Sol Wachtler to Speak on 'Rage to Punish' Mentally Disturbed

Contact: Vincent Reda, 518-437-4985

Sol Wachtler, the former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals whose influential career as a jurist was cut down by his arrest and 1993 conviction of harassment, will speak on his involvement in the criminal justice system from judge to criminal defendant and prisoner on Wednesday, April 25, at 7 p.m. in the Hall of Fame Room of the Recreation and Convocation Center Page Hall on the University at Albany's Uptown Campus.

Wachtler's talk, "Rage to Punish: Psychiatry and the Law," will deal with mental health and the criminal justice system and "about what happens to people who are disturbed instead of evil," according to James Acker, interim dean of the UAlbany School of Criminal Justice. The School is sponsoring the event, which is free and open to the public.

Acker finds Wachtler's address pertinent to much of the ongoing research at the School of Criminal Justice, which has consistently been rated in the top three such schools in the nation since its inception in 1969. "The School has long been involved in research and legal policy issues relevant to the intersection of the mental health and corrections systems." Acker pointed to Professor Fred Cohen's pioneering 1980 casebook, The Law of Deprivation of Liberty.

"Other faculty at the School have completed research investigating the tenuous relationship between mental illness and crime, and issues involving the treatment and confinement of mental disturbed offenders," said Acker. "Also pertinent to Sol Wachtler's appearance is the School's law-related coursework focusing on the jurisprudence of appellate courts, including New York's Court of Appeals."

Wachtler was appointed to the State Supreme Court by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in 1968 and in 1972 ran for and was elected to New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals. He was appointed as the court's Chief Judge in 1985 by Gov. Mario Cuomo.

On the Court of Appeals, Wachtler was responsible for a series of rights-expanding rulings involving the handicapped, minorities and women. His decisions opened the closed doors of exclusive men's clubs, strengthened determinations of the state Division of Human Rights and helped broaden the definition of a handicap.

As an administrator, Wachtler had equal influence: actively working to improve the lot of women and minorities in the criminal and civil justice systems, lobbying for a more diversified Court of Appeals, and appointing blue-ribbon commissions to identify, and help rectify, both flagrant and insidious bias. The writer of more than 800 significant court opinions and more than 200 published articles, he was the recipient of honors from many legal and civil rights groups.

Wachtler's judicial career came to an end with his 1992 arrest by the FBI for conducting a campaign of harassment against his former mistress, the socialite Joy Silverman. In 1993, he was convicted of harassment. Wachtler's 1997 book, After the Madness, was a diary of his 11-month imprisonment (which followed a year of home confinement). It focused on his penitentiary pals, jailhouse experiences, and reflections concerning the law, crime, punishment, and rehabilitation.

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April 11, 2001


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