When Patricia Adelman heard Sheboygan County was planning to start a Veterans Treatment Court, the assistant state public defender jumped at the chance to get involved.
“I wanted to help those people who have worked so hard and given up so much for our country,” said Adelman, who has a niece and nephew who are veterans. “Veterans leave everything to defend our country.”
So when Judge Angela Sutkiewicz began pulling together a team for Sheboygan County’s Veterans Treatment Court in 2012, Adelman stepped up right away. The court gives veterans a second chance by providing them with counseling on substance abuse or mental health, rather than time in jail. They also meet with a veteran mentor who helps provide support and guidance as they go through the official procedures. Once the treatment plan is completed — which can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months — the charges they are faced with are either reduced or dismissed.
“Pat continues to devote many hours per week to our court, attending team meetings, reviewing reports and following up with other professionals outside of normal working hours,” Sutkiewicz said. “She is a strong voice for veterans who have lost their way and need help getting back on track.”
Adelman said she felt drawn by a sense of duty to get involved with the court, which also serves veterans from several neighboring counties.
“Some soldiers come back a little broken, whether they have PTSD or have a drug or alcohol issue, and we match them with a veteran mentor to help turn things around,” she said. “I feel like we are providing them with a great service.”
Sutkiewicz also praised Adelman’s involvement with veterans beyond her time in court. At Christmas, she organized a plan to provide needy veterans with gifts and reached out to local businesses to ask for gift cards.
Her work with the veterans’ treatment court is in addition to Adelman’s regular duties in the public defender’s office. Adelman became interested in that area of the law after working in an internship at a public defender’s office during law school.
“I was so impressed with how they fought for their clients and I knew I wanted to do that,” she said.
Thirty years later, Adelman continues her role as a public defender, handling a variety of cases.
“The courtroom is a place where everyone is equal and treated fairly,” she said. “It can be challenging at times, but you need to keep going and provide everyone with a voice and make sure they are treated fairly.”