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Mental Health Issues & the New York State Courts 2020: Part 1: Bail Reform; Part 2: Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Speaker(s): Alex Garcia-Mansilla, Ph.D., Carol Fisler, Esq., Christine Edwards, Esq., Deborah J. Chard-Wierschem, Ph.D., Guy Arcidiacono, Esq., Hon. Jack Elliott, Hon. Matthew J. D'Emic, Hon. Toko Serita, Jeffrey Berman, Esq., Judy Rosenthal, Ed.M., Julian Adler, Esq., LCSW, Krystal Rodriguez, Esq., Michael Rempel, Patricia J. Bailey, Esq., Paul A.H. Partridge, Ph.D., Robbin Hartman, Esq., Ruth O'Sullivan, LCSW, Sadie Ishee, Esq., Samantha E. Smalls, Esq., Stephen Brickman, Esq., Virginia Barber Rioja, Ph.D., Yung-Mi Lee, Esq.
Recorded on: Nov. 30, 2020
PLI Program #: 274320

Alex Garcia-Mansilla is a licensed Clinical Psychologist with over fifteen years of experience working with people with serious mental disorders involved with the criminal justice system. Her clinical work has been focused on assessment (diagnostic, violence risk, sexual violence risk) of individuals involved in the criminal justice system. Since January 2017 she has been the Director of Psychological Assessment for Correctional Health Services, the agency responsible for MH care for the NYC jail system.

She received her PhD from Fordham University in Clinical Psychology with a Forensic Specialization. Prior to earning her PhD, she was a licensed Clinical Social Worker, having received her Masters in Social Work from New York University, and she received her BA from Harvard University. For four years, Dr. Garcia-Mansilla was the Clinical Director of the Queens TASC Mental Health Diversion Program. After leaving TASC, she had a full time forensic assessment practice focusing on violence risk assessments, diversion evaluations, and sexual violence risk assessments for criminal, civil, and immigration cases. She was also a 730 evaluator in Westchester County.

Christine Edwards is responsible for assisting Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Edwina G. Mendelson in the implementation and oversight of statewide justice initiatives. In this capacity, Christine provides training and technical assistance to New York State’s Human Trafficking Intervention Courts and Mental Health Courts and works on other special projects.

Prior to joining the Division of Policy and Planning, Christine served for 12 years as the Principal Court Attorney to the Honorable Jo Ann Ferdinand, who presided over the Brooklyn Treatment Court from 1996 until her retirement in 2016. From 2002-2004, Christine worked as an Appellate Court Attorney in the Appellate Division, Second Department. From 1995 to 2000, she was an Assistant District Attorney in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office assigned to the Major Narcotics Investigations Unit. She is a graduate of Brooklyn Law School and Harvard University.

Deborah J. Chard-Wierschem is the Director of the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) Bureau of Intensive Treatment Services (BITS) which is responsible for processing court orders to the Commissioner, overseeing admissions and discharges to OPWDD’s designated secure facilities and providing consultation and guidance to OPWDD staff on individuals who are behaviorally-complex and/or justice-involved. Dr. Chard-Wierschem has dual master’s degrees in Social Work and Criminal Justice, and a doctorate in Criminology, -all from the State University of New Yok at Albany.  She has worked in New York State government for about 25 years, spanning both research and operational tasks.  Prior to her work at OPWDD, she worked at the NYS Department of Correctional Services and Community Supervision (DOCCS), the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the Division of Forensics Services at the NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH).  She has completed research projects in many areas, including juvenile delinquency, domestic violence, recidivism and forensics.  She has led and participated on several inter- and intra- agency workgroups addressing various issues (e.g., domestic incident reporting, suicide prevention, police mental health training, workgroup on individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders who are justice-involved).  Prior to her work with the state, Dr. Chard-Wierschem worked for several non-profit agencies, including the Equinox shelter for homeless youth and the Schenectady ARC day treatment program.

Guy Arcidiacono is a Deputy Bureau Chief in the Appeals & Training Bureau of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. He is also the Attorney-in-Charge of the Office’s Psychiatric Litigation Unit, which is responsible for hearings to determine defendants' competence to stand trial, evaluation of possible not responsible defenses at trial, post commitment retention proceedings and civil commitment information requests. He previously served as the Attorney-in-Charge of the Office’s East End Unit, the office unit which covered the north and south forks of Long Island including the Hamptons.

Mr. Arcidiacono is a member of the District Attorney’s Association, State of New York and is currently Chairman of that Association’s Mental Health Sub-committee. He is a member of that organization’s Legislative Committee and serves as a Legislative Secretary, as well as a member of the Best Practices Subcommittee. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Suffolk County Criminal Bar Association.

In 2012 he was named to the American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section Mental Health Standards Task Force. In 2013 he was appointed the Criminal Justice Section’s Liaison to the ABA’s Commission on Disability Rights, and in July, 2015 was appointed as Co-Chair of the Criminal Justice Section’s Mental Health Committee.  In October, 2016 he represented the ABA as an NGO observer at the terror trial proceedings being conducted at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He has lectured extensively for the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office and for the New York Prosecutor's Training Institute on a variety of criminal law topics. In 2010 and 2011 he presented lectures for the Division of Criminal Justice Services to police officers around NY State on new Identification Procedures developed by the NYS District Attorney's Association. In 2006 he authored a short article for the Empire State Prosecutor, "'Civil Commitment: Using Existing Law To Mandate In-Custody Psychiatric Treatment for Sexually Violent Predators."'

Mr. Arcidiacono graduated cum laude from Hamilton College in 1978, and received his law degree in 1982 from Washington and Lee University School of Law, where in his third year he was a Burks Scholar Teaching Fellow. In 1999 he received a Distinguished Advocacy Award from the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, and in 2001 his office presented him with a Distinguished Service Award for his work as Attorney-in-Charge of its Forensic Unit. In 2008 he received the New York Prosecutor’s Training Institute’s Appellate Prosecutor of the Year Award. Mr. Arcidiacono is married and the proud father of three boys.

Jeffrey Berman has been an attorney with the Legal Aid Society, Criminal Defense Practice in Manhattan since 1998. During this time, Mr. Berman has tried numerous felony and misdemeanor cases and litigated multiple suppression hearings.  Since 2014, he has served as the MICA Project Attorney in Manhattan, representing clients who live with serious mental health and struggle with addiction.  In that capacity, he zealously advocates for treatment in the most serious and complex cases, humanizing his clients through oral and written advocacy, and articulating to judges and prosecutors the long-term merits of diversion. Mr. Berman collaborates with a forensic social worker on the MICA team to present mitigation and provide long-term case management and support to clients. He serves as a resource to other attorneys in his office, providing trainings and advice on best practices around a range of issues such as CPL 730 and 390 exams, MHL 9.43 evaluations, the use of expert witnesses, and advocacy for treatment-based dispositions. Mr. Berman is a graduate of Chicago-Kent College of Law and Clark University.

Judge Matthew D’Emic was appointed to the bench in 1996. In 2014 he was appointed Administrative Judge for Criminal Matters in Kings County Supreme Court. In addition to his administrative duties, Judge D’Emic presides over the Brooklyn Domestic Violence Court and Brooklyn Mental Health Court.

Judge D’Emic is a member of the New York State Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts and the New York State Judicial Committee on Elder Justice.  He is a past chair of the Brooklyn Supreme Court Gender Fairness Committee and a past chair of the Alternatives to Incarceration and Diversion Committee of Mayor Bloomberg’s Citywide Justice and Mental Health Initiative and Mayor DeBlasio’s Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Task Force.  He is a commissioner of the New York City Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, commonly known as the Lippman Commission.

Judge D’Emic has been recognized for his work in domestic violence and mental health and frequently lectures on these topics.  He has served on the boards of the Guild for Exceptional Children, the Mercy Home and Xaverian High School.  He is also an adjunct professor at Brooklyn Law School.

Judy Rosenthal worked in behavioral health treatment and prevention for 17 years prior to joining the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office in 2001 as the Drug Court Coordinator.  She was an adjunct professor at Iona College and the College of Mount St. Vincent teaching addiction counseling courses for 12 years. She has Master of Arts and Master of Education degrees in Psychological Counseling from Columbia University and is All But Dissertation (ABD) on her Doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Fordham University.  In her current position as Executive Director of Fiscal and Program Operations at the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office, Ms. Rosenthal oversees alternative to incarceration programs, grant management and fiscal operations for the Rockland County District Attorney.

Julian Adler is the director of policy and research at the Center for Court Innovation. He leads the Center's work on a range of national criminal justice reform initiatives, including the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge. He oversees seven teams across the organization:  Research; Research-Practice Strategies; Data Analytics and Applied Research; Restorative Practices; West Coast Initiatives; Criminal Defense Initiatives; and Training, Supervision, and Practice.

Julian is the co-author of Start Here: A Road Map to Reducing Mass Incarceration (The New Press), named one of the best books of 2018 by the Vera Institute of Justice and short-listed for the Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice and a Media for a Just Society Award. A New York State Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and attorney, he was previously the director of the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn, New York and led the planning process for Brooklyn Justice Initiatives.

Krystal Rodriguez is the deputy director of jail reform at the Center for Court Innovation. Focusing on the harms caused by the use of local jails in New York City, her work includes planning and piloting initiatives to reduce jail populations and divert individuals away from pre-trial detention, in particular. She previously was the coordinator for the Training and Technical Assistance Team for Community Justice, offering technical assistance to municipalities throughout the country. Prior to joining the Center, Krystal served as a public defender with Brooklyn Defender Services, where she represented clients charged with misdemeanor and felony matters, from arraignment to disposition. During law school, she represented non-citizen clients in deportation proceedings, and advised on law enforcement interactions as a part of Main Street Legal Services and CLEAR Project. She received her Juris Doctorate from the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, where she was on the Law Review Editorial Board.

Patricia Bailey has been an Assistant District Attorney since 1986, where she has handled all matters relating to misdemeanor, felonies and ultimately homicide investigations and prosecutions.  She has conducted psychiatric litigation of insanity acquittees as well as a variety of civil litigation. In 2004 she was appointed as Bureau Chief of the Special Litigation Bureau, which handles serious felonies, various civil litigation, including the representation of the office and its employees in civil law suits. She was appointed Deputy General Counsel in 2014, and in that capacity she works with the General Counsel advising the DA and the Office’s legal staff on all manner of legal issues and initiatives, with particular focus on civil litigation, prosecutorial best practices, and mental health issues within the criminal justice system.  She is also a member of the Conviction Integrity Panel and oversees the Office’s participation in the Manhattan Mental Health Court and Manhattan’s Veterans Treatment Court. 

Lectured for National District Attorney’s Association (NDAA); CUCS; New York Prosecutors Training Institute (NYPTI), New York State Judicial Institute, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Nassau County Bar Association; District Attorney’s Association of New York State (DAASNY) and the N.Y. County District Attorney’s Office in the areas of eyewitness reliability, insanity defenses, expert testimony, prosecutorial immunity and the intersection of criminal justice and mental health.

Robbin Hartman graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1987 and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1988. Robbin began work at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in January, 1988. While working as an ADA in the SCDA’s office Robbin prosecuted many types of cases including narcotics, white collar crime, violent felonies and vehicular crime cases. In 1999, Robbin became a supervisor in the Case Advisory Bureau , a bureau that handles early felony dispositions, presents cases to the grand jury, handles all felony arraignments in Central Islip, and prepares search warrants and blood warrants on vehicular cases.  Robbin then became the Deputy Bureau Chief of the District Court Bureau and is now the Acting Bureau Chief of the Case Advisory Bureau. Robbin is also the District Attorney’s Office Mental Health Court coordinator, working closely with the Mental Health Court in screening, contract preparation and monitoring compliance through the pendency of the cases. Robbin has been on discussion panels for the Suffolk County Bar Association and Touro Law School speaking about the District Attorney’s role in the Mental Health Court screening process.

Ruth O’ Sullivan is the Project/Clinical Director of Brooklyn Mental Health Court. In this capacity she leads a staff dedicated to creating a meaningful response to the problems posed by defendants with mental illness in the criminal justice system. Addressing both the treatment needs of defendants with mental illness and the public safety concerns of the community, the Mental Health Court uses the authority of the court to link defendants with serious and persistent mental illnesses (such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) who would ordinarily be jail- or prison-bound to long-term treatment as an alternative to incarceration. Ruth is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working with this very specific population since 2001. Since taking over as Project Director of BMHC the court has expanded to also work with persons diagnosed with Neurodevelopmental disorders. She has a Master’s Degree in Sociology and Social Policy from the University of Glasgow and a Masters in Social Work from Hunter College. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Sadie Ishee has been with Mental Hygiene Legal Service (MHLS) since 2004, serving as head of MHLS- First Department’s appellate and special litigation practice since 2017.  In that role, she has spearheaded a wide variety of litigation and advocacy initiatives on behalf of MHLS’s clients with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities, including successful strategies to decrease the use of restraints on patients in psychiatric hospitals and to improve the education provided to hospitalized children. 

Sadie received her undergraduate degree from Oberlin College and her J.D. from Brooklyn Law School.  Prior to coming to MHLS, she served as a staff attorney at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Sadie has conducted dozens of CLE trainings in venues across New York State on legal issues affecting the rights of people with mental illnesses and/or developmental disabilities.

Samantha E. Smalls has been the Mental Health Attorney at the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Practice in Staten Island for the past 7 years.

Samantha graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 2000.  During law school, she founded the Environmental Justice Project at Make the Road NY where she continued her work after graduation.  In 2001, she became a public defender in Manhattan at New York County Defender Services.  In 2002, she moved to the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Practice in Manhattan.  In 2009, she became an Associate Attorney for the New York State Assembly on the Codes Committee drafting and revising proposed changes to the penal law.  In 2011, she was hired as a public defender in the Office of the Conflict Defender for Albany County.  In 2013, she returned to New York City and the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Practice.

Samantha was honored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in 2018 for her outstanding work with clients affected by mental illness.  She has served on several panels at continuing legal education seminars throughout NYC on topics involving the intersection of mental health and the criminal justice system.  She was also a guest lecturer at the NYPD’s training academy in January 2020.

Stephen Brickman has been a member of the OPWDD Office of Counsel since 2001.  In addition to his many other duties, Steve advises OPWDD facilities and staff on OPWDD’s legal obligations with respect to civil and forensic involuntary commitments of individuals with developmental disabilities to OPWDD’s custody.

Steve received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the State University of New York at Albany in 1983, a Master’s in Public Administration from the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy in 1986, and a Juris Doctor degree from Albany Law School in 1987.  Prior to joining OPWDD, Steve worked as legal staff to the NYS Senate Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities.

Toko Serita is an Asian-American judge who is recognized as a leading judicial expert on human trafficking.  She is currently a New York State Acting Supreme Court Justice who presides over three problem-solving courts in Queens Criminal Court – a drug court, mental health court and the Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court (QHTIC), nationally and internationally recognized for its groundbreaking work with trafficking victims and survivors.  She has led this innovative court since 2008, which served as the model for this nation’s first statewide initiative designed to address the plight of trafficking victims in the criminal justice system by creating eight new courts throughout New York State.  In 2015, Justice Serita became chair of the New York State Judicial Committee on Human Trafficking, whose judicial members represent each of the 11 trafficking intervention courts, including the five counties comprising New York City, as well as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Westchester, Suffolk & Nassau Counties. 

Prior to becoming a judge, Judge Serita started her career working as a criminal appellate attorney for the Legal Aid Society, Criminal Appeals Bureau for several years, and then held a position as an Executive Assistant to the Administrative Judges of the Supreme Court, Queens County.   In 2018, Judge Serita was newly elected to serve on the board of the National Center for State Courts.  She is most recently the past president of the Asian American Judges Association of New York (AAJANY), former Citywide Chair of the Gender Fairness Committee of the New York City Criminal Court from 2007-2010, and a former member of the Editing Committee of the statewide Criminal Jury Instructions Committee.  She is a graduate of Vassar College and the City University of New York School of Law.


Virginia Barber Rioja obtained her Ph.D. in clinical forensic psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York. She is currently the Co-Chief of Service for Mental Health at NYC Health + Hospitals/Correctional Health Services, which oversees mental health treatment in the NYC jail system. She is also an adjunct associate professor in the Psychology Department of New York University where she teaches in the graduate program. She has over 15 years of experience working in correctional and forensic contexts. She worked as an attending psychologist in the forensic inpatient unit of Bellevue Hospital Center, as the clinical director of several mental health courts, diversion and reentry programs in NYC, and as a consultant for the juvenile correctional facilities in Puerto Rico. With the goal of bringing knowledge of forensic psychology to applied audiences and policy makers, Dr. Barber Rioja has provided a great deal of teaching to probation and parole officers, police officers, defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges. She has published and presented workshops nationally and internationally on the topics of criminal justice diversion, mental health courts, clinically informed case management, forensic mental health assessment, implementation of risk assessment instruments in special jurisdiction courts, and psychological evaluations in the context of immigration proceedings. Dr. Barber Rioja maintains a private forensic practice involving immigration, state and federal court cases. She is a board member of the Asociación Iberoamericana de Justicia Terapéutica (Iberoamerican Association of Therapeutic Jurisprudence) and a former member of the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Legal Issues (COLI).

Yung-Mi Lee is the legal director in the criminal defense practice at Brooklyn Defender Services.  She has practiced as a criminal defense attorney for more than 25 years in New York and New Jersey.  She is currently a vice president of NYSACDL and serves on NLADA's Defender Council.

Yung-Mi has been active in representing the defense perspective on New York State legislative issues, including advocacy and policy education at the State and City level related to policing, bail, and discovery reform.  She also has trained lawyers throughout the state on the new discovery and bail reform laws.

Yung-Mi received her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and her juris doctorate from Boston University School of Law.  After law school, she clerked for the Honorable Ellen L. Koblitz, JSC New Jersey.

Dr. Paul Partridge is Chief Psychologist at the NYS Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), where he has held this position for the past 5 years.  He has extensive pre and post-doctoral experience working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in a variety of settings in both the public and private sectors.   As part of his work for OPWDD, he is involved in all aspects of the oversight of provision of psychology services to individuals with I/DD including regulatory and policy matters, clinical aspects of care, training, consultation, forensics, and determining eligibility for services.

Dr. Partridge received his undergraduate degree from Boston University.  He later pursued Master’s and Doctoral Degrees from Northeastern University and Temple University.  He is a frequent speaker on topics related to individuals with I/DD and has also maintained a small private practice.  He is a past recipient of the Distinguished Psychologist award by the Psychological Association of Northeastern New York. 

Carol Fisler is a consultant to courts, states, and local governments on mental health and criminal justice collaborations. She was the director of Mental Health Court Programs at the Center for Court Innovation, where she oversaw initiatives that address mental illness and the courts, which included the planning and implementation of the Brooklyn Mental Health Court (the first specialized court for offenders with mental illness in New York) and training and technical assistance to more than 50 mental health court planning teams in New York State and around the country. She also directed the planning and implementation of a juvenile justice/mental health initiative for young people with mental health disorders charged with delinquency and has overseen youth development and alternative-to-detention programs in Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. Ms. Fisler speaks frequently at national and regional conferences and has extensive public and private sector legal and managerial experience, serving as the president of a start-up welfare-to-work staffing company, deputy general counsel of the New York City Housing Authority, assistant commissioner for legal affairs of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell. Ms. Fisler graduated from Harvard University and Stanford Law School.

Judge Jack Elliott was born and raised in Rochester, New York and is married to his lovely wife Nanette and the proud father of 4 kids.  He was admitted to the practice of law in 1990. After a very brief stint in private practice he joined the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office.  After 13 years as a Public Defender, Judge Elliott was elected to the Rochester City Court Bench in 2003.  He presides over the Monroe County Drug Treatment Court, Mental Health Court, and DWI Court and is President of the Board of Directors of New York Association of Treatment Court Professionals.

Michael Rempel is director of jail reform at the Center for Court Innovation, overseeing strategic planning and research projects related to reducing incarceration in New York City. He previously served for 16 years as the Center’s research director, building and overseeing a 20-person department that conducts studies on a wide range of justice reform topics. Recently, he served as principal investigator (PI) on a national study of prosecutor-led diversion programs; PI on a multi-method study of “what works” in school safety; PI on an analysis of decision-making at each stage of criminal case processing in New York City (NYC); PI on a study of the drivers of case delay in NYC’s felony cases; and co-PI on NIJ’s Evaluation of Second Chance Act Adult Reentry Courts. He also recently served as staff to the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform (a.k.a. the Lippman Commission). His past work includes leading multiple studies on specialized adult drug courts (serving, for example, as co-PI on NIJ’s Multi-Site Adult Drug Court Evaluation and PI on the first drug court evaluation conducted in Mexico). He also led or participated in a series of NIJ-funded studies of court responses in cases of intimate partner violence, including separate randomized controlled trials of batterer programs in the Bronx, NY and judicial monitoring in Rochester, NY. He frequently presents on evidence-based strategies with criminal offenders, generally, and best practices when using science-based risk assessment tools, specifically. He has long been interested in bridging the gap between the worlds of research and policy and has frequently consulted on evidence-based technical assistance initiatives in New York, nationally, and internationally (the latter in partnership with the Organization of American States).