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Chief justice praises Rock County court program

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Ted Sullivan
January 14, 2010
— Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson said Wednesday that programs such as the Rock County Veterans Treatment Court are important in addressing the reasons behind people’s crimes.

“It doesn’t mean the veterans won’t be held responsible for his or her actions, but there are underlying problems,” Abrahamson said.


The chief justice was the guest speaker at UW-Rock County Foundation’s Breakfast of Champions. She spoke to about 100 people for nearly an hour.


Counties in Wisconsin have court programs for drug offenders, drunken drivers, domestic abusers and others with problems that land them in court, Abrahamson said.


Judges are expected to handle cases and sentence offenders, but they also should help deal with societal problems such as addiction or mental health, she said.


Alternative court programs help offenders recover and reduce recidivism, Abrahamson said.


Meanwhile, the offenders are held accountable, she said.


Rock County started the state’s first Veterans Treatment Court in September to help veterans who break the law.


The court assists veterans who suffer from alcohol or drug abuse, mental-health problems or post-traumatic stress disorder.


The program could become critical when 3,900 Wisconsin National Guard members return from Iraq.


Abrahamson said other programs or proposed programs in the state would deal with mortgage foreclosures and mental health issues.


Abrahamson became the first woman on the Wisconsin Supreme Court when she was appointed in 1976. She has been chief justice since 1996.


Abrahamson urged people to visit the Rock County Courthouse and sit in the back of a courtroom. She said it’s a great way to learn about the community.


She told people the role of the Supreme Court is to decide cases, create rules and discipline judges or attorneys. She said the court each year decides 75 to 100 cases—about 75 percent civil and 25 percent criminal.


The court is expected to be nonpartisan and fair, Abrahamson said.



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