Veterans Defense Project

Promoting the effective and vigorous defense of military veterans in criminal court.

The mission of the Veterans Defense Project is:

1. To conduct and support education, research, and informational activities to increase public awareness of issues effecting military veterans in the criminal justice system;

2. To promote the effective legal representation of military veterans charged with criminal offenses; and

3. To promote the rehabilitation of criminally-involved veterans.


Click Here to Purchase The Attorney's Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court.


501(c)(3) Status Granted on 10/02/2014

Contributors to the Defending Veterans Book

Brockton D. Hunter, Esq.

Book Editor     Author: Introduction, Chapter 1     Co-Author: Chapters: 17, 18, 20

Brock Hunter is a criminal defense attorney and former Army scout who has represented many veterans, including several high-profile cases. A past President and Legislative Chair for the Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (MACDL), Brock drafted and led the passage of Minnesota’s Veterans Sentencing Mitigation Act, Minn. Stat. § 609.115, subd. 10, and has since helped pass similar legislation in other states. He has been recognized nationally for his work on behalf of veterans in the jus- tice system, being called on to help brief the Obama Presidential Transition Team, the leadership of the Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Brock has also spoken before thousands of attorneys, judges, and other justice system and mental health professionals across the country on the special issues surrounding veterans in the criminal courts. 

For more information visit


Dr. Jonathan Shay, M.D., Ph.D.

Author: Chapter 2

Dr. Shay was a staff psychiatrist at the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic, Boston, 1987-2008, where his only patients were combat veterans with severe psychological injuries. He is the author of Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character (1994) and Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming (2002). The latter has a Foreword authored jointly by US Senators John McCain and Max Cleland. He was the Omar Bradley Chair of Strategic Leadership at the US Army War College, Spring semester, 2009. He was Chair of Ethics, Leadership, and Personnel Policy in the Office of the US Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (2004-2005), and performed the Commandant of the Marine Corps Trust Study (1999-2000). He is author of many book chapters and journal articles, and is recipient of a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship (2008-2012, incl.). He has spoken with audiences ranging from his own specialty to classicists, surgeons, military commanders, historians, philosophers, legislators, civilian and military lawyers, clergy, and judges. He is currently retired from clinical practice and he describes himself as a missionary to the Armed Forces on prevention of psychological and moral injury from the veterans he has served.

Find more about Dr. Jonathan Shay's work at

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Floyd “Shad” Meshad, MSW, LCSW, CTS, TFTdx

Author: Chapter 3

Shad Meshad has been working with Veterans since 1970. As a Medical Service Officer during the Vietnam War, he counseled soldiers in the field who were suffering from a multitude of psychological and emotional problems resulting from their experiences in combat, including what would later become known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After the war, Shad continued to counsel Vietnam veterans through his work with the Veterans Administration in Los Angeles. He subsequently founded and co-authored the VA’s Vet Center program and authored the critically-acclaimed book, Captain for Dark Mornings, which chronicles his experiences both during the war and after coming home. In the early 1980s, as a wave of Vietnam veteran-committed murders and violent assaults swept across the country, Shad helped pioneer the “PTSD Defense.” Shad teamed up with the top PTSD experts in the country and fellow Vietnam veteran and criminal defense attorney, Barry Levin, to form a traveling veterans defense trial team. The team educated judges and juries on the realities of combat trauma and its frequent connection to the criminal acts of veteran defendants, saving a number of veterans from the death penalty and prison. In the late 1980s, Shad’s National Veterans Foundation funded the publication of Defending the Vietnam Combat Veteran, a guide for attorneys representing veterans in criminal court written by Barry Levin and Dave Ferrier. In the late 1980s Meshad was sent to the Soviet Union as part of a U.S. Government-approved Glasnost exchange program, tasked with counseling veterans of the Soviet-Afghan War and helping them establish Vet Center-like programs across their country. Meshad was called on by the government after 9/11 to help train counselors working with rescue and recovery teams at Ground Zero. Today, Meshad remains one of America’s most sought-after experts on combat stress, trauma therapy, and the readjustment issues confronting returning soldiers and their families.

In 2010, the NVF approached Brock Hunter about writing a book that would be the guide to defending this generation of veterans.  The concept built upon Defending the Vietnam Combat Veteran, but sought to utilize the growing cross-discipline expertise that was growing rapidly with the current conflict.  The NVF worked closely with Brock Hunter and Ryan Else to recruit the outstanding team of contributors that made Defending Veterans possible.   

Learn more about Floyd "Shad" Meshad's work at

William B. Brown, Ph.D.

Author: Chapter 4

Dr. Brown is a professor, in the Department of Criminal Justice at Western Oregon University. His PhD is in Sociology. He is also the Executive Director of the Bunker Project — a non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping veterans reintegrate back into the civilian culture. He has pro-vided consultation, evaluations, and testimony in numerous criminal cases involving veteran–defendants across the country. Dr. Brown is a combat veteran who served as an infantryman with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam. He later served as a Drill Sergeant, and was the Leadership Honor Graduate in his class in Officer Candidate School where he received an infantry commission. He completed his military service as a platoon leader in B Company, 75th Rangers. Over the past 5 years, his research has focused on the Military Total Institution/military culture and its influence on recent veteran reintegration. His previous research includes prisoner re-entry, youth gangs, and sentencing processes.

Learn more about Dr. William Brown's work at

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Brigadier General (Ret.) Stephen N. Xenakis, M.D.

Author: Chapter 5

Dr. Xenakis is a retired brigadier general and Army medical corps officer with 28 years of active service, including time as Special Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is an Adjunct Clinical Professor at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences with an active clinical and consulting practice, and has been a senior adviser to the Department of Defense on neurobehavioral conditions and medical management. He is actively engaged in developing applications of quantitative electroencephalography (qEEG) for primary care clinicians.

Learn more about Dr. Xenakis' work at

Dr. Daniel E. Dossa, Ph.D.

Co-Author: Chapters 6 & 7

Daniel Dossa completed his PhD in Clinical Psychology from Bowling Green State University in 1982. He subsequently worked at the Saint Paul, MN Vet Center treating Vietnam Veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In 1985, he accepted a position at a major trauma hospital in the Twin Cities and provided psychological and neuropsychological consultation, evaluations, and therapy to medical and psychiatric inpatients and outpatients. He evaluated and treated patients who had suffered traumatic limb amputations, industrial accidents, physical and sexual assaults, traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries. He began private practice in 1986 and is now in full-time private practice. His work includes psycho- logical and neuropsychological evaluations of patients at five Twin Cities hospitals and at his clinic in Golden Valley, MN. He has extensive experience providing expert evaluations and court testimony in cases involving Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

Dr. Ernest Boswell, Ph.D.

Co-Author: Chapters 6 & 7

Ph.D. Dr. Boswell received his Ph.D. in Psychology from Bowling Green State University, Ohio. He is a licensed clinical psychologist within the State of Minnesota and conducts private practice. He was employed by the Department of Veteran Affairs and retired after completing thirty years of distinguished service. His clinical specialty is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He is both a regional and national presenter on etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of PTSD. Further, he is a recognized forensic expert on PTSD for both state and federal courts. Dr. Boswell provides extensive forensic evaluations and testimony in both trial and sentencing phases of criminal cases. His report findings have resulted in both NGRI verdicts and reduced sentences in criminal cases. In addition he served as a consultant for the Minneapolis VAMC, Minnesota National Guard, and various private organizations. He is currently a professor at Century College and a member of the American College of Forensic Examiners. Finally, Dr. Boswell is a Vietnam infantry combat veteran having served in Vietnam from December 1968 until May 1970.

Learn more about Dr. Boswell's work at

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Dr. Chrisanne Gordon, M.D.

Co-Author: Chapter 8

Dr. Chrisanne Gordon graduated summa cum laude from The Ohio State University College of Medicine after completing her undergraduate studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. She has experience in internal medicine, emergency room medicine, occupational medicine and rehabilitative medicine and is board certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Since 1988, Dr. Gordon has served as Medical Director of Rehabilitation Services at Memorial Hospital of Union County in Marysville, Ohio. Her special interest is with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) since she has experienced TBI recovery both as a physician and as a patient. In 2008, Dr. Gordon was called to action. Her one year “tour of duty” (2008-2009) included a part-time position at the Chalmers P. Wylie Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic in Columbus, Ohio, where she performed second-level screening for the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suspected with traumatic brain injuries. Her experiences with young heroes affected by TBI led to the production of a documentary to educate the military world about the signs and symptoms of the injury and to educate the civilian world about the difficulties with reintegration our heroes were experiencing as a result of their service. Her documentary entitled, "Operation Resurrection", was completed by Patton Productions in February 2013. Benjamin Patton serves as narrator for the film which demonstrates solutions for health care, education, and employment for our returning 450,000 Veterans with TBI. In 2012, Dr. Gordon founded The Resurrecting Lives Foundation which attained 501(C)(3) status in July, 2012. This non-profit follows through with the solutions set forth in the documentary, promoting collaborative efforts between military and VA resources, and the civilian community. Resurrecting Lives Foundation continues to serve as a voice for our heroes with TBI and the families who struggle to care for them. Her primary goal in establishing the foundation was to provide educational, vocational and employment opportunities for the more than 60,000 veterans of the OIF/OEF conflicts currently living in Ohio. However the goal has now expanded to providing a national networking community to assist the nearly 450,000 veterans currently affected by TBI.

Learn more about Dr. Chrisanne Gordon's work at

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Dr. Ronald Glasser, M.D.

Co-Author: Chapter 8

Dr. Glasser, a physician as well as a best selling author and lecturer, drafted into the Army in August 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War, has written extensively about military medicine in Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. His work treating battlefield wounds in Vietnam is best exemplified in the bestselling book, 365 Days, hailed by Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet as the best book about the Vietnam War. Dr. Glasser is planning to release a new edition of 365 Days to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. His new book, Broken Bodies/Shattered Minds: a Medical Odyssey from Vietnam to Afghanistan, has been reviewed and acclaimed by Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. Dr. Glasser has been a frequent guest on national media programs including the Today Show, PBS, NPR and many others. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Medical School and is a resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Learn more about Dr. Ronald Glasser's work at

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Dr. Walter Busuttil, MB ChB, M.Phil, MRCGP, FRCPsych.1

Author: Chapter 9

Wing Commander Walter Busuttil, Retired, is a Consultant Psychiatrist who was appointed Director of Medical Services to the British charity Combat Stress in 1997. During his time at Combat Stress he has worked to upgrade all clinical services for veterans in the United Kingdom. In 2011 his Combat Stress clinical services were awarded national specialized commissioning from the Department of Health for the delivery of intensive rehabilitation programs for sufferers of chronic PTSD present with co-morbid depression and alcohol problems. Dr. Busuttil served for 16 years in the Royal Air Force where he was instrumental in setting up mental health rehabilitation services for combat veterans returning from the first Gulf War. He was also part of the clinical team that rehabilitated the released British Beirut Hostages. After retiring from the RAF in 1997, for ten years he worked setting up tertiary services for sufferers of Complex PTSD in a general adult setting and within a medium secure forensic women’s service. He has published and lectured internationally about treatment and rehabilitation of chronic and complex presentations of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is the current Chair of the UK Trauma Group and is a Board Member of the UK Psychological Trauma Society.

Learn more about Dr. Walter Busuttil's work at

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Dr. Peter R. Breggin, M.D.

Author: Chapter 10

Dr. Peter R. Breggin M.D. conducts a private practice of psychiatry in Ithaca, New York, where he treats adults, couples, and families with children. He also does consultations in the field of clinical psychopharmacology, often acts as a medical expert in criminal, malpractice, and product liability suits, and he is on the editorial board of several journals. He has written dozens of scientific articles and many professional books, including Medication Madness: The Role of Psychiatric Drugs in Cases of Violence, Suicide and Crime (2008), and Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and Their Families (2013). On February 24, 2010, Dr. Breggin testified before the U. S. House of Representatives, Veterans Affairs Committee, Hearings on “Exploring the Relationship Between Medication and Veteran Suicide” (video available on

Learn more about Dr. Peter Breggin's work at

Dr. Bart P. Billings, Ph.D.

Author: Chapter 11

Dr. Bart P. Billings has been working in the fields of Human Services and Management for over forty-five years. He possesses licenses in Clinical Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy and has past expertise as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. He also has an extensive background in Management and Program Development, which includes, but is not limited to, Chief of Professional Services/Assistant Director at the University of California, Davis Teaching Hospital’s Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Department, and Commanding Officer for a General Hospital Section in the U.S. Army Reserves. He has founded and directed: The Annual International Military and Civilian Combat Stress Conferences, National Tri-Service Prisoner of War Conference, and the military-wide Human Assistance Rapid Response Team (HARRT) which was accepted at the Pentagon in 1997 as a readiness protocol to be implemented military-wide. He has given testimony at Congressional and State Legislative Hearings on the need for better Mental Health Treatment Programs for military personnel and their families. These hearings resulted in the awarding of a multi- million-dollar Department Of Defense grants for national research on how to improve treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries. He has provided Congressional Hearing testimony on the relationship between psychiatric medication and increased suicides in the military, which is available on the Congressional record. He is responsible for initiating these Congressional Hearings, held on February 24, 2010.


Donald R. Elverd, Psy.D., L.P.

Author: Chapter 12

Don Elverd, PsyD, LP, is a Minnesota licensed psychologist and senior clinician at the nationally-renowned Hazelden Mental Health Center in Center City, Minnesota. Don served as a combat infantryman in Vietnam (1967-68) and was wounded in action. Don spent several years conducting retreats for veterans diagnosed with PTSD. He has conducted the men’s survivors group at Hazelden for the past eight years and worked extensively with recovering veterans who have co-occurring disorders.

Learn more about Dr. Elverd's work at

Major Evan Seamone, U.S. Army

Author: Chapter 13

Member of the Bars of the District of Columbia, the United States Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims. Major Seamone is an active duty Army attorney. He has held duty positions as a prosecutor, capital litigation attorney, and defense counsel in locations including Germany and Iraq. Much of this chapter draws on two articles he published in the Military Law Review while on the faculty of the Administrative and Civil Law Department, The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, U.S. Army. Similar to those articles, none of the opinions in this chapter are official positions of any Government agency including the U.S. Army or the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. They are solely the opinions of the author in his personal capacity as an attorney deeply concerned for the interests of veteran clients. Major Seamone can be reached at

David Ferrier

Author: Chapter 14

David Ferrier is a private investigator and sentencing consultant in Los Angeles, California. A two-tour Vietnam combat veteran, himself, David has extensive experience working with veterans in the criminal justice system. David spent five years as a counselor with the Vietnam Veterans Outreach Program in Anaheim, California. Later, David was a member of a traveling veterans defense trial team that defended Vietnam veterans charged with serious violent crimes across the United States in the 1980’s. The experiences of that team led to the publication of Defending the Vietnam Combat Veteran, the predecessor of this book, which David co-authored with attorney, the late Barry Levin in 1988.

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Hector R. Matascastillo

Author: Chapter 15

Hector Matascastillo is a former Army Ranger, Special Operator, and Infantry 1st Sergeant with 13 combat deployments over the course of an 18-year career. In 2004, Hector’s undiagnosed PTSD led to a dissociative flashback and an armed standoff with the police, resulting in multiple felony charges. Hector’s case was handled very well. In return for his agreement to undergo treatment for his psy- chological injuries, all of his felony charges were dismissed. Two years later, after completing treatment and probation, Hector was cleared to return to active duty. He volunteered to return to Iraq and was assigned as 1st Sergeant of a 167-man infantry rifle company bound for Al-Anbar Province at the height of the insurgency. Hector brought all of his men home alive and was awarded the Bronze Star for his leadership. Upon his return, Hector left the military to pursue a new mission. In May, 2010, he graduated with his Masters Degree in Social Work and is now a licensed therapist, working with veterans and other survivors of trauma.

Trista Matascastillo

Co-Author: Chapter 16

Trista Matascastillo, began her military career in 1992 when she enlisted in the United States Navy, where she served as an Avionic Technician and the first woman to serve in her command. She later was selected into a commissioning program and branch transferred into the United States Marine Corps. After four years with the Marine Corps she again transferred to the Minnesota Army National Guard as an active guard and reserve officer. She served as the first woman Air Defense officer and later commanded the 34th Military Police Company. Her awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement medal, Army Achievement medal, and Minnesota Meritorious Achievement Medal among others. Additionally Trista was the distinguished honor graduate at basic training, Officer Candidate School and her Officer Basic Course. 

In 2008 Trista left the military and began working for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity as the Government Relations Senior Associate. Responsible for grassroots and direct advocacy from local housing issues to international housing issues. In October of 2013, Trista became the  Veterans' Voices, Program Officer at the Minnesota Humanities Center.   

Additionally Trista is a Global Village team leader and has led trips to Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Costa Rica and has participated in trips to; Norway, Israel, Jordan, Honduras, and Guatemala. In her free time Trista serves as Chair of the Minnesota Women Veterans Group, Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program consumer advocate for Autism and Mental Health Research, Patient Advocate Advisory Board at the Minneapolis VA Hospital, Habitat for Humanity International Veterans Advisory Board, U of MN A.D.A.P.T program advisor, and Vice President of the United Nations Association of Minnesota, and frequent blogger for the National Veterans Foundation on issues related to Women Veterans, and is a contributing author of the Attorneys Guide to defending Veterans in Criminal Court, due out later this fall. Trista was honored as the 2011 Minnesota Woman Veteran of the Year.

She and her husband Hector, currently reside in St. Paul, MN. They have five sons; Taavo 16, Hunter 14, Kaelen 11, Soren 5, and Aren 3.

Learn more about Trista Matascastillo at

Catherine A. O’Connor, Esq.

Co-Author: Chapter 16

Catherine A. O’Connor is a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, who served in Iraq in 2005–2006 as an Intelligence Specialist. Catherine is a graduate of George Washington University and was Commencement Speaker for her graduating class. She received her law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in May 2012, served as a law clerk at the law office of Brockton D. Hunter P.A., and is currently serving as a law clerk to the Honorable John P. Bailey, Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.

Mary E. Boyce, Esq.

Co-Author: Chapter 16

Mary E. Boyce is a 2013 graduate of the University of St. Thomas Law School. During law school, she clerked at the law office of Brockton D. Hunter P.A. and regularly volunteered for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veteran’s (MAC-V) legal clinics, providing legal aid to veterans in poverty.

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Ryan C. Else, Esq.

Book Editor     Author: Conclusion     Co-Author: Chapter 17, 18, 20, 21

Ryan Christian Else is a criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Brockton D. Hunter P.A.  Ryan served in the Army National Guard as an infantryman from 1998 to 2006, reaching the rank of Sergeant, and was deployed to Kosovo in 2003 and 2004.  Ryan went on to graduate Summa Cum Laude from American University in Washington D.C. with a B.S. in International Relations.  In May 2011, he graduated from the University of St. Thomas School of Law where he served as President of the Military Law Society and clerked for Brock Hunter.  Ryan’s legal career has been dedicated to advocating for veterans’ rights in the criminal justice system. In September 2013, the Minnesota Humanities Center honored Ryan for his commitment to the Minnesota veteran community with the Veterans’ Voices Award.  Ryan also currently serves as the Executive Director of the Veterans Defense Project, and as a facilitator for the Toward a More Perfect Union: Talking About the Constitution project with the Minnesota Humanities Center. 

For more about Ryan, visit

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Markku A. Sario, Esq.

Author: Chapter 19

Mr. Sario is an Oregon-based criminal defense lawyer who mounted the first successful PTSD defense in a murder trial of an Iraq/Afghan War veteran. His client, Jessie Brachter, was an Iraq war veteran who shot and killed a man during a PTSD-related episode. The case gained national attention when the jury found Brachter legally insane and he was commit- ted to a psychiatric hospital instead of prison. Sario, a naturalized citizen who had immigrated from Finland as a child, was a very experienced criminal law attorney, with 26 years of experience in both prosecution and defense. He had handled in excess of 400 jury trials. In addition, he was a veteran of the 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam era, though he had not himself seen combat. This gave him some insight into the military mindset and the training that Bratcher had received.

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Thomas Plunkett, Esq.

Co-Author: Chapter 21

Tom Plunkett is a criminal defense lawyer with both a state and federal court practice. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Mr. Plunkett was an officer and attack helicopter pilot in the United States Army and Army Reserve. After completing law school, Mr. Plunkett left Army Aviation to join the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. Mr. Plunkett’s talents as an attorney were called on by the military to draft the Minnesota Military Code and Minnesota Rules for Court Martial. Mr. Plunkett “wrote the book” for military courts in Minnesota. This code has subsequently been used as the model for many other states. Mr. Plunkett has defended many veterans facing criminal charges, including a high profile federal bank robbery case. Mr. Plunkett co-authored the amicus curiae to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the National Veterans Foundation in Osborn N. Miranda vs. United States, See No. 11-1237.

Learn more about Mr. Plunkett's work at:

Linda McDermott, Esq.

Author: Chapter 22

Linda McDermott is a Florida-based appellate attorney who represented Korean War veteran, George Porter, in his successful death penalty appeal to the United States Supreme Court. Their landmark decision, Porter v. McCollum, was the first of its kind to hold that war service and resulting psychological injuries should be considered as mitigating factors in criminal cases.

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Judge Robert T. Russell

Author: Chapter 23

In January of 2008, Judge Robert Russell created and began presiding over the nation’s first “Veterans’ Treatment Court.” Judge Russell’s proven results and gifted leadership have contributed greatly to the rapid expansion of the Veterans Treatment Court concept, with over 100 such courts now in operation across the nation in early 2013. Among many notable awards for his work with veterans, the National Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States has awarded Judge Russell with the “2010 James E. Dan Zandt Citizenship Award.” The National Vietnam Veterans of America awarded Judge Russell with its “2010 Achievement Medal.” Prior to creation of the Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court, Judge Russell created Buffalo’s Drug Treatment Court in December 1995 and continues to serve as its Presiding Judge. Judge Russell is the Past Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) and the Past President of the New York State Association of Drug Treatment Court Professionals, Inc. He also serves on the National Advisory Board of the Judges’ Criminal Justice/Mental Health Leadership Initiative (JLI).  Judge Russell is the recipient of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's 2014 Advocates for Action Award.

Learn more about Judge Robert Russell's work at

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Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Esq.

Co-Author: Chapter 24

Evelyn Stratton was born to missionary parents in Bangkok, Thailand and spent her childhood in Southeast Asia. She attended boarding school in South Vietnam at the height of the Vietnam War and later in Malaysia, visiting America on occasion with her parents. At age 18, she returned to America alone with only a few hundred dollars in her pocket. Working her way through school, she earned a Juris Doctor degree from The Ohio State University College of Law. She began her legal career as a trial lawyer in the courtrooms of Central Ohio. In 1989, she was the first woman to be elected Judge of the Franklin County Common Pleas Court. Her success on the trial bench led to an appointment in 1996 to the Supreme Court of Ohio, where she was elected to a third term in 2008. Evelyn Stratton also believes that the courts, in partnership with the mental health system, can affect positive change in the lives of many defendants whose mental illness has led to criminal activity. To that end, she formed The Supreme Court of Ohio Advisory Committee on Mental Illness & the Courts, which is composed of mental health, law enforcement and criminal justice professionals who are dedicated to mental health initiatives in the court system. Nationally, Justice Stratton is co-founder and former co-chair of the Judges’ Leadership Initiative, a professional association that supports cooperative mental health programs in the criminal justice system. Her latest focus in Ohio and nationally is on establishing veterans courts to help those returning veterans with PTSD and other issues, whose problems may lead to involvement in the criminal justice system. Since retiring from the bench, she works through EStratton Consulting, LLC on criminal justice reforms, particularly focusing on engaging the judges in different states in these reform efforts. She is also Of Counsel to a major Ohio law firm, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP. Among her many honors are the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Angels Award, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Adoption Excellence Award, and a 2008 Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Learn more about Evelyn Stratton's work at

Corey C. Schaal, J.D./M.P.A.

Co-Author: Chapter 24

Corey C. Schaal is a Program Manager in the Specialized Docket Section of the Supreme Court of Ohio. He has served as Ohio’s Mental Health Court Manager and as a member of the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Advisory Committee on Mental Illness and the Courts. As an Intergovernmental Relations Coordinator for the Ohio Judicial Conference, Mr. Schaal lobbied members of the state’s legislature on issues related to civil justice, criminal justice and probate law. Mr. Schaal is a 1996 graduate (J.D./M.P.A.) from the Cleveland-Marshal College of Law and the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs both of Cleveland State University. Presently, he serves on the Board of Trustees and is Chair of the Policy & Advocacy Committee of the Ohio Justice Alliance for Community Corrections, an umbrella coalition of non-profits and state agencies advancing the appropriate use of community intervention for offenders. He also serves on the Board of Advisors for both Rachel’s House, a faith-based re-entry housing program for women in Franklin County, Ohio.