Veterans Court in Session in Buffalo
Eckley, Timothy S., Judicature
Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan too often carry burdens such as post traumatic stress disorder and depression that can lead to substance abuse or domestic violence issues and increased difficulty in adjusting to civilian life. Many jurisdictions have seen an increase in numbers of veterans appearing in court for reasons related to these issues. There is growing concern that these numbers will further increase when draw downs in the number of troops serving in the Middle East occur. Judge Robert T. Russell, Jr., a City Court Judge in Buffalo, New York, and Henry Pirowski, Buffalo City Court Project Director, have established the first Veterans Court in the nation dedicated specifically to serving veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court, which began in January 2008, is similar to other community courts. The concept of the Veterans Court grew from proceedings in the Rochester, New York City Court of Judge John Schwartz, who began two years ago to involve Veterans Affairs staff in his drug court. Support for the Veterans Court has come from the Western New York Veterans Project, the Buffalo Police Department, and the Buffalo VA Medical Center.
The goal of the Veterans Court is to ensure that veterans or family members of veterans obtain the help they need while avoiding prosecution or prison sentences for low level, nonviolent crimes. Another primary goal is to prevent repeat offenses. …