Lawmakers hold bill to create more veterans courts in Utah

By Emily Ashcraft, KSL | Posted - Mar. 10, 2019 at 10:46 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — A veterans court places emphasis on rehabilitation and support, rather than punitive measures. It takes into account a veteran's history and any issues related to their service, according to Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara.

Snow proposed a bill, HB436, which would create more veterans courts throughout Utah. There are currently four veterans courts in Salt Lake and Utah counties.

"This bill is an effort to … make certain that those services that have been made available in some courts are made available to our veterans residing throughout the state," Snow said.

This bill was heard in the House Judiciary Standing Committee Friday. Snow asked for the bill to be held because there is a need for more input and the legislative session is almost over.

Former Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman said in the five years that the Utah County veterans court has been in operation, it has been extremely successful in lowering the recidivism rate of veterans and he has observed changes in their lives.

"We’ve had individuals that were dealing with severe PTSD, mental illness and a variety of drug addictions that have been able to completely change their lives through the veterans court program," Buhman said.

Snow explained veterans courts are not separate courts, but a separate process. A judge assigned to cover veterans cases would treat them according to the language in the bill. Veterans courts also involve a partnership between courts, attorneys and outside resources.

Brian Tarbet from the Utah Attorney General's Office said the office supports the initiative.

"We send these folks out to serve, sometimes they come back broken. Whatever we can do to help them and put them in a system that will help them, and help the state, we applaud," Tarbet said.

Emily Ashcraft

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