12/5/2018 12:06:00 PM Third Judicial District judges plan for new Veterans Court
By Karen M. Jorgensen
Judges in the Third Judicial District are making plans to establish a Veterans Court.
Judge Ross Leuning , who works out of Freeborn County, explained the procedure last week to county board members in Dodge County. Veterans Courts are operated in a similar fashion to Drug Courts such as the one in Dodge County.
"We're creating a veterans court," Leuning told the commissioners. "It will be very similar to the Drug Court currently operating in Dodge County.
The number of Veterans Courts in the United States has been growing over the past decade, he said. Several counties in Minnesota, including Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka, Blue Earth and St. Louis, already have such courts.
The Third Judicial District, Leuning said, is looking at a district-wide court because, with the exception of Rochester, none of the communities are large enough to warrant their own court.
More veterans are now returning from service and are becoming involved in the state court system. A Veterans Court, he said, matches a veteran with a mentor who is also a veteran.
A veteran mentoring another veteran creates a very strong bond because of their shared experiences, he said.
The mentors, Leuning said, help the veteran get through the probationary system. The real goal, he said, is to help people put their problems behind them and become productive citizens. Most people who find themselves in criminal courts have not had self-discipline training, Leuning said, while the veteran who has gone through military training often just needs to "get back on track."
Requests to establish the court have come from several directions, he said. Some of the judges were asking for the court as were county attorneys and probation officers. Chief Judge Jodi Williamson was supportive of the idea and when it came time to establish an organizing committee asked Leuning to take the lead role.
Read the rest of the story in the print edition of the Star Herald.