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Mental Health Issues & the New York State Courts 2016: Coercion, Treatment & Procedural Justice


Speaker(s): Carol Fisler, Esq., Claudia Montoya, Colleen King, Dorothea A. Constas, Esq., Everard Lewis, Hon. Joseph A. Zayas, Lisa Herman, Esq., Margaret W. Martin, Esq., Mary Beth Hennen-Anderson, Esq., LMSW, Merrill Rotter, MD, Michael Rempel, Professor John Monahan, Randy Killings
Recorded on: Jun. 24, 2016
PLI Program #: 149529

Colleen King joined Brooklyn Defender Services in 2013 as a specialized mental health criminal defense attorney.  As part of the Mental Health Unit at BDS, Ms. King represents clients in Brooklyn Mental Health Court and mental health competency proceedings.  She also advises staff attorneys on best practices for the representation and advocacy for clients with mental health issues.

Prior to joining Brooklyn Defender Services, Ms. King practiced at the Legal Aid Society first as a staff attorney and later as a specialized attorney for clients with mental health and substance use issues.

Ms. King graduated with honors from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Ms. King frequently participates in training programs, committees, and task forces on problem solving justice, mental health and criminal justice issues.  Ms. King is a certified instructor of Mental Health First Aid, member of the faculty for The Academy for Justice-Informed Practice at CUCS and a faculty member of PLI Mental Health Issues and the New York State Courts 2015: Understanding Risk.


Mary Beth Hennen-Anderson is the director of the Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project.  From 2011-13, she was the Director of Social Work and Investigation at Brooklyn Defender Services.  Before that, she had a 21-year career at the Legal Aid Society criminal practice where she held many positions, including founding a city-wide project that teamed social workers and attorneys to provide comprehensive services for clients with mental health and substance abuse issues.  Mary Beth has devised and participated in many training programs on mental health and criminal justice issues, and serves on the NYPD’s mental health/criminal justice advisory board. She graduated from St. John’s University School of Law and obtained her master’s in social work at Hunter College School of Social Work.  Mary Beth is a member of The Stability Network, a coalition of professionals living with mental health concerns, who are willing to share their stories of recovery to help others recover faster and stay well longer.


Randy Killings was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY with a host of siblings. He graduated from George Wingate High School at the top of his class, and afterwards, he attended John Jay College for 2 ½ years. He began modeling during college and decided to pursue modeling as a career for 4 years.

Despite his home life being supportive and loving, Randy began experiencing trauma at an early age. However, he was unaware what the trauma consisted of. He knew the trauma was not associated with his sexuality because his family was very accepting. Randy also was living with a mental health disorder that aided in covering up the traumatic experiences. He was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and doctors highly medicated him at the age of 8.

The combination of Randy’s mental health disorder and the trauma he experienced led him to begin using drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, the drugs and alcohol brought Randy down a road of criminal activity and he was sent to prison many times. His last arrest garnered him 10 years in a New York State prison facility.

Randy swore that when he was released from prison, things would be different. He got clean and sober while in prison and now has almost 7 years of sobriety. Also since his release, he has successfully become a productive member of society. He graduated from Howie the Harp, a forensic training program in New York City, at the top of his class. He is now working at a psychosocial club that provides advocacy and support to LGBT identified mental health consumers. He started out as a peer specialist intern and is now the Member Services Coordinator with many responsibilities. . He is the intake coordinator in charge of the intake process.  The staff floor supervisor and he supervises four Rainbow Heights staff, interns from Howie T. Harp Peer training program and  all volunteers. Randy is also the food coordinator of agency’s meal program. He has facilitated many groups, the Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP) group, a group that teaches group members about wellness and recovery and how to maintain it. Gay men’s group  and games night a group that  assists members with getting alone with one another.

Randy has had a hard bout with dealing with the co morbidity of his trauma and mental illness. He searched until he found a therapist that could adhere to his needs and help him with what he wanted to be helped with. Now, he is flourishing. Randy knows that he will never be recovered. He will always be recovering. He embraces life today and that makes all the difference in the world to him. Randy has a partner of 6 years that supports his every endeavor. They live together in the Clinton Hill area of Brooklyn, NY.


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.


Dorothea Constas is a Principal and Supervising Attorney with Mental Hygiene Legal Service, Appellate Division, First Department.  She has practiced with the Mental Hygiene Legal Service since 1990.  As an attorney with MHLS she has represented hundreds of clients in cases which include insanity acquittees, guardianship matters and involuntary retention and medication cases.

Since 2005, Ms. Constas has been an Adjunct Professor at Fordham Law School in the Clinical Education Department teaching “ Fundamental Lawyering Skills”.  Prior to that she was an Adjunct Professor at New York Law School in the Academic Support Program.

Ms. Constas received her J.D. from Hofstra Law School in 1976 and her B.A. in Education from Emerson College in 1972.


Dr. Merrill Rotter is a forensic psychiatrist working at Albert Einstein College of Medicine where he is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Division of Law and Psychiatry for the Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Rotter received his B.A. /M.D. from the Boston University Six-Year Combined Liberal Arts Medical Education Program. Trained in clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and in forensic psychiatry at Yale, Dr. Rotter leads a program of teaching, research and clinical service for Einstein as well as the New York State Office of Mental Health. In his OMH role, Dr. Rotter is Director of the Division of Forensic Services at Bronx Psychiatric Center and Senior Forensic Advisor to the Commissioner.  In addition, Dr. Rotter is the Medical Director of the EAC and its NYC TASC Mental Health Programs. Dr. Rotter is Project Director of SPECTRM, a nationally-recognized research, training and treatment program aimed at helping to meet the needs individuals with mental illness who have a history of incarceration. Dr. Rotter has presented and published in areas related to forensic training, risk assessment, treatment and management of mentally ill offenders, the insanity defense and mental health diversion. In 2009, Dr. Rotter received the Award for Outstanding Teacher in a Forensic Fellowship Program from the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.


John Monahan, a psychologist, is the John S. Shannon Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia, where he is also Professor of Psychology and Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, and serves on the National Research Council.  Monahan was the founding President of the American Psychological Association's Division of Psychology and Law, and has been a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He twice directed research networks on mental health law for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He has received an honorary law degree from the City University of New York, and the Isaac Ray Award of the American Psychiatric Association.

Monahan is the author or editor of 17 books and over 250 articles and chapters. One of his books, Social Science in Law, co-authored by Laurens Walker, is now in its eighth edition and has been translated into Chinese. Two of his other books won the Manfred Guttmacher Award of the American Psychiatric Association for outstanding research in law and psychiatry. Monahan’s work has been cited frequently by courts, including the California Supreme Court in Tarasoff v. Regents, and the United States Supreme Court in Barefoot v. Estelle, in which he was referred to as "the leading thinker on the issue" of violence risk assessment.


Lisa Herman is the Deputy Chief Attorney for the 9th Judicial District of the Mental Hygiene Legal Service Appellate Division of the Supreme Court Second Judicial Department (“MHLS”).

She graduated from the University of Maryland in 1993 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.  She graduated cum laude with a Juris Doctorate from New York Law School in 1996.

She has been employed with MHLS since February of 1998.  As an MHLS staff attorney she represented clients in Mental Hygiene Law Article 9 civil commitment hearings and jury trials, Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act Article 17A Guardianship proceedings and Mental Hygiene Law Article 81 Guardianship proceedings.  She has handled hundreds of Mental Hygiene Law Article 81 Guardianship proceedings, in the role of counsel to the Alleged Incapacitated Person.  

She has presented on topics related to Mental Hygiene Law Article 81 proceedings on many occasions before audiences such as Pace Law School in White Plains, New York, the Westchester County Bar Association in White Plains, New York, the Rural Law Center of New York in Saranac Lake, New York, and the Judicial Institute in White Plains, New York.


Margaret Martin is an attorney and has been working in the Office of Court Administration’s Office of Policy and Planning since 2014.  In her position at the Office of Policy and Planning, she is responsible for assisting the Chief of Policy and Planning, the Honorable Sherry Klein Heitler, in the implementation and oversight of statewide initiatives.  Currently, she provides training and technical assistance to New York State’s Adolescent Diversion Courts, Human Trafficking and Intervention Courts and Mental Health Courts.  Prior to her joining the Office of Policy and Planning, she was a criminal defense attorney at the Legal Aid Society for 22 years.  From 1992 to 2000, and again from 2005 to 2014, Margaret worked in Legal Aid’s Criminal Defense Practice, where she represented clients charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanors to homicide.  From 2000 to 2005, she worked at Legal Aid’s Capital Division, where she represented clients charged with Murder in the First Degree who were facing the death penalty.  During Margaret’s last two years at Legal Aid, she was a supervising attorney.  In that capacity, she supervised the work of 25 attorneys.


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).


The Hon. Joseph A. Zayas, a 1988 graduate of Columbia University School of Law, was appointed by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman as the Administrative Judge for Supreme Court (Criminal Term) in Queens County in 2013.  He was appointed as a Judge of the Court of Claims by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2012.  He was originally designated an Acting Supreme Court Justice in 2010 and was previously appointed  as a Judge of the Criminal Court of the City of New York by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2003, and re-appointed in 2010.  

In addition to his Administrative responsibilities, Justice Zayas also presides over jury trials and the County’s youth cases (Youthful Offender Adjudications, including Juvenile Offenders).  He previously presided over the County’s indicted Domestic Violence cases, as well as the County’s forensic cases (competency and insanity cases).  He also previously served as Deputy Supervising Judge of Criminal Court in Queens County and as the Presiding Judge of the Queens Misdemeanor Treatment Court (QMTC) and the Mental Health Recovery Court (MHRC).   Justice Zayas has also written seventeen decisions which have been published in the official reporter, The Miscellaneous Reports, Third Series.  Justice Zayas has regularly served as a Presenter/Lecturer at various Judicial Seminars, including Seminars for New Judges and Seminars related to Drug Treatment Courts, Mental Health Treatment Courts and Youth Courts.

Prior to his Judicial appointment, Justice Zayas served as the Principal Law Clerk for Supreme Court Justice Rolando T. Acosta (who now serves in the Appellate Division, First Department), at the Harlem Community Justice Center, a multi-jurisdictional, problem-solving court serving the communities of East and Central Harlem.  Prior to working with Justice Acosta, Justice Zayas served as a Senior Staff Attorney with The Legal Aid Society’s Capital Defense Unit, Criminal Appeals Bureau, and Criminal Trial Division. 

Justice Zayas attended public schools in New York City, having been raised in public housing projects (the Frederick Douglas Housing Projects) and in West Harlem, after his large family came to New York City from Barranquitas, Puerto Rico in the 1950s.


Mr. Everard Lewis just completed his internship program at the Urban Justice Center. He recently received his certification as a peer specialist from the New York State Peer Specialist Certification Board and completed his training from Howie the Harp. In addition, Mr. Lewis had previously participated in the alternative to incarceration program and enjoys advocating on behalf of individuals who have gone through similar life circumstances.


Ms. Montoya is a staff attorney at The Legal Aid Society. She is an original staff member of the MICA Project, which began providing legal representation and social services for those suffering from serious mental illness since 2002. Ms. Montoya has been very involved in the Bronx Mental Health Court, being a formal stakeholder, who is called upon to consult with other state entities interested in the mental health court model. She trains annually at local law schools, as well as at local and national conferences. Ms. Montoya is a zealous advocate for the rights and treatment of the Bronx most marginalized clients. Ms. Montoya is 2014 Orison S. Marden Award recipient and has been honored in Bronx Veteran’s Court for her advocacy.