Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Sustains Its Veterans Treatment Court

Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Sustains Its Veterans Treatment Court

In 2018, the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit had high hopes for its new veterans treatment court program.  Recognizing the need for such a program in the circuit, former Chief Judge Elijah Smiley began to meet with local stakeholders.  After he secured funding for a coordinator, everything was in place to start.

Pictured here is the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Challenge Coin that veterans treatment court graduates receive.

On October 1, 2018, Shonta Covington began work as the coordinator of the veterans treatment court and continued to develop the program.  Plans for the first veterans treatment court proceeding were slated for November of that year.  However, Hurricane Michael, a category 5 hurricane, slammed into the Gulf Coast of Florida, directly impacting the Fourteenth Circuit.  The hurricane devastated the area.  Over 30 judges and staff in Bay County were displaced from their offices and have yet to return to their offices.  The plans for veterans treatment court were derailed somewhat for several months, but Ms Covington continued to work behind the scenes coordinating resources as soon as they were able to come online.

Against all odds, veterans treatment court held its first court proceeding in March 2019 with one veteran.  Chief Judge Christopher N. Patterson became the presiding judge for veterans treatment court, and the program continued to expand to all six counties of the circuit.  As of January 2020, the program had 13 participants, including those with felony and misdemeanor charges.


Chief Judge Christopher N. Patterson, the presiding judge for the Fourteenth Circuit’s veterans treatment court, and Ms Shonta Covington, the veterans treatment court coordinator, at a Zoom veterans treatment court hearing.

Everything seemed to be going great until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.  In mid-March of this year, in-person hearings at the courthouse were suspended.  Like other circuits in the state, the Fourteenth Circuit had to come up with alternatives and turned to Zoom.  Veterans treatment court held its first Zoom court proceeding in April 2020 and has been going strong ever since.

Unless they are ordered to probation for drug testing, veterans receive all counseling and medication management remotely.  They are required to maintain weekly contact with Ms Covington, who assists them with accessing resources such as employment and housing and with other needs.  The treatment team meets via Zoom routinely to determine the best course possible to ensure the success of each participant.

Despite the setbacks of the hurricane and the pandemic, veterans treatment court has continued to chug along, finding a way to develop and expand through trying times.  As a result, our veterans treatment court will have its first graduation on July 23, 2020, for two participants, and a second graduation in August for two more participants. 

Beth Schwartz, Court Publications Writer

Originally published at

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