Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Veterans' Court

Due to the hard work of some very dedicated Defense Attorneys and Public Servants in the Texas Legislature and the CJC, this past week Harris County proudly held the first docket of its newly established Veterans' Court.

The Veterans' Court was the product of bipartisan work from the State Legislature, most notably Senator Rodney Ellis and Representative Alan Vaught. Representative Vaught is the Vice Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, and my understanding is that his staffer, Jo Cuevas, was instrumental in keeping the bill from dying along the way. Also along the way, the project was assisted by Defense Attorneys Pat McCann and Jack and Terri Zimmerman. According to Pat, the Harris County District Attorney's Office was also instrumental in helping to redraft the bill into a workable form.

To use Pat's quote, the effort to get the creation of the Veterans' Court, literally "took a village."
Also instrumental in the administration of the Veterans' Court are Mary Covington (who also is the heart and soul of the Success Through Addication Recovery (STAR Court) Program), and, of course, Judge Marc Carter. Attorney Staci Biggar (who already spends a significant amount of time already working in the Mental Health Courts) is also dedicating time to assist in the project.

What the Veterans' Court provides is alternative options for the men and women who are active or honorably discharged members of the United States Military (including the Reserves and National Guard) with a "service connected disability" that is linked to their criminal problems. The offense that the veteran is charged with can't be a 3G Offense (that's an aggravated offense for you guys not familiar with the lingo).

NOTE: My understanding is that the correllation to the "service connected disability" to the related criminal behavior could be, for example, a veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that exhibits itself through alcohol abuse picking up a DWI charge.

Eligible candidates will be screened by Mary Covington for admission into the court and the hope is for these men and women who have served their country will ultimately receive pre-trial diversions that will allow them to ultimately have their case expunged from their record (if successfully completed). The District Attorney's Office will also be instrumental in the administration of the program and have been very active in the effort thus far.

It's a great cause that took a tremendous effort, and everyone involved deserves our thanks and a congratulations.

Editor's Note: Any information written here from the HCCLA List Serve is used with permission from Pat McCann.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Agreed. It's overdue and the least we as a society can do for the men and women who offered to give everyting so we can enjoy the freedoms we do. Thank you to ALL veterans and those who fought to get this program implemented.

Mike said...

Not to say this isn't a good idea, but I'm wondering how many defendants are actually going to meet the critieria -- especially when you take 3G offenses out. I suspect dockets are going to be pretty small.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Mike,
I disagree. There are a lot of homeless veterans that have a lot of substance abuse problems and the corresponding crimes often come along with them.
I think it will see more cases than you think.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you posted this. As an employee of HCDA, I haven't received any information about this program and I was wondering what cases we could send there.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to Pat Mcan. I believe he was the best president the HCCLA has had in a long time. He was thoughtful in his responses and rarely had knee jerk reactions.

Anonymous said...

Pat McCann was the best president in the last decade. He has real life experence and is a true believer. Thank goodness for him. Most a d a people have real life experience much less any military experience.

Anonymous said...

So is this new method only for those who have been discharged, or is this also cover those still active?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

It covers the active and the discharged.

Anonymous said...

Judge Mike Anderson also played a large role, so make sure he gets some credit.

This is the least we can do for those who have served this country.

Anonymous said...

As an Army veteran, this gets a huge "Hooah" from me.

Anonymous said...

As an Army veteran, this gets a bog "we already have mental health courts that can handle this" from me.

Must be an election year.

Rage

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Rage,
I find your comment to be disappointing. I understand that your whole schtick is to say something inflammatory to get the ADAs (and the general readership) all fired up, but this kind of crosses into the area of acting like a jackass just to hear your head ring.
You know good and well that the type of court that was created by these folks is different from any court provided by the military because the crimes they are accused of don't fall under the military purview. Also, these courts are designed more to assist the accused than they are to punish.
I think that you are just agitating for agitation's sake and it's gotten really old, dude. You have the capacity to add some thought provoking comments on this blog and you have done so before. Hell I don't even care if the thoughts you are provoking are wrapped in your typical inflammatory writing.
It just seems to me that it has been quite some time since you've really added anything to the conversation.

Scott said...

amen. Srirring the pot for the sake oif stirring the pot is about as juvneile as it gets.

Xi said...

Scott and Murray,
Consider the source. Some VMI graduates are cool about their alma mater while others, like Rage Boy, are insecure about graduating from a 2nd tier military academy.
Maybe someone can get Rage Boy a West Point ring to flash and he'll shut the fuck up.

BTW, Obama's highly publicized recent speech at the United States Military Academy regarding the Afghan surge probably didn't help Rage's inferiority issues.

Anonymous said...

Murray, I don't know what in my post made you think I believe that military courtys are the place for this. Civilian courts are, but the existing authority for mental health courts more than adequately covers the issues confronting vets. They are intended to assist more than accuse.

The difference is that I'm tired of vets being used for the purposes of flag waving politicians. As a general rule, they do not truly care about the vets, they wave the flag and tout veterans expecting to be called patriots and pro-military, when they leave wounded vets to rot in decrepid VA hospitals like Walter Reed, and only truly help when someone shines a light on their neglect.

I also note that yet again people here care only about the fact that I disagree with them and wage personal attacks again. They would care if I'm a vet if I agreed with them, but because I disagree with them all they can do is try to disparage me. That shows they could care less about my status as a vet, only my adverse opinions. That's ok with me, I served in more continents and countries than they will ever visit, just to help them maintain their right to be titty babies.

As for my schtick, I'm for small government, not creating more courts for political expediency or to help get a buddy a shiny new job as a judge. At least as far as this thread is concerned.

Anonymous said...

And I guess to boil it down Murray, my point is that this should have been done already through existing courts. No fanfare needed, just get the right people in the right court.

I also disagree with treating vets differently than anyone else. Most right wingers could care less about the mental health of the every day citizen who never served, and that's a shame.

Anonymous said...

We are hearing lots of rumors about judicial races. Today we heard Earl Musick getting in to District court race.Earl would be great. We hope it is true. He has seen all sides of crimnal justice system.

Anonymous said...

Earl would be a great Judge. Earl is a legal scholar and a trial wizard. Go Earl!

Anonymous said...

As a Mental Health Practioner and a veteran, I applaud Harris County for the creation of the Veterans Court. This is not a novel concept. Courts specifically designed for veterans exist in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio and elsewhere. Preliminary research shows that these courts reduce recidivism. The presence of depression, substance abuse and anxiety disorders is much higher among veterans than the general population. Veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq also deal with such inhumanities as a VA system incapable of responding to basic human needs. On top of that, many returning veterans are entering a stagnate job market. No wonder that many of these veterans are having adjustment issues and revert to criminal behavior. They aren't giving coping skills, and the methods they used in the military to deal with a threat involves violence.

I hope this Court is successful. I hope that it receives the funding and support it needs, and I hope that those who oppose the court will realize it's incredible potential.

Warrior said...

Rage,
Although I am appaled your negative attitude and un-educated comments I will simply disregard those and title the statements as "Pure Ignorance". I am a Veterans Advocate and Accredited Service Officer. I have attended the HC Veterans Court and what a blessing it is for Veterans who have a problem and need help. So Mr. Anonymous I fully agree the statement by "A Harris County Lawyer"

The Warrior that stands before the authority of the Veterans Court is the reason you are able to make such statements. You will have a rebuttal but I will not again respond as I will not waste my time on uneducated persons making uneducated and sensless comments!