The Ballad of Kim Darrow

There once was a judge
in the borough of Brooklyn
who had a special courtroom
for special civil cases
she sat and she sat
and she sat and decided
and all of her decisions
would point in one direction

If you were a special case
brought before her
(diagnosed, labeled)
you couldn't have a pen
no you couldn't have a pencil
to write your lawyer notes with
pens and pencils
(pointed, sharpened)
could be dangerous
would be dangerous
the lawyers, objecting
were all overruled

One day a lawyer
did some thinking
packed a special item
(green and orange)
into his briefcase
brought it out boldly
in the judge's courtroom
holding up the box
of Crayola's non-toxic:
"A crayon for my client"
pleaded the lawyer
"a crayon for my client
a crayon for my client
to write me notes with
if your honor pleases"

"NO!" spoke the judge
(black-robed, gaveled)
"He cannot have a crayon
he cannot have a crayon
a crayon is dangerous
it could be used
as a projectile"
not one objection
was sustained

If you are a special case
(dazed, bewildered
articulate, seething)
perhaps you might care
to send the judge a crayon
for signing her orders
or use a pen or pencil
to send her your opinion
here is her address:
[ ____ ____ ]*


  • The address was at the Brooklyn Supreme Court.
    Judge Duberstein has since retired, perhaps her greatest contribution to persons with disabilities.

The Ballad of Kim Darrow
(originally titled Crayolaphobia)
Laura Ziegler, 1996

For more on Judge Duberstein see David Firestone, For Their Own Good? With Public Pressure Mounting to Get the Mentally Ill Off the Streets, Lawyers Say They Don't Always Get a Fair Hearing, NEWSDAY, May 31, 1989, and Committed Against His Will For Medical Student, a 5-Week Psychiatric Ordeal (NY Times, Oct. 1996.)

Note: The following is copied from a handbill distributed at a protest in front of Brooklyn Supreme Court, probably some time in 1996. The kangaroo sign is from the same protest, as is the photograph.

The poem above was written by a survivor of forced treatment and psychiatric justice.

Today, 360 Adams Street is the site of an award ceremony in which Judge Maxine K. Duberstein is being honored for her "caring and concerned attitude toward mentally ill patients." Her concern rarely if ever extends to impartial justice, legal standards, or the dignity of the people whose mental status is at issue in her courtroom. The above incident really took place! The doors of Judge Duberstein's courtroom conceal an extraordinary abuse of judicial authority and open bias against people with disabilities. Over the years in which she has controlled Brooklyn's mental health proceedings, there have been few occasions when Judge Duberstein has not granted psychiatric applications for incarceration and forced treatment. People alleged to be mentally ill are subjected by this judge to antagonism, bias, and abuse of dignity throughout the legal process. Her conduct merits sanctions -- not awards.

[ For more information, see NY Times, 10/25/96, p. B4, "A Psychiatric Ordeal..."]


You've been locked up in a psychiatric hospital against your will. Maybe your family got a warrant or called the cops on you, maybe you went into the emergency room and they kept you. The hospital wants to give you powerful drugs. You don't want to be drugged, and you want to get out.

This is your day in court. You know you're not suicidal or about to attack anyone. You know you have a right to refuse the drugs. You think the judges will listen to your side of the story, and maybe you will get out.


  1. Anything your boyfriend, mother, landlord, or caseworker told the psychiatrist or hospital staff is going to be used against you. Even though it's hearsay.
  2. The psychiatrist whom you may have trusted is going to tell your secrets and make you look bad. If you didn't talk to him/her, you have, probably been labeled "paranoid."
  3. On the subject of paranoia, you might think that is a very serious and frightening word to describe somebody. You have said it jokingly though. Guess what? If you complain about being mistreated, if you are afraid of being harmed in the hospital, or if you use words like "poison" to describe their drugs, this word "paranoia" will be used quite seriously about you.
  4. You know that when you testify, you sit in the witness stand. That shows your testimony is serious. But nobody really cares what you say, and you don't get to take the stand. (Maybe the Judge is afraid of catching something from you .)
  5. After you speak, the judge might ask you questions that he won't let you explain your answers to. This is good cross-examination, and you might have expected it from the hospital's attorney, but isn't the judge supposed to be neutral and listen for the whole truth? Or again, if you speak well, the judge might refuse to consider your testimony for herself, but turn to the psychiatrist and ask if anything you said changed his/her opinion. (Of course not, he/she came there to keep you locked up and/or have you drugged.)
  6. No matter what you say, the overwhelming likelihood (98% according to the New York Times) in the Brooklyn Mental Hygiene Court is that you will have to do what the psychiatrists want. Judge Duberstein brags that she attended a seminar where psychiatrists instructed her about listening to their testimony. Rivera acts as if he has done the same. Neither of them upholds the law, which says you have to be dangerous to be held against your will; and only if you are unable to decide for yourself, can the court consider the "risks and benefits" of the drugs to decide whether to force it on you.
  7. For your information, the drug of choice for involuntary administration is Haldol, because it comes in a long-acting form and they only have to be bothered once a month to inject you. Haldol is one of the most feared and complained of drugs, with side effects ranging from unbearable need to keep moving, to muscular spasms, to low blood pressure, sudden death, Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (toxicity that can be fatal) and tardive dyskinesia, which is irreversible and gives people the uncontrollable movements that stigmatize you and can cause you to choke.

Judge Maxine Duberstein has held onto the Mental Hygiene court in Brooklyn as her private territory for 12 years. Her alternate, Judge Reinaldo Rivera, has apparently been sworn to uphold the traditions as she established them.

You might have seen leaflets about Duberstein earlier this year, when we were trying to stop her from being recertified. Although she has decided to resign at the end of this year, Rivera in the driver's seat is nothing to look forward to.

Several times in the past, people had attempted to put in a rotation system, where judges would serve in this part for a month at a time. There is a 1ist of five judges, including Rivera, who are supposed to participate in this rotation. (This is how it is done in other boroughs.)

If you wish to participate in the campaign to bring fairness and justice to the Mental Hygiene Court, please contact us at the address below. You may also write to Judge Jonathan Lippman, Chief Administrative Judge, 270 Broadway, New York, NY 10007, expressing your concerns.

Bet Your Ass We're Paranoid * P O Box 471173 * Brooklyn NY 11247

![ Kim Darrow