Editorial: Proceed with caution on specialty court


Specialty courts — drug courts, mental health courts and the like — can be life-altering for the men and women who take part in them, their families and the community at large. They generally offer treatment for underlying problems like drug addiction, in addition to providing close supervision and other services aimed at getting an offender back on his feet and functioning in society.

Because they do offer so many services, and because participants must appear in court far more often than they otherwise would, specialty courts can be expensive to operate. Knowing that, those behind the idea of creating a specialty court aimed at military veterans in Deschutes County should move ahead with caution.

Like other specialty courts, veterans courts around the country can genuinely make a difference. The nearest one to Deschutes County, in Klamath Falls, is just over 2 years old. A total of 39 veterans have been selected to participate; 14 have graduated, one died and 21 still are participating. Three veterans were removed from the court because they could not follow the strict conditions under which it operates.

None of the 14 graduates has committed another crime.

The Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office is promoting the idea of a veterans court here and is seeking funds from federal grants and nonprofit agencies to get it off the ground. It cannot go to the Deschutes County Circuit Court for funds because the court doesn’t have them, according to Alta Brady, presiding judge.

And therein lies the problem. While a veterans court surely would be good for veterans, it’s not clear it could be sustained without funding from the state, and that simply isn’t available. In fact, as Brady noted, judges in Deschutes County already are overworked, and there’s no indication that will change anytime soon, particularly with the recently enlarged burden of judicial foreclosures.

Before those hoping to establish a veterans court here get too far down the road, they should do themselves, veterans and the courts a favor. They should be able to assure all involved that money will be available not only to establish a court but to keep it operating without draining vital resources from other courts in the county.