Rep. Rogers 'Veterans Court' Legislation Passed by House
Press release from the office of State Representatives John Rogers.
The Massachusetts House of Representatives gave unanimous approval to legislation written by state Rep. John H. Rogers (D-Norwood) to create a pilot project in the state’s Trial Court establishing a “Veterans Court” at Dedham District Court.
Criminal defendants who qualify for the program would have their cases transferred from anywhere in Norfolk County to Dedham. Normally Norwood cases are heard at Dedham District Court, but the other 27 cities and towns in this county are at other district courts, including those situated in Quincy, Stoughton, Wrentham, and Brookline.
“The Veterans Court gives special recognition to members of our Armed Services who often return to the very country they defended and get caught up in our system of justice due to untreated or undiagnosed mental health issues,” said Rogers. “The court encourages rehabilitation over incarceration, a redeeming principle that also saves precious tax dollars.”
The legislation would offer the only court of this kind in New England.
“I applaud our District Attorney Mike Morrissey and First Justice Hogan Sullivan for their commitment to this program and to our Veterans,” Rogers said.
Rogers, who is a former chairman of the House-Senate committee on the Judiciary, said that the Veterans Court would not result in yet another division of the Trial Court, which is already divided into seven different divisions. The court currently has seven separate departments: district, superior, juvenile, probate and family, land, housing, and the Boston municipal court.
The Veterans Court, according to Rogers, does not create a layer of judicial bureaucracy, but rather, it is a program within the District Court department that pools resources into one place and uses the court’s time more efficiently with less taxpayer money spent by reducing jail time and repeat offenses.
U.S. Army Master Sergeant Dennis P. Mawn, Norwood Firefighter, supports the idea and has been asked by Judge Hogan to serve as a Court Mentor to Veterans within the program. Court Mentors are unpaid volunteers who, as fellow combat Veterans, advise defendants in the program.
Mawn, who was the keynote speaker at Norwood’s Memorial day exercises, stated in his remarks that many returning combat Veterans struggle to cope with health disorders depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and service-related injuries, to name a few.
“How we, as a Commonwealth, treat our veterans, who have selflessly and courageously served our country, defines who we are as a society,” Rogers said. “The Veterans court is an expression by us Americans to our Veterans that we are grateful for their past deeds for our nation and that we are intent on helping them lead safe, happy and prosperous lives back home.”