Legislative Panel Votes To Seek Bill To Mandate Veterans’ Court In Clark County

CARSON CITY – A legislative panel today voted to request that a bill be drafted and introduced in the 2013 session requiring the Clark County District Court to create a Veterans’ specialty court.

The Legislative Committee on Senior Citizens, Veterans and Adults with Special Needs voted unanimously in a work session to seek the legislation. But the interim committee also voted to write a letter to the Clark County District Court asking it to establish a Veterans’ Court on its own so legislative action would not be necessary.

The Legislature authorized the creation of Veterans’ Courts through a bill sponsored by former Speaker Barbara Buckley in 2009. But the measure authorized rather than mandated courts to establish such specialty courts program for veterans and members of the military.

Currently, the Washoe County District Court has established a Veterans’ Court, but it is the only district court that has established such a program.

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The purpose of such courts is to handle the special cases of veterans struggling to adjust to civilian life after ending their military service.

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, D-Las Vegas, a veteran and member of the committee, said testimony indicated the Washoe Veterans’ Court has been successful in reducing recidivism among veterans, ultimately reducing money spent on incarceration. The testimony also indicated the court has assisted veterans in obtaining a variety of services and benefits, he said.

The 2009 legislation was enabling only because of budget concerns at the time and the potential fiscal impacts to the court system. But the Washoe program has showed substantial savings because of fewer jail and prison inmates and a reduced need for prosecution staff time and resources, Anderson said.

A court spokeswoman said today: “The (Clark County) District Court supports a Veterans’ Court model. Within our adult drug court, district court currently has a weekly veterans’ calendar that is attended by a Criminal Justice Liaison from the Veterans Administration (VA). Veterans in the program are linked to services for which they qualify. If veterans are identified in other specialty courts they are put in contact with the Criminal Justice Liaison and provided an opportunity to access services through the VA. The (Clark County) District Court is open to expanding this program as funding allows.”

Anderson said lawmakers would prefer the court to move forward on its own.

“And I did promise the committee, and I will follow through, that I will be reaching out to the court throughout the months leading up to the session to try to make this happen without legislative intervention,” he said. “We don’t like to mandate anything without reason.

“It is time for Clark County District Court to get a Veterans’ Court up and running,” Anderson said. “During testimony we did not hear of any extra costs associated with the court, nor did we hear any good reason for the Veterans’ Court to not be established at the Clark County District Court level.”

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Audio clips:

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson says the committee would rather see the Clark County court system create the specialty court on its own:

062012Anderson1 :24 get it done.”

Anderson says testimony indicated that the Veterans’ Court in Washoe County has saved money:

062012Anderson2 :33 is already overwhelmed.”