Midtown Community Court

Overview

Launched in 1993, the award-winning Midtown Community Court is one of the country's first "problem-solving" courts. It has been replicated across New York and the world. Seeking to reduce crime and incarceration, it is infused with a mission of administering humane justice and responding to the needs of its surrounding neighborhoods. Midtown Community Court provides an array of services to tens of thousands of individuals through its comprehensive onsite social services clinic, fatherhood and workforce development program, community restitution program, and more.  Always growing in its reach, the court now sees cases that originate in four separate precincts, and is the sole adolescent diversion and human trafficking court in Manhattan.

Midtown Community Court advances community interests, enhances public trust in justice, and promotes positive change among those affected by the justice system. It held its 20th anniversary celebration in 2013. 

 

How It Works

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the Midtown Community Court's 10th Anniversary.New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the Midtown Community Court's 10th Anniversary.The Court achieves the following:

Making Justice Visible: Wearing bright blue vests, quality-of life offenders at Midtown pay back the community through visible community service projects—painting over graffiti, sweeping the streets, and cleaning local parks.

Making Justice Swift: Immediate sentencing sends the message to offenders that crime has consequences and that they will be held accountable for their actions. Offenders often begin their sentences within 24 hours of appearing before the judge.

Engaging New Partners: The Court works with local residents, businesses, social service providers and other government agencies to forge creative, collaborative solutions to neighborhood problems. The Court houses an array of non-traditional programs, including community mediation, GED classes and job training for out-of-school youth, and homeless outreach.

Offering Social Services: The Court uses arrest as a gateway to treatment, engaging defendants in on-site drug and mental health treatment, and job training.

Providing Better Information: The Court's award-winning computer application helps the judge craft individualized sanctions for each offender and monitor compliance. The system also provides police officers with regular feedback about the outcomes of their arrests.

Results

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has hailed the Midtown Community Court for helping to revive Times Square. The Midtown Community Court was also the subject of an independent evaluation by the National Center for State Courts. According to the National Center, Midtown's compliance rate of 75 percent for community service was the highest in the city. Offenders performing community service contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of labor to the community each year. In conjunction with aggressive law enforcement and economic development efforts, the Court has had an impact on neighborhood crime: prostitution arrests dropped 56 percent and illegal vending was down 24 percent.

There are currently dozens of cities around the world that have opened or plan to open community courts based on the model of the Midtown Community Court. The Court has received awards from the National Association for Court Management, Municipal Art Society, Encore Community Services, the 9th Avenue Association, Windows World Open and the Broadway Association. To read more about research results, including caseload, sentencing, compliance and other outcomes, click here.

Partners

The Court is operated as a public/private partnership among the New York State Unified Court System, the City of New York and the Center for Court Innovation. During the Court's pilot period, funding came from a mix of sources, including the federal government, local government and dozens of foundations and corporations. Social service and community service partners include dozens of community-based and government agencies.

The Founding of the Court

Before opening, the Midtown Community Court underwent an extensive renovation to ensure the space could dispense justice swiftly while promoting community collaboration.Before opening, the Midtown Community Court underwent an extensive renovation to ensure the space could dispense justice swiftly while promoting community collaboration.The Midtown Community Court was created in the early 1990s, a time of rising crime and disorder in New York City. Housed on a busy midtown side-street, the Court focuses on minor, non-violent offending, emphasizing alternatives to jail wherever possible. 

VIDEOS: John Feinblatt, who led the team that planned the court, talks about the principles that guided its founding. New York City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden talks about the people who helped plan the court. Former New York State Chief Judge Judith Kaye discusses the night before the court opened. And Herb Sturz, who first broached the idea of the court, explains the role demonstration projects play in testing new ideas.

PODCASTS: Longtime staffer Jeff Hobbs recalls what conditions were like in the neighborhood when the Court opened.

NEWS: The New York Times, as well as other New York City daily newspapers, endorse the Midtown Community Court.

Judge Felicia MenninJudge Felicia Mennin

The Judges

The Midtown Community Court has had five judges since its founding in 1993.

Judge Judy Harris Kluger (1993 to 1996) is chief of policy and planning for the New York State Unified Court System.

Judge Rosalyn H. Richter (1996) is now associate justice of the Appellate Division, First Department.

Judge Eileen Koretz (1997 to 2006) is now a judicial hearing officer in Supreme and Criminal Courts in New York.

Judge Richard M. Weinberg (2006 to 2012) is now presiding judge of  Part N (Felony/Misdemeanor Narcotics) in Manhattan.

Judge Felicia Mennin (2012 to 2016) is now a judge within Manhattan's central criminal court. 

Coverage

Over the years, the Midtown Community Court has been the subject of many articles on justice reform:

Veterans Initiative Unveiled at Midtown Community Court, from DNAinfo, profiles the Midtown Community Court's new program to aid defendants who served in the military.

Penalty for Rule-Breaking Bicyclists: A Remedial Class, from The New York Times, on the Midtown Community Court's program promoting bicycling safety.

MoMA Exhibit Puts Spotlight on Women Arrested for Prostitution, from DNAinfo, on artwork made by clients of the Midtown Community Court on display at the Museum of Modern Art.

A Dignitary Examines Community Court, from The New York Times, covers a visit to the Midtown Community Court from Lord Chancellor, the highest-ranking judicial official in Britain.

Midtown Community Court on the Hunt for a Wall, from DNAinfo, profiles the Midtown Community Court's fatherhood program and its mural-painting project in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art.

Midtown Court Helps Ex-Criminals Become Better Dads, from DNAinfo, on how the Midtown Community Court helps fathers with criminal histories.

Midtown Community Court Helps Teen Prostitute Escape 'the Life', from The Crime Report, about how the Midtown Community Court, is starting to recognize that many underage sex workers are victims of exploitation.

In New York City, a ‘Community Court’ and a New Legal Culture, published in 1996 by the U.S. Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice, describes the Midtown Community Court, the nation's first community court.

Community Courts Across the Globe: A Survey of Goals, Performance Measures, and Operations, describes the international community court movement. 

Clear Channel promotes the work of the Midtown Community Court with a slideshow in Times Square.

Featured Research

Publications

Fact Sheet: Community Service at the Midtown Community Court

Fact Sheet: Community Service at the Midtown Community Court

This fact sheet outlines the various community restitution projects at the Midtown Community Court. These initiatives seek to restore both the neighborhood and re-integrate participants into the community. 

Publications

UPNEXT: A Model for Increasing Financial and Emotional Support

UPNEXT: A Model for Increasing Financial and Emotional Support

By Bo Twiggs

This monograph describes UPNEXT, a job training and family engagement program based out of the Midtown Community Court that serves unemployed men and non-custodial fathers. 

Publications

Fact Sheet: Midtown Community Court Social Services

Fact Sheet: Midtown Community Court Social Services

This fact sheet describes the social services available through the Midtown Community Court.

@MIDTOWNCOURT
Midtown Community Court Blogs
  • July 22, 2016
    Justice through Procedure: Increasing Public Trust and Fairness in our Courts

    By Mohammed AlamWhat is Procedural Justice?Administering justice is rooted in the belief that the process will be fair. However, many trial and...

    Read More
  • June 2, 2016
    Renewing Justice, A Spring Reception

    By Mohammed AlamOn Tuesday, May 17th the Midtown Community Court hosted a spring reception at the nearby Empire Steak House.  The event,...

    Read More
Contact
  • New York
  • 520 8th Avenue
  • 18th Floor
  • New York, NY 10018
  • phone: 646.386.3100
  • Syracuse
  • 601 Tully Street
  • Syracuse, NY 13204
  • phone: 315.266.4330
  • London
  • Canterbury Court
    1-3 Brixton Road
  • London, SW9 6DE
  • phone: +44 2076.329.060