Today’s NYT article, here, about leniency in federal sentencing cases in the wake of Porter v. McCollum, see Z’s post here and prior NYT editorial here, is a must read for anyone representing Vets outside of courts-martial (and in the military justice system, for that matter). 

The NYT piece focuses on federal sentencing in the wake of the Booker decision making the USSG advisory rather than mandatory, thus giving judges discretion to consider factors like Veteran status.  The article also discusses the recent growth in Veterans’ courts, in this instance meaning courts that deal with offenses committed by vets, that now exist in at least 22 jurisdictions, according to Dahlia Lithwick’s recent article in Newsweek, here.  Most have a stated purpose much like the Alaska Veterans’ Court to:

[P]revent veterans charged with misdemeanors from falling into a life of crime. Rather than arresting and jailing veteran offenders for a few days or weeks only to return them to the same type of life, this court connects veterans to VA resources.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, here, the newest of the courts, the Philadelphia Veterans’ Court just opened on March 3, 2010 to a docket of 12-15 vets.  Here is a link to a collection of articles, pro and con, on these new courts.

3 Responses to “Veterans’ Courts and Sentencing Leniency for Vets”

  1. soonergrunt says:

    Why a separate court with its own bureaucracy? Isn’t this something that could be accomplished simply and cheaply by referring a vet to the VA when his time is served? I’m a vet and proud of it, but at some point we and society have to recognise that we aren’t entitled to everything under the sun. We were paid for what we did after all. If a guy commits a crime, then he should do the time. By all means let’s get veterans the resources they need and have earned, but when they, or should I say, WE do wrong, we should expect to be punished appropriately just like any other citizen.

  2. Anon says:

    Concur. While vet status should be taken into account along with other factors, a separate court system seems odd.

  3. jerkmanistan says:

    “Proponents of these courts contend that since there are specialized courts to deal with others, such as drug, mental health, and domestic violence courts, there should be, and is a precedent for, special courts for veterans and their unique troubles.”

    Except that those are all diversionary courts based on offenses whereas these courts are unconstitutionally based on status. “No state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    Qu. could states establish separate criminal courts to consider the experience of being female or black? What about for former police officers (who often have stress / trigger issues)?