Mitchell man marks sobriety successes with James Valley Court graduation

From left, Martin Garnett received a certificate from Judge Donna Bucher during a James Valley Drug and DUI Court graduation event on Thursday at the Davison County Public Safety Center in Mitchell. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

A drive to provide for and be a success to his family led the latest graduate of the James Valley Drug and DUI Court, as the program celebrated its most recent participant on Thursday.

Martin Garnett, of Mitchell, was honored with a certificate and a photo collage in recognition of his success graduating through the program, which lasts for at least 18 months for each participant and includes three phases to help individuals establish a chemical-free life. Nearly 35 individuals have now graduated from the Mitchell-based program.

Circuit Court Judge Chris Giles, who previously oversaw the James Valley DUI and Drug Court until about a year ago, was the keynote speaker during the graduation. He commended Garnett for his commitment to deliver for his family. According to Giles, Garnett has 548 days of sobriety without a relapse, a feat not easily done, he said.

“His driving force is that he’s there for his family to provide for them,” Giles said. “He has something great to strive toward. … And when we talk about being successful and how to be successful, it’s about setting goals and sometimes that’s a daily and even hourly effort, when you first start.”

Giles said that some successes could be described as lucky, but that’s not the case for sobriety, because it only happens with hard work. He said that includes cutting out the individuals and the past friends who were there when run-ins with drugs and alcohol caused problems.


“You can’t hang out with the people you used to hang out with,” he said. “Think about the people and places in your life and the changes you need to make to be successful. … Unleash your driving force for a clean, successful life.”

Judge Donna Bucher is the current James Valley Drug and DUI Court judge. She described the audience on Thursday — which numbered about 20 people at the Davison County Public Safety Center and included fellow James Valley Drug and DUI Court participants — as a group that is small and mighty.

Bucher told the group that she appreciated the efforts they’re making to “make your life and my world a better place.”

Giles said Garnett is a humble man of few words, and correctly predicted that he would keep his remarks to his fellow classmates brief.

“I want you to all hang in there, so you can graduate,” Garnett said, after thanking those who helped him to this point.

The James Valley Drug and DUI Court is available for individuals who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and are facing a felony prison sentence. Eligible individuals must not have a violent or sexual offense conviction history and are willing to maintain residency requirements to participate. A group involving judges, Davison County State’s Attorney staff, court services officers, participants from Dakota Counseling Institute and Stepping Stones and local law enforcement make up the court’s team, which helps the participants work toward a goal of sobriety and graduating from the program.

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at
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