Court, But Nicer: VanDerKarr Leaves Legacy of Compassion

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Franklin County will remember Judge VanDerKarr as a pioneer in the arena of redemptive justice.

As former Franklin County Judge Scott VanDerKarr steps down from the bench and into a new role at The Koffel Law Firm, residents will remember him fondly for his groundbreaking work in addiction treatment for drug offenders. Franklin County residents know VanDerKarr for many things, but the drug court he started in 2009 was chief among his achievements. He also started a heroin court, one of the first in the country, in 2010, and a court specifically for Veterans in 2012.

VanDerKarr’s decision to step down as Franklin County Municipal Court stemmed from a desire to incite more change for the drug addicted in Ohio. As an attorney and consultant, he will continue to work closely with the drug courts to help families and their loved ones get the help they need.

What do you think when you hear “judge”?

Picture a judge. What do you see? It’s only natural to think of things like judgment and punishment, but this couldn’t be further from the reputation VanDerKarr had while he served as a judge in Franklin County. Rather than intimidating defendants with the punishment he could inflict, he encouraged defendants to change with the hope of treatment and support programs.

“It doesn’t work.”

In VanDerKarr’s own words, “We’ve tried locking people up for the last 2,000 years. It doesn’t work.” He’s right. The statistics are pretty difficult to run from. Incarceration alone does little to rehabilitate and prevent recidivism. VanDerKarr hopes that serving as an attorney and consultant for The Koffel Law Firm’s preventative law practice will bring about much needed change for individuals struggling with drugs in Ohio.