On the same week our nation celebrates Veterans Day, seven former members of our Armed Services graduated from the Cuyahoga County Common Plea Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) on Tuesday, November 9, 2021. (You can stream the ceremony in the link at the bottom of the page)
This is the first time a graduation ceremony has been the same week as Veterans Day, something VTC Presiding Judge John J. Russo says will be an annual event.
“Every year, we set aside a day to honor the men and women who have served our nation,” says Judge Russo. “To be able to congratulate these graduates during this week truly speaks to the obstacles they have overcome to resolve these cases.”
VTC accepts former members of the military accused of felony-level crimes, with the cases referred to the docket by the Court’s 34 judges. In many instances, the criminal activity stems from lingering issues they may be dealing with because of their military experience. Through the VTC program, veterans are diverted from the traditional criminal justice system and are provided with tools that are unique to veterans. They also work one-on-one with a peer mentor, someone else who has also served in the military.
This is the first time the graduation ceremony was held at the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s Conference Center. Judge Russo says this will now be an annual Veterans Day week event at the CMBA, in cooperation with the Bar.
Judge Russo presided over the ceremony, offering the welcome and opening remarks. Stephanie Anderson and Joseph N. Gross, both veterans, presented keynote speeches on behalf of the CMBA and its Veterans Legal Services program. Four of the graduates had their cases expunged and their records sealed.
The highlight of the program was the presentation of Challenge Coins and certificates, as well as remarks by the Graduates.