New judge oversees Veterans Treatment Court


Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Michael Servitto has taken over the Veterans Treatment Court docket from Judge Mark Switalski, who started the program in 2012.

The court revealed the change last week, noting it took effect on Oct. 1.

“I am honored to preside over a program that employs an evidence-based approach to addressing the particularized needs of the men and women who have bravely served this country,” said Servitto. 

In creating the program, Servitto said Switalski “recognized that the mental and physical trauma of combat and the difficulty of transitioning into civilian life has led some of our veterans into the criminal justice system.

“I look forward to giving the individuals who sacrificed for  our freedoms a meaningful opportunity to surmount their  impediments and become productive members of our community.”

The court is designed to help veterans of the U.S. armed forces who have a military discharge other than dishonorable, are currently involved in the criminal justice system and have a substance abuse or mental health issue related to their service to the country.

Designed to last 18 to 24 months, the program is divided into phases, each marking new progress. Participants are assessed and treatment plans and/or goals are established.

Resources are fully utilized, both through the Veterans Administration and the community, to insure that treatment and medical and housing needs are met for every veteran.

An aspect that sets it apart from other treatment court dockets, according to court officials, is the use of veteran mentors, who support the veteran through his or her court and treatment process and serve as an advocate for them.

All mentors are veterans themselves and efforts are made to pair the veteran with a mentor of similar background concerning gender, military branch and conflict served.

Court officials say this promotes a higher comfort level for the veteran and a trust can sometimes more easily be formed.

The focus is “to address and treat the issue(s) that brought them to the criminal justice system, and help them to get back to the productive life they had before and during their time in the service.”

“Judge Switalski could’ve sent me to prison,” said Cortez Gilcrease, who graduated from the program last November. “Instead, he gave me the chance to realize how valuable my life is. He gave us a good outlook on what life could really be like for us.”

Switalski started the court along with 41B District Court Judge Carrie Fuca.

Switalski was honored by Wayne State University in 2016 for his work with veterans.

Servitto received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Michigan State University and graduated  magna cum laude from Michigan State University-Detroit College of Law.

During law school, he was a member of King Scholars Program, and was elected note and comment editor of the Law Review. 

Servitto began his legal career as clerk in the Tort Defense Division of the Michigan Attorney General’s Office and also worked as a law clerk for Judge Mark Switalski and for the Warren city attorney.

He worked for the Macomb  County  prosecutor’s office from  2003 to 2016 as principal trial  attorney and also served as chief of the cold case unit and chief of the District Court.

He received the Most Outstanding Young Lawyer Award from the Macomb Bar Association, and was a Mount Clemens Planning Board Commissioner.

Chief Judge James Biernat Jr. added that, as a former drug court judge, he was “very aware of the time commitment and dedication of our treatment court judges.

“I commend Judge Mark Switalski on his six years of service and truly appreciate Judge Michael Servitto taking on this new task.”

Macomb County Circuit Court has three operational problem-solving courts — the Adult Drug Court, Veterans Treatment Court and Mental Health Court.

There also is a new pilot docket — Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program that began in 2017. 

All of these programs receive grant funding from the State Court Administrative Office to assist with program costs.

For the current fiscal year, these program receive a combined $252,000.