Judge brings awareness of mental health issues


Gables Great, Judge Steven Leifman, recently spoke to the Rotary Club of Coral Gables prefacing his remarks by saying, “When I became a judge I had no idea that I was becoming a gatekeeper to the largest psychiatric facility in the state of Florida — the Miami-Dade Jail.”

This provocative statement is an issue that Judge Leifman has taken to heart and has worked to correct. His presentations to various organizations and influential groups have certainly helped bring about awareness for this alarming circumstance. Judge Leifman, a 10 – year Gables resident, draws on a background that gives him insight and stirs him to action like few others. From 2007 to 2010, Judge Leifman served as Special Advisor on Criminal Justice and Mental Health for the Supreme Court of Florida and in that role was responsible for chairing the court’s Mental Health Subcommittee which authored a groundbreaking report, titled Transforming Florida’s Mental Health System.

That report not only garnered considerable state and national recognition but also provided recommendations for decreasing the inappropriate and costly involvement of people with mental illnesses in the justice system.

In October, 2010, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Florida appointed Judge Leifman to chair the Florida Supreme Court’s Task Force on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues.

Because of his expertise in the criminal justice and mental health arenas, Judge Leifman has been appointed to serve on several local, state, and national bodies, including co-chairing the Council of State Governments/TAPA Center for Jail Diversion Judges’ Criminal Justice/Mental Health Leadership Initiative, and co-chairing the Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Mental Health Task Force, serving on the board of directors of the American Psychiatric Foundation.

Judge Leifman also participated as a member of the National Leadership Forum for Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice Services, a member of the American Bar Association Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, and as a Voluntary Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

He currently serves as chair of the South Florida Behavioral Health Network and finance chair of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust, and also serves as the board chair of Florida Partners in Crisis.

Awards abound for Judge Leifman’s many efforts and include receiving the 2011 Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle Award, 2010 Florida International University (FIU) Cal Kovens Distinguished Community Service Medallion, 2010 Leadership Florida Distinguished Member Award, 2009 International Community Corrections Association (ICCA) Judicial Award, 2009 Dade County Bar Association Sookie Williams Award, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 2008 Distinguished Service Award (NAMI National’s Highest Honor), 2008 Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Miami Chapter Honorable Gerald Kogan Judicial Distinction Award and 2007 Greater Miami Jewish Federation Judicial Community Service Award.

The judge has been featured on many national and local television and radio programs, CNN: Special Investigations Unit, The Criminally Insane; PBS, Minds on the Edge: Facing Mental Illness; CBS4, The Forgotten Floor, and National Public Radio (NPR) All Things Considered.

Judge Leifman has been married to his attorney wife, Osi, for 11 years, and is the proud father of son Max, 9. Leifman humbly gives credit to his wife for his son’s brilliance. Max is in the gifted program at Coral Gables Preparatory Academy. When not devoting his time to work, travel and public service, the Judge spends time with his family.

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