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Mental Health Issues & the New York State Courts 2013

Author(s): Dr. Thomas Farley, Hon. Judy Harris Kluger
Practice Area: Litigation, Pro Bono
Published: Aug 2013
PLI Item #: 51657
CHB Spine #: 10

The Hon. Judy Harris Kluger assumed the role of Executive Director of Sanctuary for Families Inc. in January 2014. Sanctuary is New York’s leading service provider and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, sex trafficking, and related forms of gender violence.

Since becoming Executive Director, Judge Kluger has secured substantial new sources of private and public funding, growing the agency budget from approximately $15 million to over $24 million. Under Judge Kluger’s leadership, Sanctuary launched the Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court Pro Bono Project to assist immigrant sex trafficking victims; oversaw the move of Sanctuary’s headquarters to a new and better location; produced a five-year report documenting the program model and achievements of Sanctuary’s innovative Economic Empowerment Program; and developed a five-year strategic plan. The strategic plan will guide Sanctuary in its efforts to expand high-need programming focused on advancing clients’ self-sufficiency, improve agency understanding of client needs and impact of services, build survivor leadership, and advance Sanctuary’s strategic leadership in the movement to end gender violence through sustained legislative advocacy and community outreach.

Sanctuary for Families provides survivors with a range of services including legal and clinical services (50 staff attorneys and 36 masters-level social workers), economic empowerment support, shelter, and programming for children and youth, all structured to help survivors rebuild their lives in the aftermath of abuse. Since Judge Kluger became Executive Director, Sanctuary added fifty new staff positions to the organization and, last year, served nearly 16,000 individuals. 97% of Sanctuary’s clients are NYC residents, the vast majority live in poverty, and 71% of adult clients are immigrants.

Prior to joining Sanctuary, Judge Kluger served for 25 years as a judge in New York State—most recently as Chief of Policy and Planning for the court system. In addition to her role in system-wide court reform, policy development, and implementation, Judge Kluger oversaw the statewide problem solving court program which included more than 300 Integrated Domestic Violence Courts, Human Trafficking Intervention Courts, Domestic Violence Courts, Drug Courts, Mental Health Courts, Sex Offense Courts, and Community Courts.

Judge Kluger began her career as an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County. As a young lawyer working in Brooklyn in the late 1970s, she quickly became aware of the challenges and societal pressures that survivors of domestic violence were facing in New York City. Motivated by these experiences, Judge Kluger became a founding member and Bureau Chief of the Sex Crimes and Domestic Violence Bureau and Chief of the Criminal Court Bureau soon thereafter. In 1988, Judge Kluger was appointed to the New York City Criminal Court. Additionally, she was a key member of the development team and the first presiding judge at the Midtown Community Court, a project that received national acclaim for its innovative handling of quality of life crimes and which began an era of development of problem solving courts throughout the country.

Judge Kluger is an active member of numerous professional associations and is a frequent public speaker and panelist. She is currently a member of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Judiciary, The Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, and the New York City Domestic Violence Task Force. Judge Kluger also co-chairs the New York State Bar Association / the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (NYSBA/WBASNY) Domestic Violence Initiative.

Judge Kluger has received many honors and awards including the New York Law Journal’s Lawyers Who Lead by Example award; the New York State Bar Association Excellence in Public Service award; the Lawyer’s Committee against Domestic Violence in the Trenches award; and Sanctuary’s Abely Award for Leading Women and Children to Safety.

Thomas Farley, MD MPH is Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Under his leadership, the agency is addressing the social and environmental factors underlying the leading causes of death and disability, including smoking, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, heart disease and diabetes. Dr. Farley is trained as a pediatrician and served in the Centers for Disease Control's Epidemic Intelligence Service. He is co-author of Prescription for a Healthy Nation: A New Approach to Improving Our Lives by Fixing our Everyday World.