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Collaborative Courts

Collaborative Courts Overview

Santa Clara County Superior Court is proud to be a pioneer and state leader in specialized courts and calendars which utilize the principles of therapeutic and restorative justice to more effectively deal with the problems of certain target populations.

Santa Clara County was among the first courts in the nation in the early 1990’s to establish a criminal drug treatment program and a juvenile dependency drug treatment program. Those programs were soon followed by a mental health treatment court, a juvenile justice mental health court, and a juvenile justice dating violence court, all of which garnered national attention. Today the court offers over a dozen collaborative court calendars.

These collaborative courts (also called problem-solving courts, therapeutic justice courts, judicially led diversion programs, and recovery-oriented compliance dockets) are characterized by a team approach which brings together resources from the Court justice partners, and community organizations. Collaborative courts are trauma-focused, culturally sensitive, and emphasize early intervention, ongoing supervision, and frequent judicial reviews.

The goals are to address substance abuse and mental health issues, connect participants to available community services, seek alternatives to incarceration and other forms of punishment, and reduce recidivism.

National and state studies have shown that collaborative courts generate substantial savings within the justice system by increasing case processing efficiencies and reducing incarceration costs. Santa Clara County Superior Court is committed to continuing to develop and refine these programs as part of its overall strategy to increase access to justice.

Collaborative Courts and Special Programs

Collaborative Courts for Adults

Collaborative Courts for Youth

Collaborative Courts for Adults

  • Criminal Court
    • Drug Treatment Court (DTC)

      Drug Treatment Court helps defendants with substance use disorders. Drug treatment court provides participants with: frequent court reviews with the judge; warm hand-off to drug assessors and drug treatment; support from the collaborative court team; and connection to county and community providers who can assist with food, clothing, shelter, job training and job opportunities.

    • Mental Health Treatment Court (MHTC)

      Mental Health Treatment Court provides supervision, oversight and links to community resources in an effort to help individuals who are mentally ill become healthy and productive members of society. Once participants are assessed to determine if they have an identifiable mental health condition, a doctor will meet with them to determine if medication would be recommended. In addition, they will be evaluated to determine their treatment needs and housing options. Community treatment programs provide therapy, medication, and case management services as well as housing.

      How do I get into MHTC?

      Mental Health Treatment Court referrals are generated by a participant’s defense attorney who will request that the criminal court send the case to treatment court for an assessment. The Judge hearing the individual’s criminal case makes the decision, where appropriate, to refer the individual to this special Court program. Assessors from the County Behavioral Health Department create a treatment plan tailored for the individual and treatment is provided by community providers.

    • Mental Health Diversion

      California’s legislature created a mental health diversion statute that allows individuals with a qualifying mental health diagnosis to be diverted if several factors are met. The court makes the determination of eligibility and suitability on a specific contested calendar, meaning that the parties may not agree if diversion is appropriate.

      Once a client has been diverted into treatment, criminal proceedings are suspended for up to two years as the client engages in treatment. If treatment goals are not met, then diversion may be terminated and the case proceeds as it would have before diversion was granted. During the diversion period, the participants receive the same services as they would in adult mental health treatment court described above.

    • Veterans Treatment Court

      Veterans Treatment Court serves anyone with proof that they have served in the military who meet the requirements of the statute relating to mental illness, substance abuse, sexual trauma and other conditions. The program works closely with the Veterans Administration treatment and support system as well as County Behavioral Health.

    • Parole Reentry Court

      In 2009, California initiated the Parolee Reentry Court Program in an effort to reduce recidivism, parole revocation, and re-incarceration among parolees. Santa Clara County was awarded a Reentry Court Program Grant to implement its own Parolee Reentry Court. This specialty court is now a separate calendar and program. The Parolee Reentry Court is a part of our other adult drug courts and utilizes the key components of drug courts, mental health courts, and collaborative courts. The Parolee Reentry Court orders rehabilitation and treatment services; determines appropriate incentives; orders appropriate sanctions; lifts parole holds; and hears and determines appropriate responses to alleged violations. Referrals are received from Parole Agents as well as Judges.

    • Intellectually Challenged Court

      Recognizing the vulnerability of the intellectually challenged who are accused of a crime, the concern that they will be targeted in a custodial setting and the chance to provide oversight and encouragement to these participants in the community, this court was created. Since intellectual disabilities are life-long, simply incarcerating such persons does not help the person nor does it help our society. Each participant in this court has a qualifying intellectual challenge and is eligible to receive services from the San Andreas Regional Center (SARC) in Santa Clara County. SARC offers services, case management and referrals for participants in this court. Participants return to court for frequent reviews and encouragement from the court and team to obey any court restraining orders, do community service and pay victim restitution.

    • Incompetent to Stand Trial Court

      Adult individuals who are unable to understand the nature of the criminal charges pending against them or who are unable to assist their attorney in the defense of these charges may qualify for the IST Court. For misdemeanor offenders when a doubt has been declared of their ability to stand trial for the offense(s) charged, if the prosecutor agrees the case is sent to the IST calendar for monitoring and supervision of the participant. The individual returns to court for frequent reviews before the court and team and often the team is able to offer encouragement, support and services to the person that otherwise they would not receive. The participants are closely monitored to prevent another arrest and the services provided to them reduce the chances that they may commit new offenses.

      Individuals who are charged with felony offenses may also participate in this program. New diversion legislation passed by the Legislature in 2018 provides the alternative of community treatment and supervision for these individuals rather than a commitment to the State Hospital. Each client is assessed and is closely monitored by case managers who ensure that the client is safely housed, takes all required medications, attends mandatory court appearances and court ordered treatment appointments and sessions. This program support helps the participant progress towards restoration of competency.

    • Community Outreach Court

      Community Outreach Court is a specialty court designed to help clients who have been in the criminal justice system and have now made significant progress in rebuilding their livesand are no longer involved in the criminal justice system. Many of them have substantial debt due to past Court fines and have difficulty in obtaining employment to support their families. This program allows them to do public service work for non-profit organizations in lieu of paying these fines, and review hearings take place in the community at the Reentry Resource Center rather than in the Courthouse.

    • Young Adult Deferred Entry of Judgment (YADEJ)

      Santa Clara County’s YADEJ program is one of five pilot programs in California for young adults from 18 to 21 years who are charged with non-serious, non-violent felonies under California law. The YADEJ is based upon recent scientific evidence that the human brain is not fully developed until the mid-twenties. The last parts of the brain to develop are the elements that control impulses and decision making. Upon entry into the program, the young adults receive a Life 360 Evaluation, which considers education status, vocational training aptitudes, substance use and counseling issues, housing needs, parenting advice if needed, and sets individual progress goals in these areas. This lifestyle triage is backed with access to services and opportunities. Each participant returns before a judge and the YADEJ team to assess their program progress and keep the participant’s ultimate goals in focus. To successfully complete the program, participants must refrain from using controlled substances, complete court-ordered programs, and participate in community service projects. When they graduate, the records of participants’ convictions are cleared and sealed.

    • RISE Court: Resources to Improve Student Education

      This Court hears cases involving parents charged with the crime of not ensuring their child’s regular school attendance. In the past, parents charged with truancy were required to attend hearings at the Hall of Justice on the general misdemeanor criminal calendar. This meant their cases were heard at the same time as other general criminal matters.

      Instead, the Court has set aside a dedicated calendar on the first and third Thursday of each month at the Family Justice Center Courthouse. This affords the judge the opportunity to address sensitive family issues that may include substance abuse, mental health, major illness, disability, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, poverty, lack of appropriate child care for siblings, or a breakdown in communication between the family and the school. The goal of CARE Court is to connect the parents with appropriate supportive services so that the family heals and the child’s school attendance improves. Schools or districts send representatives to the Court hearings. The District Attorney offers every parent the opportunity to get their case dismissed without a conviction by attending a parenting program and working with school officials to improve their child’s school attendance. Instructors from a parenting class called the Parent Project help connect parents to classes. Also present in court are county clinicians from Behavioral Health Services and the Public Health Department to help connect parents to needed services.

      You can find DA's Truancy Public Service Announcement subtitles in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese. These videos are available for download here: DA's Truancy Public Service Announcement Videos.

  • Family Court
    • Family Law Treatment Court (FLTC)

      Family Law Treatment Court (FLTC) is a voluntary, Court-supervised collaborative court program for parents with children involved in custody hearings in Family Court. Parents are connected with a variety of services including recovery treatment programs and, if needed, mental health services. The goal of FLTC is to help parents become clean and sober so they can keep custody, obtain custody, or increase their parenting time. Recovery from addiction and becoming a sober parent requires developing self-sufficiency and accountability, which are measures of success in FLTC. One of the major benefits of FLTC is the opportunity for increased time with the participant’s child(ren) as recovery progresses. It generally takes one year to complete the program.

  • Juvenile Dependency Court
    • Dependency Wellness Court (DWC)

      Dependency Wellness Court (DWC) helps parents with substance abuse and/or co-occurring mental health problems to become better parents and work at reunification with their children. The DWC is designed to support parents to get clean and sober by providing an array of support services aimed at addressing underlying issues that brought them to participate in DWC. In order to provide these services, the Court partners with various county agencies including the Behavioral Health Services Department, Department of Family and Children Services, Dependency Advocacy Center, and more.

Collaborative Courts for Youth

  • Juvenile Justice Court
    • Court for Individualized Treatment of Adolescents (CITA)

      The Dual Diagnosis Treatment Court is meant to better serve juvenile justice minors who have substance use issues or co-occurring issues (mental health and substance abuse). The CITA team is composed of judges, probation officers, defense attorneys, district attorneys, behavioral health clinicians, legal aid, and Legal Advocates for Children and Youth (LACY).

      The goals of the CITA are to empower youth and their families, promote individual wellness, and ensure community safety. These goals are achieved by helping youth identify their strengths and positive attributes, acknowledging the challenges that mental health diagnoses and/ or substance use disorders bring, and providing appropriate developmental services that teach the youth skills necessary to succeed and manage mental health and/or substance use disorders.

      In 2017, the average length of time spent in the CITA was 6.2 months. Of the 31 active youth in 2017, 38 percent successfully graduated, 19 percent received a certificate of participation (demonstrated progress in the program but did not meet all criteria for graduation), and 28 percent were unsuccessfully terminated.

    • Dually Involved Youth (DIY)

      In partnership with Santa Clara County’s Probation Department and Social Services Agency, the Dually Involved Youth court addresses minors who have active cases in Juvenile Dependency and Juvenile Justice. Such cases are heard by a designated judge. Together with the Department of Family and Children’s Services, the Juvenile Probation Department makes recommendations to the Juvenile Court judge, suggesting which type of status would be best for the minor and for the protection of the community. After reviewing the recommendations, the judge determines which system can best serve the minor’s needs. The Dually Involved Youth team consists of dedicated juvenile probation officers, Department of Family Court Services social workers, and a youth advocate, who provide appropriate services and intensive case management to the youth and his or her families.

    • Juvenile Domestic Violence Court

      Started in 1999, the Domestic Violence calendar focuses on changing the way an abusive minor acts and on supporting the victim. The Court works with probation officers, district attorneys, public defenders, and domestic violence support services. For individuals involved in a domestic or family violence case, Juvenile Probation has special programs to help and support victims, to investigate and supervise the minor offenders, to stop violence before it starts, and to teach juvenile offenders and batterers how to stop violence.