RD593 - Virginia Specialty Dockets 2020 Annual Report – December 1, 2020

Executive Summary:

Specialty Dockets accommodate offenders with specific problems and needs that are not or could not be adequately addressed in the traditional court setting. They have been called by various titles, including therapeutic jurisprudence courts/dockets, problem-solving dockets and problem-solving justice. Specialty dockets seek to promote outcomes that will benefit not only the offender, but also the victim and society. They were developed as an innovative judicial response to a variety of offender problems, including substance abuse and mental illness, as well as problems presented to the courts involving military veterans. Early studies conclude that these types of dockets have a generally positive impact on the lives of offenders and victims, and, in most instances, save governmental authorities significant jail and prison costs (Marlowe, 2010; Rossman & Zweuig, 2013).

Across the country, specialty dockets have experienced exponential growth in recent years. There is a common belief that courts and judges have an obligation to use their resources and best efforts to solve the problems that bring people into court, whether as the accused, the victim, or the witness. Toward that end, specialty dockets generally involve hearings before a judge who, through frequent interaction, utilizes incentives as well as sanctions in order to compel defendants to comply with appropriate treatment and intervention. These dockets are testing new methods of administering justice, recreating ways that state courts address the many factors that contribute to crime. Among these are mental illness, illegal drug use, domestic violence, and child abuse or neglect. The judge works closely with a community-based team of experts in order to develop a specific case plan for each person before the court. The primary goal is to protect public safety through individualized, meaningful treatment.

The Virginia Judicial System mission is “to provide an independent, accessible, responsive forum for the just resolution of disputes in order to preserve the rule of law and to protect all rights and liberties guaranteed by the United States and Virginia Constitutions." In response to numerous inquiries about various specialty dockets in Virginia, the Supreme Court of Virginia promulgated Rule 1:25, Specialty Dockets, effective January 16, 2017. The Rule includes the definition of and criteria for specialty dockets, types of specialty dockets, an authorization process, expansion of types of specialty dockets, oversight structure, operating standards, funding, and evaluation.

The Supreme Court of Virginia currently recognizes the following three types of specialty dockets: (i) drug treatment court dockets as provided for in the Drug Treatment Court Act, § 18.2254.1, (ii) Veterans Treatment dockets, and (iii) Behavioral/Mental Health dockets § A circuit or district court that intends to establish one or more types of these recognized specialty dockets must petition the Supreme Court of Virginia for authorization before beginning operation of a specialty docket. These specialized dockets are designed to fulfill local needs utilizing local resources. Pursuant to Code of Virginia § 18.2-254.2, this Report will provide an annual summary of Veterans Treatment dockets.

Veterans Treatment dockets serve military veterans with treatment needs who face possible incarceration. These dockets promote sobriety, recovery and stability through a coordinated response with the understanding that the bonds of military service and combat run very deep. Veterans dockets allow veterans to navigate the court process with other veterans who are similarly situated and have common experiences, but also link them with Veterans Affairs services uniquely designed for their needs. Veterans dockets benefit from support provided by U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs volunteer veteran mentors, and veterans’ family support organizations. (NDCI, Painting the Current Picture, July 2011).