The first clue that the Tuesday afternoon session in Part 4 of Buffalo City Court is not like other criminal proceedings comes just before it starts.
Judge Robert Russell steps down from his bench and from the aloofness of his black robe. He walks into the gallery where men and women accused of stealing, drug offenses and other non-violent felonies and misdemeanors fidget in plastic chairs.
"Good afternoon," he says, smiling, and talks for a minute about the session ahead.
With the welcoming tone set, Russell heads back behind the bench, where he will mete out justice with a disarming mix of small talk and life-altering advice.
While the defendants in this court have been arrested on charges that could mean potential prison time and damaging criminal records, they have another important trait in common: All have served their country in the military.
That combination has landed them here, in veterans treatment court, the first of its kind in the country.
Russell is the evenhanded quarterback of a courtroom team of veterans advocates and volunteers determined to make this brush with the criminal justice system these veterans' last.