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Special Veterans Court Started

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Military personnel returning from combat zones have their own court should they have to deal with alcohol and drug problems.
But it is not a place where they will receive a slap on the hand for wrongdoing and a pat on the back for serving their country.

They must successfully complete the program or be faced with the criminal justice system.

Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor, representatives of the Tulsa County 14th Judicial District Court, Veterans Health Administration and Veterans Benefits Administration launched the Veteran's Court as a rehabilitative court for individuals charged with non-violent crimes and misdemeanors.

It is not intended for those facing "criminal felony" charges.

Returning veterans suffering from PTSD, depression and other combat related issues often do not get needed services to help them return to civilian life, Taylor said. Today 60 percent of Oklahoma's National Guard troops are on some form of active duty. They need a homecoming and a welcome in recognition for the service they have performed in the defense of their country. Some need a place to go to deal with the traumatic events they experienced.

Veteran's Court came together because of work by VA Medical Center Director Adam Walmus, Judge Sarah Day Smith, the Tulsa County Drug Court Team and the Mayor's office represented by Matt Stiner.

Men and women returning from serving their country do not need to be placed in the David L. Moss Correctional Center because they made a mistake - or series of mistakes - in their transition from the military, said Smith.

'With 158 veterans arrested in Tulsa County during October, there clearly is a need for this new therapeutic court,' Judge Smith said. 'The Veteran's Treatment Court offers a unique partnership between the Veteran's administration and other organizations to provide treatment, compassion and hope to the men and women who served our country and are struggling in the criminal justice system.'

The Tulsa County Public Defender's Office will assign two full-time attorneys to the division.


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