Legal News

After retiring from the Circuit Court, Judge Edward Sosnick is the new director of The RESTORE Foundation.  He is also serving Of Counsel with the Birmingham Law Firm of Steinhardt Pesick & Cohen, where he specializes in arbitration and mediation work.  Photo by Robert Chase

For much of the past decade, he presided over the juvenile drug court program in Oakland County, a judicial assignment that became a “labor of love” for the longtime jurist.

Now, less than a month after retiring from the Circuit Court bench, Judge Edward Sosnick has accepted a different role with the drug court, agreeing to serve as director of The RESTORE Foundation, a non-profit organization created in 2008 to help supply funding for the treatment program.

“I believe deeply in the concept of therapeutic jurisprudence, which is at the heart of the drug court program,” Sosnick said in an interview last Friday.  “As someone who has been involved with the drug court for years, I know that it works and that it has steered many of its participants onto a better path in life instead of churning them through the penal system.

“As judge, I have seen the undeniable connection between drug use and crime, and how it continues to pack our prisons as a result,” Sosnick added.  “Drug courts, on the other hand, work to turn lives around.  We are actually saving lives that otherwise would be lost if we didn’t have this drug court option.”

Sosnick’s appointment is certain to raise the profile of RESTORE, according to Circuit Court Judge Wendy Potts, president of the foundation’s board.

“I am delighted that Judge Sosnick has assumed a leadership role in The RESTORE Foundation,” Potts said. “He brings a wealth of experience as a former presiding Judge of the Juvenile Drug Court for 10 years in addition to knowing how to move an organization forward to meet its full potential.”

His challenge, of course, will be to continue to raise much-needed funds for the program, which was launched in August of 2001 in Oakland County.  The mission of the program, according to court officials, is to “protect public safety and reduce the incidence of drug crime by helping participants and their families achieve drug-free lifestyles” and correspondingly healthy families relationships.

“It’s seldom a straight road to success in the program,” said Sosnick, who succeeds Suzanne Okun, who has served as interim director of RESTORE over the past year.

“Participants invariably have their ups and downs, but they are held to a standard of accountability that encourages them to exercise the ‘power to choose’ a positive course of action  in their lives.”

Sosnick presided over the ‘Family-focused Juvenile Drug Court” from 2001-10 and was succeeded in the role by Circuit Judge Mary Ellen Brennan. Judge Colleen O’Brien presides over the female side of the Adult Treatment Court, while Judge Joan Young is in charge of the male component of the ATC.

“The Juvenile Drug Court Program is unique in that parents are actively involved in the rehabilitative process,” Sosnick said. “They have to be invested in their son or daughter’s treatment if any sort of success is going to be achieved.”

On Wednesday, January 23, Sosnick was on had for the 34th graduation ceremony since the ATC in Oakland County was founded nearly 12 years ago. The event served to honor eight graduates of the program, the largest graduating class in the history of the drug court.  According to county officials, the “recidivism rates for graduates of the Adult Treatment Court are 37 percent lower than felons who never participate” in the ATC.

In addition, according to the website for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, “Nationwide, for every $1 invested in drug court, taxpayers save as much as $3.36 in avoided criminal costs alone. Drug courts produce cost savings ranging from $3,000 to #13,000 per client.  These cost saving reflect reduced prison costs, reduced revolving-door arrests and trials, and reduced victimization.”

The RESTORE Foundation has “filled in the funding gaps essential to the success” of the drug court programs, according to Lisa Langton, deputy court administrator for the Oakland County Circuit Court. In particular, RESTORE provided funding for a Juvenile Drug Court probation officer position that was due to be axed in a 2012 round of Circuit Court budget cuts.

“The addition of the JDC probation officer has allowed the JDC to double its program capacity from 15 participants to 30,” Langston said. “The RESTORE Foundation has also awarded ten $1,000 scholarships to ATC and JDC graduates through the Joshua Short Scholarship Program.”

Sosnick, a past recipient of the “Champion of Justice Award” from the State Bar of Michigan, said he will “pick the brains” of fund-raising experts from across the state in an effort to keep the drug court program on solid financial footing.

“While we have received generous federal and state grant funding over the years, we know that more and more of the cost will have to be provided through private sources,” Sosnick said. “Rounding up that support will be foremost among my tasks.”

When he is on the fund-raising trail, Sosnick is likely to tell the true-life story of a young man named “Gary” who was enrolled in the JDC.  “Gary’s” appearance was marked by “25-piercings, nine different hair colors, and assorted tattoos,” Sosnick recalled.

“He was a sight, but I never said anything to him about his appearance,” Sosnick said.  “Ours is a strength-based program. It is not our job to fix them. They have to come to that conclusion themselves.”

“One of my orders, however, was that he find a job. He didn’t have much luck at it, trying repeatedly over four or five weeks to gain employment.  He came back to the court and asked me for one more week to find a job.”

He did, as a dishwasher, landing the job from a surprisingly large number of applicants.

“When he came back to court the next week, I hardly recognized him,” Sosnick said. “He looked like a new fellow entirely. His hair was normal, his piercings were removed. He told me that his failure to get a job earlier was due ‘to how I looked.’ It was a real revelation for him.”

For those who would like to contribute to The RESTORE Foundation, contact Sosnick at (248) 730-4641.  More information on becoming involved with the cause can be obtained at edward@sosnickmediation.com.