It is not often one gets a chance to "vote" for social justice and reform through legal innovation. In my experience as a lawyer in the public interest sector and as a judge working on behalf of persons with mental illness in the criminal justice system, I can attest that social reform and progress comes hard, if it comes at all. The truth is that system change and plans to drive reforms rarely succeed. More often than not, these efforts, while typically noble and well-intended, give way to rigid systems unwilling to allow for change and/or cultural organizations fearful that new ideas or innovations will mean change and a potential loss of power and influence by those in leadership and control. As Woodrow Wilson said, "If you want to make enemies, try to change something."
I recall reading an interview a number of years ago when the late Senator Edward Kennedy was preparing to retire from the Senate. Oprah Winfrey asked him a questions regarding one of his greatest disappointments about public service. His response should surprise no one. Remarking how difficult it can be to create meaningful reform, referring to his inability to achieve his lifelong cause to pass universal health care for all Americans.
This is why it is important to take note that there is an immediate opportunity to impact social justice and human rights through legal innovation occurring at this very moment. Your participation will not involve detention, torture and/or risk of personal or political retribution. In fact, you could vote and choose not to inform anyone you participated in a global justice initiative, but it does feel good.
The prestigious HiiL Foundation (Hague Institute for Internationalization of Law), The Hague, The Netherlands, is a rule of law platform and laboratory currently sponsoring an online voting challenge featuring this year's Innovative Justice Award contenders. This partial online voting challenge designed to narrow the field and determine which nominees will move onto the final round. The prize is not a record deal, but the HiiL's investment in the winning innovations, to be further developed and readied for global implementation in those regions of the world most underserved and in need of the particular winning innovation. (That sounds like a record deal to me.)
The nominated entries are diverse and share the potential of improving and transforming lives through the law in a wide variety of sectors. Granted, this challenge is a far cry from American Idol or Top Chef and may touch on subject matters more serious than Project Runway, but human injustices run deep, and so does this challenge.
The fact is The Innovative Justice Forum Awards Challenge, sponsored by the HiiL Foundation, offers a rare and unique opportunity to impact social justice and human rights by a simple click and the entry of your email address for a verified vote. Don't miss this opportunity to promote legal access, help drive cultural change, save lives and restore community to vulnerable and underserved populations across the globe. Take a few minutes and visit the Innovating Justice Awards website at HTTP://InnovatingJustice.com and cast a vote for those innovative ideas and solutions you are passionate about. Be a part of something larger than yourselves and the justice needs of others, helps strengthen the rule of law and promote human rights. The winning innovations will be reviewed, studied, further developed and implemented by HiiL and its distinguished strategic partners. Voting closes Friday, Oct. 18, 2013 (5:00 EST, 17:00 CET).
Judge Ginger Lerner Wren is a County Judge, (Broward County, Florida) and former member, President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. Judge Lerner-Wren is participating in this Awards Challenge. Judge Lerner-Wren can be reached at Jwren@17th.flcourts.org.