AZ Court Help and Arizona courthouse accessibility information           Increase Font Size

A- A A+

Veterans Court Podcast

Arizona Civil Legal Needs Community Survey

Civil legal organizations in Arizona are seeking your input to increase their ability to meet the civil legal needs of Arizona's lower income residents. Please complete this survey to assist in improving civil legal services in Arizona.

Encuesta de Necesidades Legales Civiles de Arizona

Las organizaciones legales civiles en Arizona buscan su opinión para aumentar su capacidad de satisfacer las necesidades legales civiles de los residentes de bajos ingresos de Arizona. Por favor complete esta encuesta para ayudar a mejorar los servicios legales civiles en Arizona.

Veterans Court Podcast Transcript

Interview with Judge Greg Maxon

Q=Chief Justice Scott Bales

A=Judge Greg Maxon

Q:    Hello. I’m Scott Bales, Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. In this edition of the podcast, we are joined by Judge Greg Maxon. He is a longtime advocate for veterans and was instrumental in the launch of several veteran’s court around Arizona. Judge Maxon currently presides over veteran’s cases in the East Valley Regional Veteran’s Court.  Judge, could you tell us what exactly a Veteran’s Court is?

A:    Well what I explain to the veterans coming into Veteran’s Court is we have a number of therapeutic courts in our system. And, you know, we have homeless courts, we have drug courts, and the mental health courts. And they deal with particular issues. And what I explain to the veterans participating in my court is that we deal with a particular population. We find that veterans have some particular issues, unique issues. But they also have some unique resources available to them to address those issues. And what we try and do is we try and use those resources to get them engages in therapy and treatment to address the reason why they’re in the court.

Q:    So is it a particular courthouse that people go to as distinct from other kinds of courts?

A:    Well in our case, Tempe hosts the regional courts so they come to the Tempe Municipal Court. But there’s no place called the Veteran’s Court as a stand alone place. It’s a separate docket that each court sets up specifically for veterans to have their cases heard.

Q:    So is the common thread that veterans are involved in the cases?

A:    Yes. To be involved in the Veteran’s Court, you have to have served in the military at some point in your life.

Q:    So what would be an example of a kind of case that might come before your court?

A:    Well most of the courts, in fact all the courts here in Arizona that do veterans cases, they’re criminal cases. And mostly at the misdemeanor level. Although Coconino County and Pinal County have got veterans courts and they do address felony cases there. But predominance is misdemeanor cases. And usually in the Justice of the Peace Court or the Municipal Court.

Q:    And how would the handling of one of those cases differ in a veteran’s court as compared to if it went through the ordinary court process?

A:    Well when somebody comes to Veteran’s Court, they’re told up front that we don’t do any contested cases. This is a therapeutic court. And if they want to be in Veteran’s Court, then we’ll get them evaluated and lay out a plan of treatment for them. And to be successful in the court they need to follow that plan of treatment and complete it as we set it out for ‘em.

Q:    How is that you became interested in this kind of a therapeutic court?

A:    Well I spent 35 years in the military myself and then I spent about a year and a half as a director of the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services. And that’s where I really started learning about some of the issues that our men and women are facing as they come home from overseas assignments. We have a lot of folks that served in combat over the last 15 years. And when they come home they have a hard time getting re-integrated back in their communities and sometimes they find themselves involved in the criminal justice system.

Q:    You know, I suspect a lot of our listeners realize that in Arizona we have a large number of military bases. But I’m curious. What is the presence more generally in terms of veterans in our community?

A:    Well there are no exact numbers but the best estimates are there is somewhere between 600 and 650,000 veterans in Arizona. Which is about 10% of our population.

Q:    Boy that sounds like a lot of people. You serve for the East Valley Regional Veterans Court. What exactly is its jurisdiction?

A:    Well we have seven cities that participate in this court and it’s hosted by the Tempe Municipal Court so our sessions are all held there. And as we were talking about establishing veterans’ courts in the East Valley, we came up the the idea that maybe having the courts travel to a central location where we have all the services, it is much easier for our service providers. And they are the key to making these courts work as having your service providers right there in the courts so they can work with the veterans as they come into court. And rather than have, you know, “This is Tuesday so we got to go to Chandler.” Or, “This is Thursday. We gotta go to Tempe.” Let’s have it all in one place. And we have set dockets. Each jurisdiction maintains their own docket. We don’t mix cases from different jurisdictions on any one docket. But the key thing is we have those service providers. Those folks that are working with our veterans as they’re going through their treatment in the courtroom with us. And so we've got four major participants. We’ve got Tempe, Scottsdale, Gilbert and Chandler. And they all have separate dockets. Then we also have Fountain Hills, Paradise Valley and Carefree Cave creek. And we don’t see a lot of cases from them so we do blend those cases in with our other dockets. And then the prosecutors for those cities whose docket it is, they’ve been authorized by those cities to handle the cases.

Q:    Well it sounds like you take in a pretty good portion of Maricopa County. Are there Veteran’s Courts in other parts of the state?

A:    Well there are. In fact, Mesa has a very active court. Phoenix started their court back in 2012 and in about 18 months became the largest veterans court in the country. I think that kind of gives it a good idea of how much demand there is for these kinds of services. Across the state we’ve got about 17 Veteran’s Courts that encompass about 26 different jurisdictions. We’ve got a number of regional courts. Tucson has five cities in their court. La Paz County started a Veteran’s Court and they’ve got five jurisdictions. Two cities and three Justice of the Peace precincts participating in their court.

Q:    And I know you’ve been involved in helping set up those kinds of courts around the state. Is this something that we’re still trying to expand?

A:    We are. And right now I think we’re limited by the resources the VA has. And the key to getting these other courts started is working very closely with the VA and give ‘em plenty of lead time so they know the courts are coming and they can start planning for the resources. We’ve been very fortunate with our VA hospitals here in the state. They have expanded their services and hired more people just to accommodate our veterans in our Veteran’s Courts.

Q:    Judge you mentioned that it’s important to connect the veterans with different service providers. What exactly is a service provider? Can you give some examples?

A:    Well the main service provider that we use is the VA itself. They’ve got, you know, they understand veterans. They got great programs for veterans. And many of the courts though will take veterans who are not eligible for VA services for a number of reasons. So what we do is we find those community providers that we can connect with. There are a lot of times the same community providers that are providing services for people who are involved in say DUI cases. Things like that. But we try, we get these men and women connected with them. And then we monitor their progress through that treatment as they go through it.

Q:    So for example would they be able to obtain substance abuse treatment in that kind of a program?

A:    Substance abuse treatment, domestic violence treatment, anger management, there’s just a whole list of treatment programs that we have these men and women engage in. Most of those programs, with the exception of domestic violence, are offered by the VA. So if they’re VA eligible, we know the quality of those programs and we refer folks over there. But for those that aren’t eligible for the VA, we just used the same community providers that the other courts would use if they were addressing those cases. But we try and get them to a point where there’s a warm hand-off. You know, from the court to those providers where we set it up so they go there, they’re expected and they’re not just calling them off of a list.

Q:    So I take it that part of the reason you refer to veteran’s courts as therapeutic courts is one they do is they connect people with these kinds of services.

A:    Yes. And quite honestly to be successful in the court they’ve got to complete the programs we set out for ‘em.

Q:    So without asking you to identify any one by name, could you describe a case where you think the Veteran’s Court really helped someone. I’d be curious just to understand how it impacts individuals.

A:    Well a lot of the case are fairly routine. But I do have two examples that are kind of on the extreme edge and but had good results, our very first docket in Tempe where we started our Tempe Veteran’s Court, um, I had the veterans stand up and introduce themselves. And there was one gentleman in a wheelchair. And he had been hurt in the first golf war back in the early 90’s. He had a spinal injury and so he couldn’t stand up to introduce himself. And when I finally called his case up, I asked him, “Well how are things going?” And he ‘d been arrested for a DUI. And he looked me in the eye and said I’m going to put a gun in my mouth and kill myself. And come to find out he had a few days earlier, fallen out of his wheelchair and it was 15 hours before somebody found him. He had a lot of friends so to speak as long as his VA checks were coming in. So, I mean that was kind of the environment he was in. And I think he felt that life was just to hard. And for him, killing himself seemed like a reasonable alternative. And so I asked him if he’d been to the VA. And he said he had a bad experience. I said, “Well just work with us. Give us a chance.” Within the week they had in home healthcare set up for him. They’d set him up for rides where he was spending $900 a month on just taxis because he lost his license. He couldn’t drive. And so they got the services in there. And ten months later we actually graduated from him. And his graduation speech or talk, he said, “The luckiest thing in my life was I got arrested. ‘Cause otherwise I probably would have killed myself. And so we got him connected with the right kind of services to address his issues. We got him the help he was needing but he just didn’t know how to find it. The other case I had on my docket for about a year and a half. And this was a young man who was a combat medic and had seen some horrific things in Iraq. Very serious case of PTSD but his, the number one issue we really needed to deal with as substance abuse. HE came in court and he looked intoxicated and I had a Tempe Police Officer come in and we breathalyzed him in court. And he was almost a .3. So I took him into custody. I said, “I’m finding you in contempt of court. For coming into court drunk. I took him into custody. We immediately released him from custody into a 90 day in-patient treatment program over at the VA. He stayed with that program. He stayed in what we call After Care for about a year after that. And we finally got him engaged in his trauma treatment for his PTSD. And we graduated him about six months ago.

Q:    Wow. It must be gratifying to work on those kinds of cases. Do you have some suggestions generally for veterans or their families about what they can do if they find themselves sort of caught up in a criminal legal problem?

A:    Well the first thing is if they’re a Veteran, ask the court if they have a Veteran’s Court program. Not all courts due. In fact, most don’t. But many do so if they ask that question. And then just understand that if you engage in the Veteran’s Court program, you know, we’re not gonna concern ourselves right away with guilt or innocence. We’re more focused on what do we need to do with this veteran to get him back on the right path. And we don’t just focus on medical treatment. WE also work with them on housing, employment, getting their VA benefits, filing for a disability claims, getting their education benefits - getting them enrolled in school. So we really try and do everything we can to get him back into that - to be competitive in the community. Both in their daily activities but also in the job market.

Q:    Well Judge it sounds like the Veteran’s Courts are a great resource both for the veterans and for our communities more broadly. I thank you for your leadership and helping develop them across our state. And I also thank you for our service to our country.

A:    OH thank you very much.

Q:    And I thank our listeners for listening to this podcast. It’s sponsored and produced by your Arizona Supreme Court. is a virtual legal resource center offering legal help to everyday people. You can go online to find more podcasts and help for a variety of legal matters. And Judge, I know there’s an online resource specifically related to veteran’s issues. Could you identify that for our listeners?

A:    Yes. A few years ago the Arizona Supreme Court helped sponsor a website called Law for Vets. And the website is and it’s the state bar foundation that operates it under the sponsorship of the Arizona Supreme Court. And it’s a wealth of information. Not just on criminal issues, but housing issues, employment issues, benefits issues. So if somebody has a legal issue and they’re veterans, I encourage them to look at that website just to see if there’s some information on there that they can use to help address that issue.

Q:    Thank you for listening to this podcast. For more information on this and other topics, visit