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News Item
Innovative Third Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court Pilot Made Permanent with Community Celebration

Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Third Judicial District will launch its new, District-wide Veterans Treatment Court on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, Friday, September 20, with two ribbon-cutting ceremonies. The first ceremony will take place at 10:30 a.m. at the Steele County Courthouse, which will also serve as the western location for the District-wide Veterans Treatment Court. The second ceremony, on the same day, will take place at 1:30 p.m. at the eastern location for the Treatment Court, the Fillmore County Courthouse. These events are open the public and media.
“The Minnesota Judicial Branch is committed to expanding treatment court access throughout the state. As we work to expand treatment courts, we are asking communities to think innovatively and thoughtfully about how to best ensure treatment courts are sustainable,” said MN Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea. “I congratulate the Third Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court Organizing Committee, and those dedicated community and justice partners who are responsible for the District-wide Court, on this milestone. Today is the result of careful planning, collaboration, and a tireless drive to serve our veterans today and into the future.”


Steele County event speakers:

  • Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea,
  • Third Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court Judge Ross Leuning,
  • Freeborn County Veterans Service Officer Brandon Servantez

Fillmore County event speakers:

  • Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea,
  • Governor Tim Walz,
  • Third Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court Judge Joseph F. Chase,
  • Fillmore County Veterans Service Officer Jason Marquardt
Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge Renee L. Worke, Minnesota Third Judicial District Chief Judge Jodi L. Williamson, Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System Director Patrick Kelly, Congressman Jim Hagedorn, and many of the Third Judicial District judges, staff, and judicial partners will attend each event.


Ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the two locations of the District-wide Veterans Treatment Court


Steele County Courthouse
111 East Main Street, Owatonna, MN 55060
Fillmore County Courthouse
101 Fillmore Street, Preston, MN 55965


National POW/MIA Recognition Day
Friday, September 20, 2019
Steele County Courthouse event: 10:30 a.m.
Fillmore County Courthouse event: 1:30 p.m.

The 11-county Court is open to qualifying individuals from Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, and Winona counties. The Third Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court is the fourteenth multi-county treatment court and the third district-wide treatment court in Minnesota. There is one other district-wide veterans treatment court in the state, in the Fifth Judicial District. There are more than 460 veterans treatment courts nationwide. The two locations for this new Court will be overseen by Judge Ross Leuning in Steele County and Judge Joseph F. Chase in Fillmore County.
Judge Ross Leuning, who is chambered in Freeborn County, has been the lead judge for the Third Judicial District Veterans Court Organizing Committee and Treatment Court since 2017. Judge Leuning’s military service began in 1979 in the Army National Guard. He then joined the U.S. Navy, and later the U.S. Navy Reserve. Judge Leuning worked as a Command Judge Advocate in the United States Navy based out of the Al Asad Air Base in Albaghdadi, Iraq, prior to his appointment to the Bench in 2011. He also worked in the Olmsted County Attorney’s Office, was a partner at Walbran, Furness & Leuning, served as a General Court-Martial Military Trial Judge in the U.S. Navy, and was a Preliminary Hearing Officer and JAGC Officer in the U.S. Navy. Judge Leuning has taught extensively on military law, administrative law, and law of armed conflict at the U.S. Naval Academy, Minnesota State University Mankato, the Military Law Center, the Naval Justice School, and multiple continuing legal education courses.
Judge Joseph F. Chase was appointed to the Bench by Governor Jesse Ventura in 1999. He was a 1975 graduate of Chatfield High School before he earned his juris doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School and his bachelor of arts from the University of Notre Dame School of Business. Before joining the Bench, he was a partner at O'Brien, Ehrick, Wolf, Deaner and Maus in Rochester, MN, and he served as city attorney for Chatfield, MN.  He is chambered in the Olmsted County Courthouse in Rochester.
About Veterans Treatment Courts
A veterans treatment court is a court designed for U.S. military veterans charged with misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony offenses who are struggling with addiction, serious mental illness, or co-occurring disorders. The court promotes sobriety, recovery, and stability through a coordinated response involving cooperation and collaboration with the traditional partners found in treatment courts and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care networks, the Veterans Benefits Administration, volunteer veteran mentors, and veterans family support organizations.
The Third Judicial District Veterans Treatment Court is a voluntary 12 to 18 month program. Following the 10 Key Components of Veterans Treatment Courts, the Veterans Treatment Court judges lead the multi-disciplinary teams of professionals who meet on a regular basis to collaboratively assist the veterans with an array of services, such as emergency financial assistance, chemical dependency and mental health/trauma counseling, employment and skills training assistance, temporary housing, and advocacy and other referral services.
The Court meets regularly and frequently with participants and partners in hearings to develop, direct, and review progress, including treatment plans and other conditions. Participants are encouraged to keep on track by being eligible for small incentives based on progress. Sanctions are handed down for non-compliance. Participating defendants who voluntarily agree to participate and meet the eligibility requirements may enter the Veteran’s Court pre-adjudication or post sentence.
One foundational component of veterans treatment courts is the involvement of mentors. Mentors are fellow veterans who volunteer to act as a support, guide, sounding board, or simply a friend to court participants. The volunteers attend court sessions with participants, offer advice, and provide moral support. Veterans treatment court volunteers play a valuable role in our court system and community, and have proven to be the key factor in helping our justice-involved veterans succeed. Veterans who may be interested in serving as a volunteer mentor should contact 3rdDist.VetCourt@courts.state.mn.us or (507) 377-5166.