Contact:  Sandy Adkins
Communications Specialist
National Center for State Courts
757.259.1515

 

State courts honor veterans by providing specialized programs

Williamsburg, Va. (Nov. 11, 2010) — Throughout the U.S. today, ceremonies, parades, and other special events are taking place to honor the nation's war veterans. But every day, a growing number of our country's state courts are recognizing veterans in a very different and significant way — by establishing specialized courts and programs designed to address the social and legal issues associated with servicemen and women.

Currently at least 20 states have veterans courts: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. At least 10 other states are considering the issue either through studies or proposed legislation. 

The first veterans court opened in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2008, and is based on drug treatment and/or mental health courts, with substance-abuse or mental-health treatment offered as an alternative to incarceration. Veteran mentors also are critical to the success of the program. (For more on the background of and need for veterans courts, see today's op-ed in The New York Times by Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille.) 

Even in states that do not currently have veterans courts, the legal community is addressing veterans' needs in a variety of innovative ways.

  • The Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans initiative is a statewide effort to recruit lawyers who will provide pro bono legal services to veterans who cannot afford those services. Pro bono clinics have been established in all metropolitan areas of the state, including Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso, Fort Worth, and Austin, as well as in smaller communities.
  • On Oct. 13, the Supreme Court of Texas amended the Rules Governing Admission to the Bar of Texas to allow judge advocates who are not members of the Texas Bar to represent soldiers and their dependents in specific instances.
  • At least one federal court — the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York — is providing the veterans court alternative.

In addition, there are a number of non-court-related programs that are helping either provide veterans with an alternative to jail or are assisting with re-entry following incarceration.

  • New Jersey has established the Veteran's Assistance Program, which identifies offenders who are veterans and provides treatment and/or mentoring services as an alternative to jail.
  • The Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Labor, provides grants to agencies to provide re-entry services to veterans. Its major goal is to reduce the number of homeless veterans.
  • Goodwill Industries in Spokane, Wash., provides life-skills classes, mental-health counseling, employment opportunities, housing, clothing, and transportation to veterans through the About Face program. These types of programs are designed to assist veterans following incarceration or as an alternative to incarceration.

For more information on the nation's veterans courts, see the National Center for State Courts' Veterans Court Resource Guide

 

The NCSC Backgrounder is designed to provide the media with statistics and facts related to current issues of interest.

The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation's state courts.