Retired Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Jackson is featured in a new documentary detailing the lives of military veterans from their enlistment to life after their service.
Judge Jackson shares his experiences in the four-part Public Broadcasting Service series, “The American Veteran,” broadcast once weekly beginning Tuesday, Oct. 26.
His journey is depicted from combat in the Vietnam War to his work on the bench when he presided over the Veterans Treatment Court. The series was filmed in 2019 when Judge Jackson was still on the Bench.
“My hope is that veterans – in and out of treatments courts – watch this series to spark conversation and reflection toward healing their trauma,” Judge Jackson said.
Judge Jackson is featured in the first, second, and the fourth and final episodes. Additional digital content is currently available on the PBS website.
The series follows 42 veterans from as far back as World War II. Segments include enlistment training, tours of duty, and returning home while grappling with questions of veteran identity, culture, and the dynamic between the military and civilian worlds.
As a Marine lieutenant, Judge Jackson was awarded four medals of valor and the Purple Heart, granted those wounded or killed in combat.
As a practicing attorney for 40 years, he said he avoided the judiciary, wanting to distance himself from the kinds of decisions he was forced to make commanding platoons at age 23.
“When I left the service and went to law school, it became clear to me that I did not want that kind of responsibility for someone’s life, again,” Judge Jackson said.
His ambition to start a specialty docket for veterans changed that. In 2012, he was elected judge and three years later began presiding over the VTC. The court offers veterans charged with a felony unique alternatives that utilize their military service experience to aid in their rehabilitation.
When Judge Jackson retired from the bench in 2019, the program had grown into the largest veterans court in the state with more than 100 active participants and 60 graduates. Judge Jackson received two national awards on behalf of the court for his work connecting justice-involved veterans with benefits and treatment. Judge John J. Russo currently presides over the docket.
“The whole community spirit of veterans helping other veterans while holding them accountable is the key that makes veterans treatment court special,” Judge Jackson adds. “It’s challenging but rewarding.”
You can stream Judge Jackson's retirement video from the Court's YouTube channel.