Smith Anderson’s Kirk Warner, Driving Force Behind Veterans Treatment Courts
Retired U.S. Army Colonel and Smith Anderson attorney, Kirk G. Warner, spends countless hours dedicated to military and veterans’ affairs, particularly advocating for the importance of Veterans Treatment Courts (VTCs) for our troubled veterans. The Veteran’s Treatment Court is a diversionary court designed to help veterans who have been thrust into the justice system due to mental health disorders, trauma or substance abuse caused from their military service in combat zones.
For over a decade Kirk has been championing VTCs in North Carolina, presenting to virtually every judge in the state, to the Chief Justice, ABA presidents and to the following organizations: North Carolina Military Affairs Commission (NCMAC), Governor’s Crime Commission, The Conference of Superior Court Judges, North Carolina Bar Association’s (NCBA) Senior Lawyers Division, the National Association of Bar Executives, the Veteran Pro Bono Network, national symposiums and the many seminars and conferences hosted by the NCBA’s Military and Veterans Law Section and N.C. State Bar’s Legal Assistance for Military Personnel Committee (LAMP).
The main goal of Kirk’s advocacy is to, at a minimum, establish a VTC in counties proximate to a Veterans Administration treatment facility where eligible veterans can get mental health and psychological counseling, which is a required “treatment” in the VTC program. The first VTC was founded in 2008 in Buffalo, N.Y. and today has several jurisdictions in North Carolina. Kirk has advocated and assisted in the creation of N.C.’s first VTCs in Harnett and Cumberland counties and has helped push for creation of VTCs in Buncombe and Forsyth counties. Through his multiple leadership roles as Chairman of the NCBA’s Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, the NCBA’s Military and Veterans’ Law Section Council, and the Commissioner of the NCMAC, Kirk has been a driving force behind the growth of the VTC’s helping connect hundreds of eligible veterans with options other than jail.
Establishing a VTC usually requires some funding, but they pay huge dividends economically and socially in keeping veterans who have served our country with their families, employed and a key part of our society rather than behind bars. VTCs are often championed by the local bar associations or, most importantly, by a District Court Judge willing to take the lead. VTCs require certain logistics and personnel that include a VTC Coordinator (often that is the primary cost since it generally is an additional or separate position in the clerk’s office), an involved District Court Judge, a District Attorney and Public Defender, and a support/mentor network often provided by court deputies, other concerned veterans or local members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion who buddy up with the veteran and see that they make the biweekly VTC hearings and their treatment appointments.
After serving 33 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves, Kirk retired from the Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG) with the rank of Colonel in 2013. Kirk has also recently been elected to serve again on the USO of N.C.’s Board of Directors after serving as Vice-Chair for 10 years. In addition to his military experience, his dedication to military and veterans affairs and his commitment to many professional and community affiliations, Kirk is a seasoned trial attorney focusing much of his practice on complex and challenging product liability and commercial "bet-the-company" litigation.