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Info about the Eighth Judicial District Court.

Tag Archives: Specialty Courts

A chili cook-off at the Regional Justice Center raised more than $700. for Quilts of Valor. A check was presented to the Nevada state coordinator for the Quilt of Valor Foundation, Victoria Colburn Hall at a recent Veteran’ Court graduation ceremony. Judge Linda Bell presides over the Veteran’ Court program.

Veterans’ courts are hybrid drug and mental health courts that use the drug court model to serve veterans struggling with addiction, serious mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders. They promote sobriety, recovery and stability through a coordinated response that involves cooperation and collaboration with the traditional partners found in drug and mental health courts and agencies.

Quilts of Valor presents Veterans Court graduates a Quilt of Valor a quilt to comfort them as they build their new lives. Victoria is a Blue Star mom; her son spent 24 year in the Marine Corp assault unit. She awarded two vets at the chili cook-off  Quilts of Valor for their service and gave a brief overview of the foundation.

The cook-off was planned to mark Veterans’ Day. The Quilt of Valor Foundation was founded in 2003, by Blue Star mom Catherine Roberts from her sewing room. Blue Star moms are those who have a son or daughter in active service. Her son Nathanael’s deployment to Iraq served as the initial inspiration for the foundation. That has since presented thousands of quilts nationwide to those who have served our country.

The local chapter of Quilt of Valor meets the second Friday of the month at 8670 W. Cheyenne Ave. from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in room 105. Volunteers are always welcome; no quilting experience is necessary. For more information call 702-357-0377.



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Judge Jennifer Elliot has been presiding over the dependency mothers’ drug court since 2008. It is a program that has helped to get many mothers away from the clutches of addiction and into the arms of their children. This week, three more moms graduated from the program.  That’s a handful of kids who won’t have to be in foster care; who won’t have to wonder where mom is; and who will have someone who loves them and deeply cares for them.

In front of others going through the program, Judge Elliot asked each of the graduates how they felt upon graduation. She said, “Nobody knows what the journey is going to look like when they start out, and I want others to hear how to be successful at it.” The moms graduating lit up when given the opportunity to share how they felt. One mom said, “I’m very, very happy where I am and how far I’ve come.  It’s amazing being able to be with my son, sober; to watch him grow and remember that.” Judge Elliot told each of the graduates that she was very proud of them. She also offered a word of advice to a father with one of the graduating moms, who has his own struggles. She said, “Setback doesn’t mean failure, it just means you just have to keep on keeping on.”

Judge Elliot is turning over the administration of the dependency mothers’ drug court to Judge Frank Sullivan who handles abuse and neglect cases. She told those in court that Judge Sullivan would ensure that the program would continue to be successful. Judge Sullivan responded, “No one can replace Judge Elliot.” Program participants gave Judge Elliot a giant farewell card. The judge who launched the specialty court aimed at helping moms with addiction won’t be managing the day-to-day of the program, but the legacy of what she accomplished since 2008 will carry on for generations.

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Children from three families will now have the most important person in the world back in their lives, after two mothers and one father recently graduated from the Eighth Judicial District mothers’/fathers’ specialty court. All three completed a rigorous in-patient treatment program, that involved spending between six and 12 months in the WestCare treatment facility learning a new way of life.

The graduation was attended by Judge Jennifer Elliot who presides over the Dependency Mothers’ Drug Court, the treatment providers, specialty court staff and fellow specialty court participants. The fellow drug court participants got to see how successful recovery looks. They got to witness someone in a situation much like their own, turn their life around, have their children in their lives in a meaningful way, and leave drugs and crime behind.

When judges enter a courtroom, all rise as a sign of respect. Judge Elliot and the courtroom gallery all rise when participants graduate from the mothers’/fathers’ specialty court. The children of the graduates now have the person who loves them, the way only a parent can, back in their lives making them dinner, helping with homework, giving them love, and being part of their dreams. Their families and our community are better for it.

Since 1992, the Eighth Judicial District Court has been responding to the emerging social issues of addiction and mental health by establishing specialty courts. Each day, the court handles cases on the many crimes committed by people addicted to illegal drugs or suffering from mental illness. The Dependency Mothers’ Drug Court  is a partnership between Nevada’s Division of Child and Family Services, Clark County Department of Family Services, Clark County Specialty Courts and WestCare of Southern Nevada. Components that make the program work are early intervention services, coordinated clinical assessment, coordinated case management, program referral, residential treatment services including reunification services, parenting skills education, outpatient support services, staff training support and client transportation.


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Those who are sentenced to drug court are those who have been through a revolving door of drug abuse and resulting criminal activity. Many were formerly successful professionals who made a wrong turn somewhere. That is the case with one of the drug court’s current participants; but, what a difference a specialty court can make. A once very successful businessman who had it all, lost everything to his addiction to methamphetamine. He lost his income, his family, and his freedom. He became a familiar face in the criminal justice system. He was eventually sentenced by a District Court judge to drug court and that’s when things began to change. Enter Judge Carolyn Ellsworth, who presides over the drug court. She holds drug court participants accountable, yet manages to offer encouragement at the same time.

Those who are in the endless cycle of addiction and crime emerge to get on a path to recovery through rigorous treatment. The treatment is administered by the specialty court mental health/social service treatment professionals, and overseen by Judge Ellsworth in coordination with prosecutors, defense attorneys, and Parole and Probation.

In the case of the once prominent businessman, that is just what happened. He began to rebuild his life.  He became drug-free, got a job and worked to stabilize his life. He became involved in a healthy relationship. Then in early June, Judge Ellsworth married him to his new love. She baked one of her very special homemade cakes that she is known to bake for every drug court graduate. Family and friends came to support the man they love; the one they thought they had lost to addiction.

Not every story goes so well; and the new groom faces an ongoing struggle with recovery. But his outlook is bright, and the drug court team is there to help get him across the finish line. The rest is up to him.

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The Eighth Judicial District Court is using a $1.4 million grant from the State Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH) to work to end the cycle of addiction and crime through residential treatment for 80 participants. There is a desperate need for residential substance abuse and mental health treatment in Clark County. Residential treatment with wraparound services offers judges a viable sentencing alternative to jail-time. It is an approach that has proven to have better outcomes than punitive sentencing.

“I applaud Governor Brian Sandoval and the leadership of DPBH Director Richard Whitley for their efforts to make this funding a reality and taking action to address this pressing need,” said District Court Chief Judge David Barker. “Residential treatment infrastructure has been a missing element in our specialty courts continuum of care. The residential component improves the odds of long-term success for participants. Not only is residential treatment more effective, but it is less expensive than jail. The results are: millions of dollars in savings for the jail, a reduction in jail overcrowding and more individuals successfully completing treatment and becoming productive members of our community.”

The court will use the $1.4 million to provide residential treatment services to 80 defendants per month from District Court and/or the Las Vegas Justice Court. Initially, the Freedom House Project will be the service provider; other providers will be added as they become available. Approximately 35 participants have already been placed in treatment; another 100 people have been sentenced and are waiting to move to a treatment facility.

The residential placements are broken into three levels of care. The Freedom House Coordinated Care Program will provide housing and a drug-free environment to 40 specialty court participants who are also in outpatient treatment through the Choices Group or other treatment providers.  In addition, the funding will cover up to 30 specialty court participants who are sentenced to sober-living with intensive out-patient programming provided in-house.  Up to 10 residential placements will go for in-patient substance abuse treatment services with 24/7 care, monitoring, treatment and housing.

The Freedom House ANCHOR Project will also be available to provide a full range of integrated services for ex­-offenders needing access to housing, education/training, and employment to reduce the likelihood of residents returning to jail or prison. Programming includes the use of mentors, re-entry counseling, job skills development, and employment opportunities. The ANCHOR Project will use evidence-based tools/techniques for successful community reentry/reintegration and access to a range of best-practice services tailored to individual client’s needs.


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District Court will celebrate another specialty court graduation just as the program prepares to ramp up with a new infusion of funding. The newly minted specialty court grads will receive certificates and accolades on Friday, Jan. 15 at 2 p.m., in the Regional Justice Center jury services room at 200 Lewis Ave. The graduating class includes 64 participants from veterans court, mental health court, the OPEN program, drug court and felony DUI court; programs that have proven to be a successful way to get people off substance abuse and on track to productive lives.

The Nevada Legislature through the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Nevada Supreme Court has increased and consolidated funding for specialty courts with an additional $3 million for fiscal 2016 statewide. Southern Nevada, which includes limited jurisdiction courts, received $1.8 million of that funding. All courts plan to increase levels of participation in all programs.

The Eighth Judicial District Court will increase specialty drug court participation from 300 to 500. Felony DUI court is expected to increase from 450 to 550 participants. Mental Health Court will go from 100 to 200 participants. Veteran’s court is expected to increase from current levels to 45 participants. The OPEN program will grow to meet the need.

To meet the demands of this growing and challenging caseload, the court will diversify the specialty courts judicial assignments. Effective Feb. 16, Judge Adriana Escobar will continue to preside in courtroom 3F over felony DWI (serious offender program) and veteran’s court and assume Judge Carolyn Ellsworth’s civil calendar. Judge Ellsworth will handle drug court and keep her current criminal calendar in courtroom 16D. Chief Judge David Barker will handle mental health court and OPEN (Courtroom TBD).

“The specialty courts are an effective way to dispense justice and achieve rehabilitation,“ said Chief Judge Barker. “This new funding is much needed and will go further to ensure that those committing crimes and revolving through the justice system as a result of substance abuse, recover and go on to live productive lives.

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Judge Ellsworth will handle drug court and keep her current criminal calendar in courtroom 16D.

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In honor of Veterans’ day, the American Legion Spirit of Freedom Post 76 presented the flags of the five major branches of the armed services (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard) to the Eighth Judicial District veterans’ court. A small ceremony honored the military service of the veterans. The flags will remain on display in Presiding Specialty Court Judge Adriana Escobar’s courtroom.

Since Sept. 2012, the veterans’ treatment court has helped veterans who are facing criminal charges as a result of substance abuse. Veterans’ court is one of several Eighth Judicial District specialty courts that save millions of tax dollars by averting repeated incarcerations due to substance abuse offenses and related crimes. There are currently 32 active participants in veterans’ court and 48 graduates since 2012.

“Veterans’ Day reminds us of the needs many of our troops face as they return from the battlefield. We provide treatment for those who have turned to drugs and alcohol and end up on the wrong side of the law. It is also important that we acknowledge and honor their service to our country,” said Judge Adriana Escobar who presides over the specialty courts.

Veterans’ courts are hybrid drug and mental health courts that use the drug court model to serve veterans struggling with addiction, serious mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders. They promote sobriety, recovery and stability through a coordinated response that involves cooperation and collaboration with the traditional partners found in drug and mental health courts and agencies including the Veterans Administration, the Las Vegas and Henderson veterans’ centers and Choices Group.

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