Nevada’s Specialty Courts — like Drug Court and Felony DUI Court — work. They’re making a difference by keeping more people out of prison, out of jail and out of trouble. But, could they do an even better, more consistent job?
Sixth Judicial District Court Judge Michael Montero says he thinks they could.
He supports an effort underway by a Nevada Supreme Court subcommittee looking at additional training and a Specialty Court certification program. The goal is to build effectiveness and consistency throughout specialty courts in the state.
“I think this is much-needed,” Montero said. “More consistency among the Specialty Courts would be a great advantage. If we can establish training, standards and a way to evaluate our specialty courts, it will greatly benefit the programs and the people they seek to serve.”
“Especially now,” Montero continued, “when the Nevada Legislature has been willing to provide some funding for Specialty Courts, it will be essential to have uniform standards and a way of collecting data to justify the taxpayer funding that’s been allocated.”
There are national Specialty Court best practices. Montero said he’s fairly confident that all courts in the state work to be in compliance with those practices.
“But we don’t have a statewide system to train, encourage and ensure. We don’t have a way to review courts,” he said.
The Nevada Supreme Court has created a subcommittee to develop standards and certification for Specialty Courts in Nevada. The subcommittee has now had two meetings.
Montero has already been serving on a Specialty Court funding committee that helps allocate grant funding. He and Seventh Judicial District Judge Steve Dobrescu in White Pine have had some opportunities to give input to the new subcommittee working on certification for Specialty Courts.
“I’m very passionate about the opportunity we have to help people through our Specialty Courts,” Montero said. He added that everyone involved and working together in the Specialty Courts have a chance to save lives and families while saving taxpayer dollars — a better chance than incarceration.
“I will be involved in this effort toward Specialty Court certification in any way I can,” Montero said. “We need a peer review system within the state’s Specialty Courts, so we can help each other out. We could have Specialty Court coordinators who could get together and work with one another to train each other and, in the process, we can do audits and peer review each others’ courts.”
Montero also wants to see more rural Specialty Court training opportunities. There is training at the national conference each year but it is very expensive to send people. Because there is very little funding available in the state for sending people to training, Montero believes what is needed is to bring more training here.
“In the rurals, we want to start with a Drug Court coordinators working group and start doing some training in our own rural areas. The state of Idaho has a peer review process that I hear has been successful. I’d like to see what other states are doing,” Montero said.
The 2015 Nevada Legislature approved $3 million for each of the following two years to support development of Specialty Courts in the state. Efforts in the 2017 Legislature to extend that support for another two years were successful.