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Cleveland judge gets national award for veterans treatment court

July 14, 2017 | By Cory Shaffer

A Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge was honored by a national group this week in Washington D.C. for starting a drug and mental health court docket that serves veterans.

Judge Michael Jackson, himself a decorated Marine Corps veteran, accepted the 2017 Hank Pirowski Award from Justice For Vets at the end of the National Association of Drug Court Professional’s annual training conference on Wednesday, the court announced in a news release.

The award is given to those “who have exemplified courage and perseverance in the mission to connect justice-involved veterans with the benefits and treatment they have earned,” the release said.

Jackson began work to create the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Veterans Treatment Court soon after he was elected to the bench in 2013. He presided over the first cases in 2015.

The court pairs veterans charged with low-level felonious who suffer from substance abuse or mental illness and connects them with treatment and other veterans to divert them away from jail or prison.

Pirowski, the award’s namesake, was a veteran and activist who founded the first drug court specifically for veterans in Buffalo in 2007. He died in 2012, and Justice For Vets created the award in 2013.

Jackson served in the Marine Corps and fought in Vietnam, where he led a combat platoon and company as a lieutenant. He was awarded two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, the releases said.

He was also exposed to Agent Orange during combat. He was diagnosed shortly after he took the bench with a rare form of cancer that the Veterans Administration determined was caused by the chemical.

Jackson received treatment about four years ago and remains symptom-free, the court said in the release.

He will continue to preside over the Veterans Treatment Court until his six-year term expires in January 2019 and he must retire.

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