Brooklyn Court Pioneers On Quality-Of-Life Cases


The 6-year-old court in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Community Justice Center is the nation's first multijurisdictional community court, says the New York Times. It combines elements of criminal, family, and housing courts under the same roof and before the same judge, Alex M. Calabrese. It follows similar courts started in Manhattan in 1993, and later in Harlem, but those did not combine all three courts. Many of the cases would be common in any courthouse, involving drugs, prostitution, or vandalism.

The Red Hook court has attracted attention for what is considered a groundbreaking crossover role: a court linking criminal sentences with social services, like substance abuse counseling and youth programs, all in the same building. New York City is exploring a similar project in the Bronx. The judge, prosecutors, and police officers regularly visit community meetings. This month, Calabrese and the court were given the 2006 “Organizational Lawyer as Problem Solver Award” by the American Bar Association. “Quality-of-life” classes, where many defendants are sent to clear their summonses, were conceived as something of a community accounting, with offenders facing a panel of three people who live or work in the neighborhood, said Greg Berman of the Center for Court Innovation.


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