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Ginger Lerner-Wren
Ginger Lerner-Wren

Michael Perlin
Michael Perlin

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News Release

Contact: Melody Mitchell, NIU College of Law
(815) 753-9655

April 10, 2009

NIU Law Review symposium on mental illness
will feature internationaly renowned speakers

DeKalb, Ill. — The 18th Annual Northern Illinois University College of Law Review Symposium, “Confronting the Challenges of Persons Who Are Mentally Ill: Best Practices and Remaining Issues in the Law” will be held from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 17 at the NIU College of Law – Riley Courtroom.

The symposium will feature internationally-renowned speakers Chief Judge Ginger Lerner-Wren of the Broward County Florida Mental Health Court and New York Law School Professor Michael Perlin, and will focus on how our legal system and laws have changed in an effort to meet the needs of persons with mental illness. Topics include adequate representation of a person who is mentally ill, the emergence of mental health courts across the United States, and legal issues surrounding the recent changes in Illinois’ civil commitment procedures.

Judge Lerner-Wren will present the luncheon keynote address Why Jurisdictions Should Consider Establishing Mental Health Courts. Judge Lerner was selected to serve as the Mental Health Court Judge for the nation’s first court dedicated to the decriminalization and treatment of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system.

Hailed as a national model and best practice, Broward County’s innovative Mental Health Court was the model for Congress as it passed the Criminal Reduction and Diversion Legislation in 1999. Broward’s Mental Health Court was profiled at the White House Conference on Mental Health in 1999. In July 2002, President Bush appointed Judge Lerner-Wren to The President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, where she chaired the Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

Professor Perlin, an internationally-recognized expert on mental disability law, has devoted his career to championing legal rights for people with mental disabilities. He will present the afternoon keynote address “A Change Is Gonna Come.” The Implications of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for the Domestic Practice of Constitutional Mental Disability Law.

A prolific author of fifteen books and well over 175 scholarly articles on all aspects of mental disability law, Professor Perlin travels around the globe and advises mental health professionals, hospitals, advocates, activists, lawyers, and governments. In conjunction with Mental Disability Rights International, a U.S.-based human rights advocacy organization, he has presented mental disability training workshops in Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Bulgaria, and Uruguay.

Additional expert speakers and panelists include:

  • Presiding Justice Kathryn Zenoff, Illinois Appellate Court, Second District;
  • Honorable Charles Weech, Presiding Judge, McHenry County Mental Health Court;
  • Honorable Timothy Sheldon, Presiding Judge, Kane County Mental Health Court;
  • State Representative Kathy Ryg, Illinois General Assembly, 59th District;
  • Professor Mark Heyrman, University of Chicago School of Law;
  • Linda Virgil, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI Illinois);
  • Cheryl Jansen, Equip for Equality of Illinois;
  • Andreas Liewald and Patti Werner, Illinois Guardianship & Advocacy Commission;
  • William W. Wood, H. Douglas Singer Mental Health Center;
  • Michelle Rock, Assistant State’s Attorney, Winnebago County;
  • Wally Werderich, Assistant Public Defender, Kane County;
  • Lori Anderson, Assistant State’s Attorney, Kane County Treatment Alternative Court;
  • Lisa Salvadore, DuPage County Health Department;
  • NIU Law Professors Laurel Rigertas and Dan Reynolds; and
  • Deborah Paruch, Professor, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

On-line registration and additional symposium details are available at This program is approved for six hours of professional responsibility CLE credit for eligible attorneys.

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