Glass prepared for informal, yet swift, justice


The man in his late 20s was wearing a football jersey, a buzz cut and the kind of ear-to-ear smile reserved only for people who have accomplished something significant. Something that will be remembered when he has grandchildren to share his life story.

In his case, the accomplishment was a year's worth of sobriety. Those 12 tough months meant more to the unidentified drug court participant than most anyone in District Judge Jackie Glass' courtroom could ever comprehend.

The brief hug from the judge was meaningful and full of promise.

The applause from his peers sounded almost thunderous in the tiny courtroom, as if they were all in it together and the success of one represented the success of all.

That courtroom is where Glass had just told a packed gathering full of hopeful recovering drug addicts and members of the media that she was leaving her judgeship for the bright lights of Holly­wood.

She is replacing Nancy Grace as the second-year host of the courtroom reality drama, "Swift Justice."

With cameras flashing and reporters scribbling frantically, Glass for a few moments relived the media circus that was the O.J. Simpson armed robbery trial in 2008. And she got a second glimpse of what might be waiting for her in Los Angeles.

Indeed, it was Glass' demeanor during the infamous Simpson spectacle that brought her to the attention of "Swift Justice" producers.

But Glass told her captive audience that the informal role of a drug court judge is what prepared her to replace Grace as host of the popular program this September, not the fact that she presided perhaps with a heavy hand over Simpson's high-profile trial.

Glass said her emotions were mixed. She will miss the unique promise that is drug court and her role in it, she said, but she looks forward to becoming the first Las Vegas judge to land a gig on a nationally syndicated court program.

"This is not a traditional judge show," she said of "Swift Justice." "It's a lot more informal."

Glass said she will interact with participants in the show much like she does with participants in drug court, where she roams around the courtroom handing out "judge hugs" to those who are staying clean and admonishments to straighten up to those who are not.

Established in Clark County about 20 years ago, drug court is an intense diversion program designed to keep people off drugs and out of jail. Those who succeed get a new start on life; those who fail start a life behind bars.

The specialty court concept has spread across the nation and is commonly considered the best way to reduce repeat offenses. One reason is that the judges and other drug court team members are up close and personal. They leave no room for participants to wiggle or try to game the system. And they do it with a lot of love, a lot of carrots and sticks, and a lot of one-on-one conversations.

Glass also runs mental health court in Clark County. She recently ordered Dipak Desai, the former doctor at the center of the hepatitis C outbreak, to the state's facility for mentally disordered offenders, where he is undergoing a competency evaluation.

Glass' experience in handling mental health cases also may have helped prepare her for "Swift Justice."

Recent episodes of the show have included the case of a daughter who sued her absent father for the rent she had to pay 15 years earlier as a teenager.

Another featured a mother who was dating a man the same age as her daughter. But that wasn't the crime. The crime was the allegation that the man stole $800 from his older lover's bank account.

CBS described Glass as a judge who has a "no-nonsense courtroom style" and hands down long sentences.

Grace for her part declined to follow "Swift Justice" from Atlanta, where it was produced in its first year, to Los Angeles.

The show's executive producer, John Terenzio, said that while he was saddened Grace left after one year, citing a desire to stay near her children, CBS was "excited to introduce viewers to another true original judge."

In a statement, Glass said, "I am thrilled to be joining 'Swift Justice.' "

Glass expressed admiration for Grace and said she looks forward to getting to work.

The show was nominated for an Emmy for a legal or courtroom program.

On Wednesday, Glass offered drug court participants an emotional farewell and encouragement.

"As far as people I deal with in drug court, I have grown exceedingly fond of you people. I do care if you succeed," she said.

Glass' successor as specialty court judge will be named later.

Glass, married to prominent defense attorney and Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Wolfson, will commute from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, according to a person who asked to remain anonymous because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

Before taking the bench in 2003, Glass spent 18 years in private practice, including a dozen with Wolfson & Glass.

Contact reporter Doug McMurdo at dmcmurdo@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512.

 

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