The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Like calling a Broward JA and asking to put a case on calendar, or showing up for certain judges' 9 am calendars when they never wander into the courthouse before 9:45 am.
For most of his career, Judge Steve Leifman has made how courts treat clients with mental health diseases his life's work and passion. A documentary tonight on PBS, The Definition of Insanity covers how Miami- admirably under the leadership of Judge Leifman- has successfully addressed the problem.
Despite our frequent criticisms of our courts and judges in Miami, Miami has led the nation in innovative solutions to societal problems. Our Drug Court, founded by the late Judge Stanley Goldstein, was the first in the nation to address the problems of drug abuse and to treat defendants as people with a disease. Hundreds of other jurisdictions have followed Miami's lead, and tens of thousands of lives have been saved- including some prominent attorneys in Miami who faced the struggle of alcoholism and drug abuse.
Judge Leifman took that blueprint and applied it to a disease with even more stigma than drug abuse- mental illness. After the scandals and financial crises of the 1970's the justice system became the dumping grounds for the mentally ill. Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys were ill prepared to handle clients who, having committed crimes, were mentally ill. For misdmeanors, the local jails became a revolving door for arresting the same mentally ill people over and over again for the same crimes of panhandling, loitering, and disorderly conduct.
There had to be a better way.
The documentary, which shows how Miami -under Judge Leifman's leadership- addressed the problems, is must-see TV.