New Veterans Treatment Court starting in St. Augustine

Historic City News was informed that a new Veterans Treatment Court, modeled after a similar court in Volusia County and designed to focus on military veterans in the criminal justice system, is about to start in St Augustine.

Veterans Treatment Court is a specialized court for the 7th Judicial Circuit, aimed at helping veterans who face criminal charges and need treatment for mental health, substance abuse, traumatic injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The Veterans Treatment Court organization mimics the military structure with a team approach that the veteran should find familiar,” said Circuit Judge Howard O. McGillin, Jr., a retired U.S. Army colonel and military attorney, who spearheaded the effort to start the court in St. Johns County. “The judge acts, in many ways, like the Commanding Officer of the team -encouraging good behavior and discouraging negative behavior.”

Defendants who were honorably or generally discharged may be eligible for the court which works with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Judge McGillin will preside over Veterans Treatment Court, during its first hearing at 1:30 p.m., on Thursday January 19, 2017 in Courtroom 355 of the Richard O. Watson Judicial Center, located at 4010 Lewis Speedway in St Augustine.

A military honor guard, as well as speakers from St. Johns County, local law enforcement agencies, and local Veterans organizations are expected. Historic City News readers are invited to attend.

Circuit Judge Howard O. McGillin, Jr. was appointed to the bench in 2014 to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Carlos E. Mendoza. The 55-year-old Judge McGillin presides in the unified family court at the Richard O. Watson Judicial Center in St. Augustine. He received his bachelor degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a juris doctor degree from the University of Florida College of Law, and Master of Law in Military Law from the Judge Advocate General School in Charlottesville, Virginia. McGillin began his legal career in 1989 with the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate. From 1994-1997, McGillin was a professor and Deputy Director of the Academic Department of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate Generals School. He served as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for the U.S. Army in Hawaii from 1998-2000. After 24-years of service in the U.S. Army, including 15-years as a lawyer, McGillin retired at the rank of colonel and went into private practice. He is the Founder of the Allegiance Law Group.

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