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Mental Health Issues & the New York State Courts 2018: Why Trauma Matters to Judges and Lawyers


Speaker(s): Afua Addo, MA, MHC, Aisha S. Greene, Esq., Andrew P. Levin, MD, Anthony K. Waters, Psy.D., Carol Fisler, Esq., Christine Bruno, Esq., Christine Edwards, Esq., Hon. Marcia P. Hirsch, Hon. Sherry Klein Heitler, Hon. Toko Serita, Kenton Kirby, LMSW, Mary Beth Hennen-Anderson, Esq., LMSW, Miriam Goodman, LMSW, Professor Sara E. Gold
Recorded on: May. 16, 2018
PLI Program #: 220568

Toko Serita is a New York State Acting Supreme Court Justice who presides over three problem solving courts in Queens County Criminal Court - a drug court, a mental health recovery court, as well as the Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court (HTIC).  A leading judicial expert on human trafficking, since 2008 Justice Serita has presided over the oldest and largest court in this state solely dedicated to serving trafficking victims and  survivors.  She is the author of “In Our Own Backyards: The Need for a Coordinated Judicial Response to Human Trafficking,” which was published in the NYU Review of Law and Social Change (2013).  The success of the Queens HTIC later served as the impetus for the creation of similar trafficking intervention courts throughout NY State.  In 2015, Justice Serita became the chair of the statewide Human Trafficking Working Group, whose judicial members represent each of the 11 trafficking intervention courts, including the five counties comprising New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Westchester, Suffolk & Nassau Counties.

Prior to becoming a judge, Justice Serita served as the Executive Assistant to two Administrative Judges of the Supreme Court Queens County:  first, to the Hon. Steven W. Fisher, and then the Hon. Leslie G. Leach. From 1989 - 1999, Justice Serita was an appellate attorney at the Legal Aid Society, Criminal Appeals Bureau, where she argued before the New York State Appellate Division, First and Second Departments, the New York Court of Appeals, and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  She is a former co-chair of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), and was previously the Citywide Chair of the Gender Fairness Committee of the New York City Criminal Court from 2007-2010.  She is currently a member of the statewide Criminal Jury Instructions Committee, the NYS Judicial Committee on Women in the Courts, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY), the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ), and the newly formed Asian American Judges Association of New York (AAJANY), which she helped found.  Justice Serita was selected as one of ten Japanese-American leaders from the U.S. to be part of the 2014 Japanese-American Leadership Delegation (JALD), sponsored by the Japanese Foreign Ministry. She is a graduate of Vassar College and City University of New York School of Law.


Afua Addo is the Coordinator for the Center for Court Innovation’s Project SAFE (Services and Fundamental Enhancements), which provides national training &technical assistance to help implement culturally relevant approaches to justice-involved Black women who have experienced domestic violence & sexual assault. In April 2017, she was named to Essence Magazine’s first-ever “Woke 100” list of female creators, activists, educators, journalists, politicos and thinkers who are socially conscious and vigilant about changing our nation for the better. She lends expert assistance to courts and communities seeking to enhance an approach to gender-based violence.

Prior to this role, Afua oversaw the Center’s Hidden Victims Project which serves the Human Trafficking Intervention Court, Misdemeanor Treatment Court, and Queens Mental Health Treatment Court. In this role she began to develop training curriculum on domestic sex trafficking and intersectionality, trauma-informed care and vicarious trauma in working with survivors of gender-based violence. 

She provides national training & technical assistance on the intersection of trauma, race, gender & sexuality and trauma-informed service delivery to judges, legal stakeholders, law enforcement and direct service personnel. She facilitates a range of consulting projects at the Center on specialty court coordination, evidence-based practice, prosecutor-led diversion & service plan design and implementation. She currently directs the NYC Human Trafficking Service Providers Task Force and is on the Getting Women Off Rikers Initiative. 

Afua began her career with NYC HHC and Dept. of Education and continued to work with citywide youth initiatives namely as Criminal Court Advocacy Coordinator with GEMS-Girls Educational & Mentoring Services. Afua received her BA from the University of Virginia and an MA in Mental Health Counseling- Pastoral Counseling & Spiritual Care from Fordham University. She is originally from Brooklyn, USA!


Aisha Greene, Esq. is the Bureau Chief of the Alternatives to Incarceration Bureau at the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office. Prior to joining the District Attorney’s Office in the Bronx, Aisha was the Director of Brooklyn Justice Initiatives (BJI), a project of the Center for Court Innovation. Aisha also served as Associate Director of Research-Practice Strategies at the Center for Court Innovation. In this role, she helped coordinate the Center’s work on the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, an initiative to reduce incarceration and address racial disparities in the justice system. Before joining the Center, Aisha was the principal court attorney to a New York State Supreme Court Justice and a prosecutor with the Queens County District Attorney’s Office. SAisha holds a Bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and earned her law degree from Columbia Law School. She volunteers for several organizations and provides educational support and mentorship to students and young professionals.


Anthony Waters obtained his Psychology Doctorate from The George Washington University. He has trained and worked extensively at the intersection of government, law, and behavioral health, including at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the NYPD, NYC DOHMH, and within the New York City Jail System where he currently designs innovative mental health treatment units and delivers cutting edge training programs. He is also the founder of ACCORD Training & Consulting, a firm dedicated to training personnel and implementing programs across industries in trauma-informed care and the verbal de-escalation of crises. Dr. Waters presents and trains widely on these topics as well as on the diagnosis of mental disorders. He also maintains a small forensic clinical practice. Dr. Waters’ peer-reviewed publications are concentrated in the area of mental health programming in correctional settings.


Christine Bruno is a Litigation and Training supervisor at the Center for Family Representation (CFR).  She is primarily responsible for training new staff, and she directly supervises staff attorneys and participates in various training and policy initiatives with CFR staff and outside agencies.  Christine began working at CFR as a staff attorney in 2007.  Before joining CFR, she clerked for in the Family Part in Bergen County, NJ for the Hon. Ellen Koblitz.  She attended the CUNY School of Law at Queens College.  In law school, she participated in the Battered Women’s Rights Clinic, the law review, and interned at several non-profit organizations, including CONNECT and the Welfare Law Center.  She attended Montclair State University and holds a B.A. and M.A. in Practical Anthropology. 


Christine Edwards, Esq. is Assistant Deputy Counsel to the Office of Policy and Planning for the New York State Unified Court System. She is responsible for assisting the Chief of Policy and Planning, the Honorable Sherry Klein Heitler, in the implementation and oversight of statewide initiatives. In this capacity, she provides training and technical assistance to New York State’s Adolescent Diversion Parts, Human Trafficking Intervention Courts, and Mental Health Courts. Prior to joining the Office of Policy and Planning, she served for 12 years as the Principal Court Attorney to the Honorable Jo Ann Ferdinand, who presided over the Brooklyn Treatment Court and Veterans Treatment Court. From 2002-2004, Christine worked as an Appellate Court Attorney in the Appellate Division, Second Department. From 1995 to 2000, she worked in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office as an Assistant District Attorney assigned to the Major Narcotics Investigations Unit. She is a graduate of Brooklyn Law School and Harvard University.


Kenton Kirby, LMSW completed a Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University in 2011.  With nearly 15 years of experience in the field Mr. Kirby previously worked in foster care and child welfare with ACS as well as a Forensic Social worker throughout the New York court system.

Mr. Kirby has worked as an adjunct lecturer with LIU’s School of Social work and has a wide array of experience providing individual and group therapy to those with complex mental health needs in sex offender, parenting, and drug treatment programs.  

In his current role as the Director of Clinical and Trauma Support Services at the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, Mr. Kirby is one of the founders in developing and the implementation of the Make it Happen program. Funded through OVC (Office of Victims of Crime), Make it Happen is a revolutionary and nationally recognized program model which provides mentorship, intensive case management, clinical interventions and supportive workshops to young men of color ages 16-24 who have been impacted by violence. Through a trauma-informed and culturally competent approach participants are challenged to think about how their definition of manhood is intertwined in trauma and the implications it has on stereotypical gender roles. Mr. Kirby has presented at a number of local, national and international conferences on the success of Make It Happen and the program’s approach to trauma, healing and advocacy for victims. Through an expansion, Make it Happen is now participating in a number of inter-agency collaborations to integrate this model into other parts of New York City and across the country utilizing the program’s trauma toolkit “Responding to Trauma Among Young Men of Color: Adapting the Crown Heights Approach for Your Community”.

Kenton was awarded the 2016 Emerging Leader Award by the National Association of Social Workers, New York City Chapter (NASW-NYC). He was also the recipient of the Community Impact Award from the Urban Justice Center in 2017.


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.


Miriam Goodman is Clinical Director of WPA's alternative to incarceration program, JusticeHome. JusticeHome is a trauma-informed and gender-responsive alternative to incarceration program for women of all experiences. JusticeHome is a community and home based program designed to support women so they can stay in their communities rather than serving time in jail or prison. JusticeHome specializes in working with survivors of trauma, specifically survivors of intimate partner violence and other forms of gender based violence. JusticeHome recognizes that an individual’s past experiences of trauma can contextualize their current involvement in the criminal legal system. Miriam was formerly the Assistant Director of Anti-trafficking and Trauma Initiatives at the Center for Court Innovation where she provided training to judges, lawyers, and clinicians on trauma and working with trafficking survivors.  


Carol Fisler is the director of Mental Health Court Programs at the Center for Court Innovation. She oversees initiatives that address mental illness and the courts, which have 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.


Hon. Marcia P. Hirsch is the Presiding Judge of the Queens Drug Treatment Court, the DWI Treatment Court, the Mental Health Court, the Veterans Court and the Drug Diversion Court.  She was appointed to the New York Court of Claims in March 2005 and was assigned to Queens Supreme Court, Criminal Term.  She presided over hearings and trials before she was assigned to the therapeutic courts in October 2005.  Judge Hirsch has lectured extensively on therapeutic justice, trauma-informed courts, and procedural justice.  She is a past president of the New York Association of Drug Treatment Court Professionals.  She joined the faculty of the National Judicial College in 2015.

Judge Hirsch is a graduate of Union College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and a graduate of Syracuse University College of Law.  She served for nine years on the Rockville Centre School Board and also was a member of her community’s Drug & Alcohol Task Force.  Prior to taking the bench, Judge Hirsch was the General Counsel and Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Division of Housing & Community Renewal.  Before that, she was in private practice for many years. 


Sara E. Gold is a member of the clinical law faculty at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, where she co-directs the HIV Legal Clinic, a medical-legal partnership between the legal clinic and the HIV medical clinics on the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus. Sara teaches and supervises law students providing pro bono representation to low-income clients living with HIV in a range of matters from family law to Social Security disability benefits to life planning. Sara serves on the steering committees of the Family Informed Trauma Treatment (FITT) Center and the inter-professional Preparing the Future (PTF) Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and is a member of the Baltimore City HIV Planning Group and Baltimore City HIV/AIDS Commission.

Sara received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan in 1991, and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1994.  Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Maryland in 2011, Sara was Pro Bono Manager at the law firm of Howrey LLP in Washington, D.C., where she supervised attorneys representing low-income clients in family law, social security, asylum, and domestic violence matters.  From 2008-2009, she was a Visiting Professor in the Domestic Violence Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center where she taught and supervised law students representing low-income victims of family abuse in D.C. Superior Court.  She joined the faculty at Georgetown after ten years practicing in the field of child welfare where she represented the D.C. government and the Child and Family Services Agency in child abuse and neglect cases in D.C. Superior Court.  Sara served as Acting Deputy of the Family Services Division of the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, where she oversaw the management and operation of the Domestic Violence and Child Protection Sections.

Sara teaches the importance of trauma-informed lawyering and recently wrote an article entitled, Trauma; What Lurks Beneath the Surface that will appear in the Clinical Law Review (Spring 2018).


A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Dr. Andrew Levin received residency training and completed an NIMH fellowship at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the Department of Psychiatry Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. After fellowship, Dr. Levin directed the Behavioral Disorders Unit at Holliswood Hospital in Queens, the first of its kind in the New York area providing specialized cognitive behavioral treatment to survivors of childhood trauma, rape, and domestic violence suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder and dissociative disorders. Drawing on this unique expertise, Dr. Levin consulted to the New York State Office of Mental Health, evaluating complex patients at civil and forensic facilities across the state. He currently holds the rank of Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University.

From 1995 to 2001, Dr. Levin directed the largest outpatient mental health service in Westchester County at St. Vincent's Hospital in Harrison, NY. He then served until 2016 as Medical Director at Westchester Jewish Community Services, the largest and oldest social services agency in Westchester. In this role, he provided supervision and consultation to social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists and developed innovative delivery systems. Currently, he consults to the DSRIP project facilitating integration of behavioral health into primary care, provides forensic consultation, maintains a practice focused on mood disorders and trauma, and teaches residents and forensic fellows at Columbia University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. As a member of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, Dr. Levin chairs the Trauma and Stress Committee.  Publications have included work on personality, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, dissociative disorders, sexual harassment, and the impact of DSM-5 on forensic practice.  Dr. Levin also directed and authored unique studies of vicarious trauma in legal professionals. He regularly lectures to judges, attorneys, and mental health professionals on identification and coping with stress in family and criminal court settings.