Drug Court Pioneer, Judge John Schwartz, Celebrates Last Graduation Ceremony

Judge John Schwartz founded the first Drug Court of New York in Rochester in 1995—at a time when the idea was highly controversial. On Friday, Oct. 25, Judge Schwartz presided over his last graduation as he prepares for well-deserved retirement.

Judge John Schwartz started his career in 1983 as a Rochester City Court Judge and has accomplished a tremendous amount for the New York Drug Courts. The Honorable Judge Schwartz has received several prestigious awards for his contributions to the Courts and his positive impact on the community throughout his career.

His last graduation class was monumentally successful; 85 newly clean and sober participants graduated—the largest group in the court’s 16-year history!

“It’s our largest graduating class ever and it’s been a great day,” said Judge Schwartz. “We’ve had a lot of success stories at this court and I’m very proud of them.”

It was the 46th graduation ceremony at the Hall of Justice in the Rochester City Court, and more than 200 people from across New York attended.

One particular special guest, Beth Coombs—a graduate in Judge Schwartz’s first class—traveled from California to speak on behalf of his groundbreaking work in the Drug Court field. “He put his reputation on the line so we could have a new way of life,” said Coombs, who currently works for a nonprofit association.

Another speaker on behalf of Judge Schwartz was West Huddleston, CEO of National Association of Drug Court Professionals, who praised Schwartz’s achievements within the state of New York and the Drug Court.

“[He] is an icon in the Drug Court profession who helped pave the way for others. As a visionary, he understood the value, the need and the potential of Drug Courts, and he put in the hard work needed to make the dream of Drug Courts a reality,” said Huddleston. “The domino effect Judge Schwartz has had on the Rochester community, the state of New York and the Drug Court profession is immeasurable.”

Some additional highlights of the Honorable Judge Schwartz’s career:

  • 1983 Elected as Rochester City Court Judge and Acting Monroe County Court Judge
  • 1992 Chief Judge of the Rochester City Court
  • 1992 Supervising Judge of All City Courts in the Seventh Judicial District
  • 1994 President of the New York State Association of City Court Judges
  • 1998 President Emeritus and Founding Member of the New York State Association of Drug Treatment Court Professionals
  • 1999 Rochester Drug Treatment Court received prestigious “Nathaniel Award”
  • 2002 Selected to begin one of six pilot integrated domestic violence courts—presided over Monroe County Integrated Domestic Violence Courts until 2004
  • 2009 Credited for his instrumental role in the repeal of New York Rockefeller Drug Laws

Among Judge Schwartz’s many awards for his involvement in the Courts includes the following:

  • “Charles F. Crimi” Award
  • Rochester Police Rosewood Club’s “Distinguished Achievement” and “Distinguished Service Awards
  • Judicial Process Commission’s “Journey to Justice” Award
  • “Stanley M. Goldstein” Award

Cecilia Bianco is the social and digital communications intern for Prichard Communications and Mac’s List. She contributes to the Reclaiming Futures blog regarding topics of juvenile justice reform and substance abuse prevention.

*Image at top via The Daily Record