violence Court from its opening in June 1996
until 2008. Since 2008, he has served as an associate justice of the New York State Supreme Court in the second department
of the appellate division.

RAPHAEL POPE-SUSSMAN: Hi, this is Raphael Pope-Sussman
of the Center for Court Innovation. In today’s podcast, we’re joined by New York judge, John Leventhal
of the Second Judicial Department, Appellate Division in Brooklyn. From 1996 to 2008, Judge Leventhal presided over
the nation’s first Felony Domestic Violence court, based in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court. He has chronicled
this experience in a new book, My Partner, My Enemy, from Rowman and Littlefield. My Partner, My Enemy presents vignettes
of some memorable cases Leventhal heard in Domestic Violence court, as well as Leventhal’s reflections on how
the justice system can best serve victims of domestic violence. Judge Leventhal, thank you for speaking with me today
and welcome.

JUDGE JOHN LEVENTHAL: Thank you. It’s my pleasure to participate in this podcast
on a very important subject.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Why did you write this book?

LEVENTHAL: Well, I was taken by all of the cases that I had and there were some that stuck out to me as very, very
unusual, which was emblematic of the types of cases that judges and people experience in their lives. I thought that
it would be helpful, not only to talk about the cases, but to bring it to dramatic attention, but also to make suggestions
as to how to better protect the victims, the scope of the problem, how the problem has somewhat abated since the
court was established in 1995, and also why we should have specialized courts to deal with domestic violence issues.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Can you describe to our audience, some of whom may not be familiar with the concept of a domestic
violence court, how that court operates?

JUDGE LEVENTHAL: We started out as a pilot project in
the aftermath of a very celebrated domestic violence case, the Galina Komar case and, after that, this was really
the project of former Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye, who was really the innovator and mother of all problem-solving
courts in New York and the Center for Court Innovation who came up with all these good ideas and protocols for problem-solving

What we learned at the very beginning is that people continually come back in domestic
violence situations and we were trying to pretty much break the mold and we started the domestic violence court as
a pilot project. It eventually became a model court where the justice department was sending judges and administrators
from all over the country to come watch our court and, eventually the state department was sending judges, administrators
and lawyers from all over the world to watch the court.

POPE-SUSSMAN: What happens in domestic
violence court?

JUDGE LEVENTHAL: Well, one judge handles the case from the arraignment, on the
indictment, to motions, to pleas, to either trial and sentencing. What happened was that, one of the things that
I learned when I visited Quincy, Massachusetts when I first started, in Quincy, misdemeanors are punishable up to
2-1/2 years for a misdemeanor and the judge had great power over them. What I was struck by that there was a great
violation of probation calendar.

What I sought to do was to reduce the violation of probation
calendar. I would bring my probationers back. Those who were lucky to get six months in jail plus five years’
probation and they didn’t get state prison time, I would bring them back every two or three months for a year,
year and a half, and what we discovered is that the violation rate was less than half of the general probation population,
which is remarkable when these people were so intimately involved and knew one another.

What had
happened was, that even those who I sentenced to state jail time, when they came out of jail, parole saw the success
that we were accomplishing with probation and they asked me to bring the parolees back when they were released from
jail within one month, so that I would read them the Order of Protection, the conditions of parole, and reinforce
that the judge is still watching them. That’s why this was such a successful court because the judge was involved.
There was intensive judicial monitoring and the defendants were always reminded that the judge is watching them.

POPE-SUSSMAN: You’ve taken a very unique approach in this book with each chapter, a vignette, based
around a character or two characters. How did you select these stories out of all the cases that came before you?

JUDGE LEVENTHAL: When I decided to write the book, I went back to my notes. I didn’t actually ask for
the transcripts of the pleas or the trials or the hearings, but I went back to my notes on the number of cases and
I picked the cases that were emblematic of the types of situations, attorneys, prosecutors, and judges would see.
I picked two cases on same-sex violence and each case had another aspect of domestic violence in it. Of course, there
was heterosexual violence as well, the prototypical domestic violence situation. I tried to pick out cases which
would add to the dialogue, which would add to the discussion, and to bring more awareness to the problem.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Why did you select this approach?

JUDGE LEVENTHAL: Because I thought that,
after OJ Simpson, after Galina Komar, and even after Ray Rice and these celebrated cases, they go back into the background
and I didn’t want domestic violence to be the flavor of the month, the fad of the day, and I didn’t want
it to disappear. I figured if I wrote this book, that it would be out there, people would read it and realize that,
number one, this problem existed before OJ Simpson. This problem continues to exist and this is a problem that started
out and was only brought to the attention, first by the Women’s Movement and then it went from a private matter
to a women’s issue to a societal issue and that we should keep it in the forefront and remember it and it shouldn’t
be forgotten just because it’s not a celebrated or a case that gathers the public attention.

I think there’s so many heart-wrenching stories in the book. I was particularly affected by the story of someone
you called Deadly Dave. I know these are pseudonyms but, who was Deadly Dave?

He was a fellow who was actually the head of a domestic violence accountability group, or Batterer’s Intervention
Program, who would actually be in charge of the men and he would come in every week and report to the court, but
the thing which was so interesting about Dave is that he would tell me that, “Oh, these knuckleheads don’t
get it.” If anyone could talk the talk it was Dave and I thought if anyone could walk the walk, it was Dave.

Then the program really wasn’t doing well, so I stopped dealing with that program about a year or two
before but then, when I read on Christmastime two years following that he had killed his girlfriend and her boyfriend,
I was shocked that it was him. What made this more outrageous, they were looking for him, and that he went to a precinct
and told the police, “I’m the one you’re looking for,” and right in front of the police, he shot
himself in the head.

It was a real eye opener for me. It really reinforced that domestic violence
cuts across all strata of society. You can’t have any true assumption that someone is not going to be a batterer,
no matter who they are.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Domestic violence cases are so complicated and I think the
title of your book alludes to that. The perpetrator is also the partner of the victim. How can the justice system
protect victims of domestic violence?

JUDGE LEVENTHAL: The police are never in the home, but there
are certain aspects where we can do. For example, in England and in New Zealand, they have a procedure where you
can call the police and find out if your boyfriend has been convicted of a domestic violence crime. I think that
would really be a wonderful, wonderful thing. A suggestion that I made years ago, when I was starting out with this
through the police department has been effectuated, where they have digital cameras in the police cars, where they
can take pictures of the victim immediately, so when the woman says, “I wasn’t hit,” or, “It
wasn’t that bad,” and then you show the pictures at the arraignment, would be a big deal.

envision also improvements where the judge can have access to the emergency room records at the arraignment, whereby
we would know, number one, it would result in more pleas. Judges are in the position of convicting people but, if
you eliminate the cases that shouldn’t be dismissed, which are dismissed in domestic violence cases, then you
can concentrate and have trials on the cases that should be trialed. Also, you would have more discovery both for
the prosecution and for the defense at an earlier stage in the proceeding.

Other things that we
can do, we can have, every college campus should have an orientation about sexual violence and harassment. We should
have programs on teen dating violence in high schools. There are many things that we can do. Another thing that we
can do, we can make sure that shelters, which are needed, if a woman is to leave her abusive boyfriend or spouse,
we should make shelters more available to the women and not preclude women who have adolescent, teenage male children.
A lot of the shelters do not allow them into those shelters. The woman is then faced with the choice of either staying
with her abusive husband or giving up her teenage child, which you shouldn’t have to do.

Any final thoughts?

JUDGE LEVENTHAL: My final thought is that, anyone who thinks they know everything
about this problem is clearly mistaken. We’re not interested in just processing the cases. We’re interested
in protecting the complainant while the case is pending and even after it is over. We’re interested in forming
a partnership by all of the agencies, including the defense bar. We are interested in having a coordinated community
response so that everyone’s on board. The only way a judge can participate in this is if they get the defense
bar on board. Success for this court should be measured that any of the defendants who appear before a judge in the
domestic violence court should never commit another violent crime in the future. That’s how I judge the success,
which is pretty much unobtainable, but that’s the only way I can judge success.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.

JUDGE LEVENTHAL: It was – I always think
that dealing and speaking on domestic violence issues is really a duty. You’re very welcome.

This is Raphael Pope-Sussman of the Center for Court Innovation and I’ve been speaking with Judge John Leventhal
about his new book, My Partner, My Enemy, now available on Amazon. For more information about the Center for Court
Innovation, visit


10 Years of Community Justice in Melbourne, Australia: An Interview with Kerry Walker

In this New Thinking podcast, Kerry Walker, director of the Neighbourhood
Justice Centre
 in Melbourne, Australia, describes some of the ways the Justice Centre engages
the community, all with the long-term goal of promoting the rule of law and a “civil, caring society.” She reflects
on lessons learned as the Justice Centre approaches its 10th anniversary, including, “Never
act alone [but] only … in partnership.” The podcast concludes with a discussion of ways the Justice Centre is using
technology to promote safety and make the court more user-friendly.  The interview took place while Walker
was in Chicago to attend Community Justice 2016.

Kerry Walker
        of the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Melbourne, Australia, discusses best practices for community justice during
        a session at Community Justice 2016.Kerry Walker of the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Melbourne, Australia, discusses best practices
for community justice during a session at Community Justice 2016.


The following is a transcript

WALKER:   Allow for the unintended consequence, because it’s often stronger than your first program

ROB WOLF:  Hi, this is Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court
Innovation. I’m at Community Justice 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. It’s an international summit that’s
brought together over 400 people interested in court reform. With me right now is Kerry Walker, who is the director
of the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in the city of Yarra, which is part of the city of Melbourne, Australia. Hi Kerry.

WALKER:   Hello Robert.

WOLF:   I thought it would
be interesting to talk to you today about the Neighbourhood Justice Centre, because you are shortly going to celebrate
your tenth anniversary.

WALKER:  We are.


WALKER:  Thank you.

WOLF:   I thought
we could talk about the Justice Centre generally, and also focus in on community engagement, which is something that
is an important part of community courts and community justice centers, and something that I know you guys are particularly
good at doing. Why don’t we start with that. Let’s talk about community engagement. Maybe you can just
define the term for me, because I think for people unfamiliar with community courts, they might say, “Why is
a court of any kind engaging with the community? A court is supposed to remain apart from the community, above the
community.” Maybe you could explain to me what community engagement means.

Community engagement for us is premised on the principle that ordinary citizens have a right to understand the law.
They have a right to feel justice in their communities, and they have the right to be part of that relationship between
the law and themselves and their neighbours. I think it’s a new way of looking at the rule of law, and to say
that justice must play an active role in a community. If we are serious that what we want to do via courts and via
the rule of law, is to have a civil caring society where there is strong stewardship and tolerance and fairness,
then we must play a part in that.

WOLF:   Let’s talk a little bit about
that. You have neighbourhood in your name, and community justice, which is the approach you’re speaking of,
has the word community in it, so that means that there’s a very local element, you’re working in a particular
neighbourhood. How exactly do you let the community initiate things? How do you communicate or open that communication?

WALKER:  I can give you some examples of the type of activity we do. For instance, if there is
to be a local festival, we will ring and say, “We would love to be a part of that, and we would love to come
to the festival, but in order to come to the festival, we want to help either take the minutes or do the photocopying
or help put up the tents. We want to do something, we want to be really active. We don’t want to just turn up
on the day with our trestle table and our books and say, ‘Hi, aren’t we lovely and wonderful, come and
talk to us and we’ll tell you what we do.'” We, I think, show by example about putting our shoulder
to the wheel, and show that we are really serious in participating, and therefore getting to know people.

WOLF:   Where’s the intersection of justice? If you’re involved in a community
activity, how does that intersect with what you’re actually doing in the court?

We have quite a different legal system to the American system, and it is, in some ways, more monolithic and more
difficult to have that participatory interaction at the court phase. However, what we have done is the community
work part of what we do, is very carefully chosen.

WOLF:   What do you mean?
Community work can mean like a restitution project, which a defendant might be sentenced to as part of their sentence?

WALKER:    Yes.

WOLF:   I see. Does the
community help you identify areas where crime and safety issues, where the court can focus on certain safety issues,
whether it’s street corners or types of offending that the community’s concerned about?

Yes. We are part of a number of local safety committees that we have been invited to be members of that. Again, we
wait to be invited. We don’t say, “We’re the Justice Center, we should be a part of this.” What
we say is, “If there is ever an opportunity where you think we could be helpful, we would love to take that
up.” Invariably we do get invited. We also are invited to a number of resident-led types of meetings and committees.
We always have the voice of the community. The other part is that there are lots of groups in the community who use
our building to meet. We’ll ask, at times, that they would like one of us to come and talk to them about a particular
issue, or might just grab us as we’re there. It’s both informal and formal, but we try to embed ourselves
in what is resident-led.

We’re always also trying to leverage off the talents and the strengths
of the community. We’ve just been involved in this big project of street art, and it’s really an anti-graffiti
project. They wanted some money from us, and I said, “Yeah, I’m happy to do that, because I think it’s
really worthwhile and I can see that it’s a crime-prevention activity.” I said, “But, you are really
popular with young people, so what I want is for you to mentor and teach some young people how to do some stencil
art, but on our back wall so that they will come into the center and that they will have a confidence about what
it means.”

WOLF:   I see, and the young people aren’t necessarily
involved in the justice system.


They’re just young people from the community.

WALKER:  Yeah.

I suppose the impact that you’ve had on community perceptions or attitudes towards the justice system, is that
something … That would be hard to measure. Do you have, apart from anecdotally, a sense of how you perhaps, over
the last ten years, have, through your engagement, affected community attitudes towards the justice system?

WALKER:  Well, what we know is that the police tell us that their relationship with the community
has improved, they say, a thousandfold, because of their relationship with us. People trust them much more because
of us. We know that the Aboriginal community feels much safer with justice than they have felt before we came, because
they tell us that, and we know that when we first came, very rarely would an Aboriginal person turn up for their
court case. We have done a lot of work over the years about encouraging that confidence, and now we have a turn up
rate between 85 and 95%. But we have done things like have a specific day for Aboriginal people where we put on a
kangaroo barbecue, and we invite their families and their support as well as local agencies. It becomes much more
than just, “Oh yes, you’re here to be processed.” It is actually a way of saying, “No, no. This
building, this place, is a part of the community, and you are always welcome here.”

Tell me, in January you’re going to turn ten, the Neighbourhood Justice Center’s going to turn ten. Do
you have any lessons you can share for people who are interested in community justice, in community courts, and just
interested in building better relationships between the justice system and their communities?

I think some of the lessons we’ve learned … One of the big lessons we’ve learned was that we got it right
when we said, “We will never act alone, we will only ever act in partnership.” That, I think, has worked,
in that it’s stopped us getting too cocky and it means if I think I’ve got a good idea, then I actually
have to go outside and find someone else who thinks it’s a good idea, or it’s not going to happen. I have
hung onto what I think are good ideas, sometimes for years, until I can find someone who will say yes.

WOLF:   Someone in the community per se? Or could be another agency?

In the community or it could be another agency. But for instance, I have been attending a community meeting now for
ten years, and at that meeting, I, maybe every third or fourth meeting, I talk about the Baltimore Community Conferencing
Center. “Wouldn’t it be great if we did something like that?” And everyone just says, “Moving
along now. It’s a next agenda item.”

WOLF:   That’s where you
bring together various members of a community where there’s perhaps been some kind of dispute or a difference
to problem-solve together, collectively?

WALKER:   That’s right. Two years
ago, again, I raised it, so this is me having done this for nearly eight years, and someone said, “I saw it
on the television, I saw it about those kids. Yeah. And a local chef came down and he baked a big cake for them and
it was just great, and now they’ve got a football tent. We should do that.” I thought, “I don’t
believe this. For eight years I’ve tried to explain this, but it meant … All I had to do was just wait for
it to come on the television.”

WOLF:   It’s not real until it’s
on TV.

WALKER:  That’s right. Now what we’re doing is opening up a portal that
will be based on the practice of the Baltimore Community Conference Center, which I’m going to visit during
this trip.

WOLF:   Fantastic, wow. Any other lessons?

The other is I think about … Allow for the unintended consequence, because it’s often stronger than your first
program idea. What we have found is that often when we’ve had an idea and we’ve gone through with that,
the outcomes, in fact, are things we never expected them to be. They are very powerful, because they arise out of
the relationships that are made, rather than anything that we have actually tried to drive. I think the third is
about … Messy is okay. You can’t know every step that you’re going to take. That’s what innovation
is about. If you always know what the endgame is, well, it’s not true innovation.

You have been doing new things all the time, I’m always hearing about new ideas that you guys are up to with
technology, you’re doing some things.

WALKER:   One of the things we’re
doing and it’s in the area of family violence is we’re trying to give more confidence to the citizen. Family
violence is gendered, in the main, it’s women who apply for domestic violence orders. What tends to happen is
that women in crisis are treated much more as children. “No, let me help you do that and here’s … No
you’ll need to sit down with me to fill out the form.” They lose their agency essentially, and we thought,
“What would happen if we changed the 18 page form, took out all the legal things, put emotional intelligence
into the form, and put the risk factors in, and did it in a way that the women really felt they were able to tell
their story.” Didn’t have to come to court to do that, and sit with a stranger and perhaps cry through
it and be upset, but be able to sit with friends, or sit the library, or do it at work, wherever they felt safest.
By not having to come to court it means you don’t have to lie about where you’re going, you don’t
have to take a day off work, you don’t have to organize childcare. This you can fill it in over a month period,
so you can come in and out of it, and it’s got all sorts of safety features.

Doing it online that way?

WALKER:    Mm-hmm (affirmative). The revolution
about this is not so much the form, which people are really focused on, but it is about … What this will do is
it will help change culture in the mainstream courts, because what this does is say … When that automated application
comes through, the court then has to contact the applicant. They will know very quickly whether or not they’ve
responded well, because the applicant has the right to then say, “Uh-uh. I’m not coming to your court,
I want to go to somebody else’s court who’s going to treat me well.” It really is putting in accountability
onto courts that they’ve not seen before. The other digital project we’re working on is that when you go
to court, you’re told, “Get there at 9:00 in the morning,” and it could be at ten to four in the afternoon
that you find out your case is adjourned. It’s like going to the airport and there’s no arrival and departure

WOLF:   Interesting metaphor. Yeah. Wow.

What we’ve done is we’ve developed, it’s a co-design with a local company, where everyone who has
an involvement with a case will know what is going on, including the person who is going before the court. They will
be able to download an app on their phone that will show them, “Oh, yeah, my lawyer is now seeing the prosecutor.
Oh, I was supposed to go and do something. I better go and organize that. Everyone’s waiting on a report to
come from the psychiatrist. Okay, I’ll get that.” They’ll be able to see, in real time, on a commercial
grade board outside the court where their case is in the order for the day, so that they can make decisions about,
“Hmm, I might stay here, I might go away, I might ask the court to send me a text half an hour before my case
is going to come up.”

WOLF:   Wow.

There’ll be much more power for everyone in knowing what’s going on. We think that this will, again, give
a real confidence. What we’re doing is we’re building in the analytics so that over time we’re hoping
that we can help courts discover the granularity of time, and be able to better organize themselves. It’s the
last bastion of utter disorganization.

WOLF:   Clearly this is stuff you weren’t
thinking about ten years ago when you got started, so that’s just a sign of how you are continuing to evolve
and stay innovative and on the cutting edge. Thank you very much Kerry Walker for taking the time-

Thank you Robert.

WOLF:   Here at Community Justice 2016 to talk with me. Kerry
is the director of the Neighbourhood Justice Centre, in the city of Yarra, which is in the city of Melbourne, in
Australia. I am Rob Wolf, director of communications at the Center for Court Innovation. Thank you very much for