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.