Judge awarded 'Nova ethics prize for Veterans Court

Judge Marc Carter, himself an Army veteran and the son and brother of military men, received Villanova University's 2014 Praxis Award on Thursday. "We're looking for people who connect their profession to the common good," said the chairman of the award selection committee.
Judge Marc Carter, himself an Army veteran and the son and brother of military men, received Villanova University's 2014 Praxis Award on Thursday. "We're looking for people who connect their profession to the common good," said the chairman of the award selection committee. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 12, 2014

VILLANOVA Judge Marc Carter is an Army veteran, and his father and brothers also served in the military.

So it was no surprise that he was moved to act when a Marine veteran appeared in his Texas court in 2009.

The Marine had recently served in Fallujah, Iraq, and came home to a "parade in his neighborhood," Carter said. But he ran into trouble after that, and appeared before Carter on a nonviolent felony charge.

"That situation really, really took me," Carter said. "I was really emotional about that Marine's story."

So Carter went on to create the first Veterans Court program in Texas.

Veterans Court programs around the country are designed to divert troubled veterans - those with addictions, brain injuries, and other post-traumatic stress issues - charged with nonviolent crimes out of jail and traditional probation, and into mental-health and addiction-treatment centers accessible by their veterans' benefits.

"Once you go to prison," Carter said, "you don't learn how to be a good citizen."

For his efforts, Carter on Thursday received Villanova University's 2014 Praxis Award in Professional Ethics. Appointed to the 228th District Court in Harris County in 2003, Carter was honored at a ceremony in Villanova's Falvey Memorial Library.

"We're looking for people who connect their profession to the common good," said Mark Doorley, the director of the ethics program at Villanova and the chair of the Praxis selection committee.

"You want students to graduate who are responsible leaders in their community, and [Carter] is an example of that," Doorley said.

The first Veterans Court in Pennsylvania opened in Lackawanna County in 2009. Courts are also in 16 other counties, including Philadelphia, Chester, Montgomery, and Delaware.

According to the Pennsylvania courts website, the state has nearly one million veterans, the fifth-largest veterans population in the country.

After encountering the troubled Marine in 2009, Carter realized the need for such a program in Texas and modeled his after the Veterans Court in Buffalo, the first in the country.

"You have to be realistic," Carter said of dealing with troubled veterans. "They are human beings. They're going to make mistakes. You think about all the talent, all the potential talent out there if given a second chance."

Carter said the two-year-old program in Texas - it also offers job training and access to affordable housing - has 54 graduates with a rearrest rate of 15 percent.

That rate is "a very, very low number" for the population the program serves, Carter said.

And while no program can end all the problems some veterans face, Carter said he remained hopeful that progress is being made.

"You have to be realistic about what is a win," he said.

The Praxis Award was started in 2007 and is awarded annually to a professional or academic in the field of professional ethics. The deadline for 2015 nominations is April 23. For more information, go to the Villanova website, www1.villanova.edu.


cmindock@philly.com

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@clarkmindock

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