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Specialty courts and COVID-19, the sequel (opinion)


Submitted by Henry Sotelo

In my This is Reno Due Process column on April 28, 2020, I offered a glimpse into how Reno’s Municipal Specialty Courts were performing several weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. Now, roughly 10 months into the pandemic, I thought it relevant and appropriate to give another progress report. Specialty Court hearings, by their nature are group events and are still restricted by the COVID mitigation measures.

Despite the restrictions and the challenges they produce, Reno’s Specialty Courts are still up and running. We are using all the available technology in order to stay in contact and communicate with component parts and most importantly monitoring clients.

In my previous COVID-19 update, I outlined and explained much of the technology that our Specialty Courts are using to cope with COVID-19 restrictions and still maintain an impact and commitment to our clients and to our core mission: Supervision, Treatment and Testing.

The news was good then and the news remains good now.

Reno Municipal Specialty Courts, specifically the two I am assigned as legal defense, Fresh Start Substance Abuse Court and CAMO-RNO Veterans Court, have graduated participants on time during the pandemic. Specifically, CAMO-RNO graduated clients in May and then again in October of 2020, in outdoor socially-distanced graduation events. Fresh Start Court held an outdoor graduation in June 2020. All of this positive progress in the midst of a global pandemic!

Furthermore, Reno Municipal Courts are still holding weekly Zoom staffings and Zoom court sessions. Client monitoring is still effective through mobile testing devices and ongoing supervision has been maintained by our court marshals. As I stated way back in April of 2020, our clients for the most part are going strong and adhering to their commitment to themselves, the court and to our community by staying sober, testing regularly, and communicating with the team.

Wait, there’s more!

The Bureau of Justice Assistance Programs Office, a component of the United States Department of Justice, has renewed monetary grants for the following Reno Municipal Specialty Courts: CAMO-RNO Veterans Court has received a three-year enhancement grant in the amount of $379,000, The Community Court received a two-year enhancement grant of $185,000 and the Fresh Start Therapeutic Drug/DUI Court has been awarded a whopping three-year $500,000 enhancement grant. Over a million dollars of support from the federal government to support the good work being done in these therapeutic courts.

Obviously getting any kind of grant money in these amounts is a good thing. However it is an especially noteworthy accomplishment when our specialty courts have been operating under the present restrictive constraints during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amounts such as these underscore the effectiveness of the Reno Municipal Specially Courts, their teams and staff. These enhancement grants will go a long way in providing therapeutic and logistical help to our friends, family and neighbors in our city. It is very encouraging and our community has much to be proud of.

The Biggest Little Specialty Courts, indeed.  


Henry Sotelo is a practicing attorney in Northern Nevada. He has been a licensed attorney in Nevada since 1987, practicing mostly in the area of Criminal Law. Sotelo has been teaching the law to people in Northern Nevada for 17 years at Truckee Meadows Community College as a full-time College Instructor. Sotelo currently is serving as one of the City of Reno Legal Defenders doing criminal law defense and serving on two of Reno Municipal Court’s Specialty Courts: The DUI Therapeutic Specialty Court and the CAMO-RENO Veterans Court.  Sotelo is currently serving as a City of Reno Administrative Hearing Officer.

Additionally, Sotelo serves on the City of Reno Human Rights Commission and the Washoe County Behavioral Health Board. Sotelo donates legal hours to the Domestic Violence Resource Center on a monthly basis. 

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