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PBB: Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association to focus on treating mental disease to prevent violence

Pro Bono Barrister

September 18, 2019 By Chuck Otey
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Justice Matt D’Emic will outline progress of Brooklyn Mental Health Court

While gun control remains a sensitive subject across the nation, there’s no letup in Brooklyn about an initiative geared to deal with the mental issues of felons before they potentially explode in violence and take the lives of the innocent. This effort will be highlighted by the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association on Sept. 23 and is titled “1,000 Graduates Later – A Report on the Brooklyn Mental Health Court.”

“At this CLE, we will learn how the court works, the types of serious mental illness that is required for admission to the court, and gain insight into charges, diagnoses and treatment plans,” a spokesperson said. “The Mental Health Court keeps criminally accused defendants, living with serious and persistent mental illness, out of prison and in treatment. Brooklyn was the site of the first such court in New York State, and is a model for courts around the country and around the world.”

Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association President Meryl Schwartz.
File photo by Rob Abruzzese

The lead presenter will be Justice Matthew J. D’Emic, presiding judge of the Brooklyn Mental Health Court. D’Emic has spent the last decade overseeing this vital system of justice, which has achieved “remarkable success within a relatively short time.”

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Other members of the panel will include Project/Clinical Director of the Brooklyn Mental Health Court Ruth O’Sullivan, LCSW; Brooklyn Defender Services Supervising Attorney Joyce Kendrick, Esq.; Assistant District Attorney David Kelly, Esq.; and , Rikers Island Chief Psychiatrist Lauren Stossel, M.D.

The program gets underway at 5:30 p.m. at Brooklyn Bar Association headquarters, 123 Remsen St., and will offer at no charge two CLE credits, pending approval. Those interested should RSVP to Jennifer Fiorentino at [email protected].

Justice Matthew D’Emic, administrative judge of the Kings County Supreme Court, Criminal Term.
File photo by Rob Abruzzese

New BWBA President Meryl Schwartz succeeds Immediate Past President Carrie Anne Cavallo. She is joined by a talented slate of officers that includes President-Elect Natoya McGhie, First Vice President Angélicque M. Moreno, Second Vice President Derefim Neckles, Third Vice President Sue Novick Wasko, Treasurer Andrea Hill, Corresponding Secretary Susan Mauro and Recording Secretary Madeline Kirton.

‘Pro Bono Barrister’ launched 19 years ago to tell ‘the good that lawyers do’

The title of Ronald Irving’s “The Law Is a Ass” is taken partly from a line in George Chapman’s 1654 play “Revenge For Honour,” later voiced by Charles Dickens’ 1838 “Oliver Twist” when Mr. Bumble intones, “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass – a idiot.” From seemingly the dawn of time lawyers have suffered from such ridicule in the press and in creative works, often for comedic purposes.

Almost 20 years ago, after several discussions with Brooklyn Eagle Publisher Dozier Hasty, it was concluded that because lawyers had long been reflexively and unfairly excoriated in public forums – especially the press – it was time to offer a vehicle that, week after week, would be devoted to telling about “the good that lawyers do.”

This is why we focus on the many good deeds performed by lawyers and bar associations, as well as the value of the rule of law and the vital roles played by those who employ it – especially in the courts.

The original Pro Bono Barrister.

Year after year, “Pro Bono Barrister” has informed readers about the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyer Project, which has benefited thousands; the BBA’s Law Foundation, which provides free legal advice to the underrepresented; and the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association’s support of “Light the Night Walk” in the fight against leukemia.

Most recently we’ve seen the enactment of “pro bono” rules that are religiously observed by most practitioners in providing legal support to the indigent. 

Since that time, we must note, the Eagle’s peripatetic Legal Editor Rob Abruzzese has reported in-depth story after story about the inner workings of the Kings County legal community. It’s a safe bet that there is no other paper covering the courts that has provided general interest readers with actual workings of a court system, while at the same time highlighting those many occasions when it’s appropriate to “tell about the good that lawyers do.”

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