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Court Cases

With the growing use of restorative justice, the number of court cases addressing restorative practices is growing.

. Foreword: New voices in mental health and drug courts.
Youth Court. Street Court. Homeless Court. Mental Health Court. Drug Court. Domestic Violence Court. Community Court. Veterans Court. Such specialty courts are sweeping the nation as manifestations of a problem-solving movement in which judges choose to use therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) principles to focus on the treatment and resolution of interpersonal and psychological issues that underlie legal problems rather than emphasize punishment or blame.(excerpt)
. Healing the wounds: An examination of veterans treatment courts in the context of restorative justice.
Controversy exists regarding whether specialized courts, specifically drug courts, adhere to the restorative justice model. Veterans treatment courts (VTCs) are the newest programmatic innovation in the specialized court arena and have not been widely studied to date. This study utilizes data from the first in-depth case study of a VTC and explores whether it embodies the restorative justice ideal. Using both quantitative and qualitative data, we find that the VTC does not fully embody the restorative justice agenda, but it adheres closer to the ideal than drug courts.(author's abstract)
. Survey of Tribal Court effectiveness studies.
Alaska Native tribes have used sentencing circles and other cultural traditions to address problems involving tribal members for centuries. This way of dealing with disputes in a restorative and reparative manner eventually gave way to an adversarial process when Alaska was purchased by the United States. Alaska Natives have always had a unique relationship with the federal government; there is currently only one reservation in Alaska and limited other forms of Indian country in the state. In 1971 the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was signed into law, extinguishing all unsettled Alaska Native claims to land by placing title to land in the control of Alaska Native corporations. Subsequent cases have determined that land transferred to Alaska Native corporations via ANCSA cannot be considered Indian country for the purpose of establishing tribal courtjurisdiction.(excerpt)
A visionary judge makes restorative justice come alive in Alabama
from Ken Kimsey's entry on Fairness Works: In a six-part video series, Judge McCooey talks passionately about her believe that justice requires much more than the court system provides, especially in the area of giving crime victims the opportunity to meet the offenders, face-to-face, in a safe place, and to do so on a voluntary basis. (If you walk out of here and find someone has stolen your car radio, chances are you don’t have much interest in meeting the thief, she says in one segment. But the more deeply you have been hurt, the more likely you want to meet the offender and ask questions like “why?”.) As appealing as her speaking style and warmth is her story about the unorthodox path that led her to the bench. Serving as a judge was never in her long-range plans, but when she won her first election against a well-established Montgomery lawyer, surprising herself in the process, she knew there were some new thing she wanted to try. Finding ways of implementing a restorative justice program was among them, and she set about methodically but quietly to make this happen.
Burr, Richard. Litigating with victim impact testimony: the serendipity that has come from Payne v. Tennessee.
A lawyer experienced in representing accused individuals facing the death penalty, Richard Burr makes these two observations about victim impact testimony in capital cases: (a) it usually serves the prosecution’s goal of procuring a death sentence; and (b) it does little to address most of the needs of survivors of murder. At best, such testimony provides a momentary opportunity for survivors to voice their loss, thus being heard and felling less isolated. At worst, it exploits the immense pain suffered by survivors to serve as a lever to produce a death sentence. With all of this in mind, he considers the situation in the wake of Payne v. Tennessee (501 U.S. 808 [1991]), a case that made it virtually impossible for defense counsel to exclude or limit victim impact testimony. Now, he argues, defense lawyers must reach out to survivors with genuine compassion. They must learn from survivors which needs can be met within the criminal justice process; and they must do what they can do, consistent with representing the interests of their clients, to ensure that those needs are adequately addresses. Defense lawyers must work for respectful inclusion of survivors in the criminal justice process and not be complicit in exploiting and excluding them.
Center for Restorative Justice braces for changes to marijuana law
from the article by Keith Whitcomb, Jr. for the Bennington Banner News: With the state likely to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana this summer, the local nonprofit that handles court diversion cases is preparing for the changes.... Cipriano said decriminalization is not legalization, a distinction she fears may be lost on some young people as well as adults. Those caught with less than an ounce of marijuana who are 21 and over will face a civil fine, but for those between the ages of 16 and 20 the penalty is expected to be similar to an underage drinking offense.
Center for Restorative Justice braces for changes to marijuana law
from the article by Keith Whitcomb, Jr. for the Bennington Banner News: With the state likely to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana this summer, the local nonprofit that handles court diversion cases is preparing for the changes.... Cipriano said decriminalization is not legalization, a distinction she fears may be lost on some young people as well as adults. Those caught with less than an ounce of marijuana who are 21 and over will face a civil fine, but for those between the ages of 16 and 20 the penalty is expected to be similar to an underage drinking offense.
Church arsonist doubts God will forgive him
from Alexandra Zabjek's article in the Edmonton Journal: A man who torched two Wetaskiwin churches in what a judge described as a "totally senseless wanton act of destruction" was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison. But he was offered hope by one of the ministers whose church was destroyed. "We have not been abandoned and we don't want you, Peter Terence Jones, to feel abandoned," Wetaskiwin First United Church minister Ruth Lumax told the 24-year-old arsonist in her victim impact statement, which was read in court.
D.A. candidate Jackie Lacey looks to move up
from the article by Robert Greene in the Los Angeles Times: ....California faces a sweeping revamp of the way it delivers and administers criminal justice. Under the policy change known as realignment, counties must take on the task of incarcerating and supervising many felons who formerly went to state prison. The next district attorney of Los Angeles County will play a lead role in developing and articulating policies that will determine whether smart, cost-effective alternative sentencing practices lead to rehabilitation — or instead to dangerous criminals being released, unsupervised, into the community.
Dalhousie offers restorative justice option for students
from the article on Dalhousie University students who end up in trouble with the law now have a way to try to right the wrong without having to go to court. The University, police and the province’s Justice Department have set up a restorative justice program just for students of the school. It’s the first program of its kind for university students in Canada.
David Daubney of Canada presented the 2011 International Prize for Restorative Justice
by Dan Van Ness David Daubney has been awarded the 2011 International Prize for Restorative Justice in recognition of the public policy leadership he has provided in support of restorative justice. The presentation was made during the Prison Fellowship World Convocation underway in Toronto, Canada from 28 June – 2 July, 2011. Daubney’s interest in restorative justice began twenty five years ago when he was a Member of Parliament, chairing the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice. The Committee was engaged in a year-long study of public and professional attitudes about crime and criminal justice. As it conducted hearings across Canada, its members began to hear about a concept that was new to all of them: restorative justice. They heard from grassroots organizations operating victim offender reconciliation programs in Canada and from crime victims who spoke about the personal healing they had received from their involvement in these programs. The Committee was so impressed that it recommended in its 1987 report “Taking Responsibility” – known to many as the Daubney Report – that restorative values and principles be incorporated into the Canadian Criminal Code.
Editor. Interchange: A California judge promotes restorative justice
A judge "falls in love" with restorative justice and victims, youthful offenders and communities in Santa Clara County, California benefit from the results. Author's abstract.
Feinblatt, John and Berman, Greg. Good Courts: The Case for Problem-Solving Justice
This book describes problem-solving courts in America and examines the data supporting their use. During the past decade, public confidence in the American criminal justice system has plummeted. In the wake of public dissatisfaction, the criminal justice system has been quietly undergoing a number of changes ranging from restorative justice practices to specialized, problem-solving courts. The focus of this book is on those problem-solving courts that are changing the way criminal justice is handled in America by addressing the underlying reasons individuals break the law. These alternative courts range from drug courts that mandate substance abuse treatment to domestic violence courts that require offenders to complete intervention and treatment programs. The authors describe problem-solving courts, presenting several different models, and examine the data that has been generated through evaluations of their functioning and outcomes. The authors draw on their experience setting up New York’s Midtown Community Court and the Red Hook Community Justice Center to demonstrate the work of problem-solving courts and how they operate. The authors also recount the stories of four individuals who benefited from a community court, a drug court, and a domestic violence court. The book addresses the issue of fairness within the problem-solving court model, with a focus on the impact these courts have on individual rights. Finally, the future of problem-solving courts is considered as the authors predict that the alternative courts of the future will focus on mental health, gun violence, repeat misdemeanor offenders, probation violators, housing, and community reentry for offenders released from prison. Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,
First Nations court seen as path out of vicious cycle
from the article by Mike Youds for the Kamloops Daily News: Local bands have asked for a First Nations court to be established in Kamloops, delegates heard Thursday at an Aboriginal justice forum at TRU. The forum focused on the Aboriginal sentencing principles of Gladue, recently reaffirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada, while hosting Justice Marion Buller Bennett of First Nations court in New Westminster.
Gottlieb, Karen. Lessons Learned in Implementing the First Four Tribal Wellness Courts.
The "lessons learned" presented in this paper were drawn from the experiences of the first four tribal wellness courts (drug courts): Hualapai (Arizona), the Blackfeet (Montana), Fort Peck reservation (Montana), Poarch Creek (Alabama). Although these tribal drug courts had distinctive experiences in planning and implementing court procedures and programs, they exhibited a similar pattern of strengths and weaknesses. The intent of identifying lessons learned from these court programs is that other tribes learn from their experiences and avoid the same mistakes. The first of 10 lessons discussed is to develop a strong structure for the court team. The responsibility of the team is to integrate the members’ skills and backgrounds in achieving a holistic approach to treating court participants who have substance abuse problems. The team should be composed of representatives from across the reservation, including tribal elders and others who embody traditional tribal values. The second lesson is to use the informed consent model for admittance to the court program, which involves the selection of referral points and the use of legal procedures that protect the individual’s due-process rights. The third lesson is to assess readiness for change in potential participants through legal and clinical screening for eligibility. A fourth lesson is to integrate culture, not religion, into the court, which involves providing access to holistic, structured, and phased substance abuse treatment services that incorporate culture and tradition. Other lessons discussed involve monitoring participants during times when illegal acts are likely to occur; rewarding positive behaviors; choosing a judge who can be both a leader and a team player; collecting automated court information systematically from the beginning of the court; developing a written curriculum for court staff; and emphasizing early outreach within the community. (Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,
Gottlieb, Karen. Process and Outcome Evaluations in Four Tribal Wellness Courts.
The four tribal drug courts are the Blackfeet Alternative Court (Montana), the Fort Peck Community Wellness Court (Montana), the Hualapai Wellness Court (Arizona), and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Drug Court (Alabama). The evaluations found that each court had many strengths and success stories. Success was documented as a “slowing down” of alcohol and drug use in adult participants; however, graduates were as likely to reoffend as nongraduates, and participants as a whole had a relatively high 3-year recidivism rate that ranged from 50-64 percent in the adult courts and over 90 percent in the juvenile courts. For the adult program, graduates took longer to reoffend than nongraduates, and participants had fewer postprogram charges compared to their preprogram criminal histories. Juvenile graduates as a whole, on the other hand, showed no differences in recidivism patterns between graduates and those who did not complete the court program. Three of the four courts ceased operation when Federal funding ended. Primary reasons for failure to institutionalize the three courts were high staff turnover (especially judges) and lack of commitment to the courts from the community and tribal council. The evaluations’ goals were to obtain input from the tribes; to use a mixed methodology in which qualitative perspectives from interviews provided context to quantitative results; to describe program development and compare it with planned implementation; and to determine the courts’ impact on the behavioral patterns of participants, particularly regarding recidivism. (Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Service,
Gottlieb, Karen. Process and Outcome Evaluations of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians Drug Court.
This report presents the methodology, findings, and recommendations of an evaluation of the drug court of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, located in southwestern Alabama near the Florida border. The outcome component of the evaluation found no statistically significant relationship between completion status and recidivism; graduates were as likely to reoffend as the terminated participants; however, graduates were slower to reoffend than terminated participants. Although the pre-drug court recidivism rate of participants is not known, the recidivism rate of 50 percent after 3 years for those no longer in the program indicates that not all participants reoffended. The positive changes - increases in self-esteem and decreases in substance abuse behavior - seen in many of the participants indicates successful rehabilitation was achieved for some. The drug court’s strengths were determined to outweigh the weaknesses. Strengths included a core team with stability, compassion, and commitment to the program; the integration of a cultural program with the drug court; treatment incorporated as a structure in participants’ lives; intensive monitoring during the first phase; and the combining of the roles of counselor and probation officer. Improvement in the court could be achieved by integrating treatment with a steering committee that would include tribal and community leaders. This would extend the ownership of the court to the community. Some program weaknesses were poor communication between treatment providers and the team; irregular scheduling of staff meetings; the absence of tribal leaders or elders on the team; lack of enforcement of program requirements; and no individualized, is currently a mature drug court. At the time of the evaluation (2005), it had admitted 28 participants with alcohol and drug-related offenses. Fifteen of the participants graduated, 8 were terminated, and 5 were current participants. (abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,
Grim, Judge Arthur . Pennsylvania Juvenile Delinquency Benchbook
The Pennsylvania Juvenile Delinquency Benchbook is intended to serve as a practical tool for working judges throughout this Commonwealth, offering them convenient access to all the information they need to effectuate the underlying purposes of the Juvenile Act: “Consistent with the protection of the public interest, to provide for children committing delinquent acts programs of supervision, care and rehabilitation which provide balanced attention to the protection of the community, the imposition of accountability for offenses committed and the development of competencies to enable children to become responsible and productive members of the community.”(excerpt)
Growing past hate: 'Restorative justice' helps heal pain from teens' vandalism
from the article by Fred Van Liew in the DesMoines Register: In March of 1994 members of the Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Des Moines awoke to find neo-Nazi graffiti scrawled on the side of their synagogue. There were no immediate suspects, but there was anguish, anger and outrage.
In Dharun Ravi trial, criminal retribution will not serve justice
from the Guest Column by Joseph C. d'Oronzio in the Star-Ledger: I watch with increasing discomfort as the arch of justice sways with uncertainty in that New Brunswick courtroom where the fate of former Rutgers University freshman Dharun Ravi is being considered.

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