Local judge to teach in Ireland on drug court  

Julie Lewis | The Daily StarJudge Brian D. Burns sits in Oneonta City Court on Wednesday before Otsego County Drug Treatment Court proceedings.

An Otsego County judge will travel to Ireland as a Fulbright specialist to share information about drug treatment court programs.

Brian D. Burns of Oneonta will be at Dublin City University later this winter for a seminar titled “Social Justice — The Use of Drug Treatment Courts as a Judicial Response to the Opioid Crisis,” according to a media release, and he will be participating in the Fulbright Specialist Program.

Burns serves as multi-bench judge in Otsego County criminal, family and surrogate courts and as an acting State Supreme Court justice.

The U.S. Department of State on Jan. 19 approved and funded the project in which Burns will teach a three-week seminar at the Dublin City University, the release said. Burns will present a paper at the university’s Law Research Centre’s Symposium on Feb. 28. He will have opportunities to engage with university students and faculty, and he also will meet with the presiding judge of Dublin’s Drug Treatment Court and observe proceedings.

“I never expected to be given the Fulbright designation to begin with, much less go teach in another country,” Burns said last week. “I’m looking forward to it.”

In 2001, Burns opened one of the first Family Drug Treatment Courts in New York state and has presided over various treatment courts in Otsego and Delaware counties since then, the release said. He also has given many presentations at drug court training sessions and conferences and has been a mentor for other counties interested in establishing treatment courts.

The goal of the Otsego County Drug Treatment Court is to assist alcohol- and drug-addicted defendants in breaking the cycle of addiction and criminal activity while also providing safety in the community, according to the program website.

State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, has observed Burns presiding over Otsego County Treatment Court.

“I was extremely impressed,” Seward said. “He demonstrated a unique ability to personally connect with the participants, instill in them the need to take responsibility for their actions, and help them realize that they had been given a life-changing opportunity.”

Burns also served as a panelist during two Senate “Heroin Task Force” hearings in Oneonta hosted by Seward, a member of the Senate Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction. Burns is well-deserving of the Fulbright honor, Seward said.

“I am certain this will be a rewarding experience that will enhance his ability to serve Otsego County,” the senator said.

In 2017, Burns was elected to serve on the board of directors of the New York Association of Drug Treatment Court Professionals, and he belongs to the National Association of Drug Treatment Courts. For several years, he taught business law and criminal justice courses as an adjunct professor at Hartwick College in Oneonta.

Burns, who was added to the Fulbright specialist roster in 2015, said he originally applied “as a lark” because he said it would be fun to be abroad at the same time as his daughter, Meg, who considered studying for a semester at Dublin City University. She didn’t go, he said, but his Fulbright proposal advanced.

Dublin City University focuses on solving social problems through analysis and development of policies across disciplines, according to Burns, who said he looks forward to sharing information about approaches and programs.

“It’s going to be an exchange of ideas,” Burns said. “I’m sure I will learn a lot more than I teach.”

Dublin City University has graduated more than 50,000 students since opening in 1980, according to its website. DCU has been expanding and has about 16,000 students in academic and professional programs at multiple campuses in and around Dublin.

Burns, 55, said with his Fulbright program ahead he also has an opportunity to visit Ireland for the first time. His family is of Irish descent, he said, and although ancestral connections have been lost, he will take time for some personal travels.

For part of his time overseas, he will been joined by his wife, Elizabeth, a nurse at Bassett Medical Center.

Burns previously served in the Otsego County District Attorney’s Office, according to a biography, and was Oneonta city prosecutor. Burns, a Republican, was elected Otsego County judge starting in 2001 and re-elected to a 2011-20 term. He graduated from Suffolk University Law School and Syracuse University.

The Fulbright Specialist Program, part of the Fulbright Program, was established in 2001 by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program pairs U.S. academics and professionals with host institutions abroad to share expertise, gain international experience and learn about other cultures, among other goals.

Specialists represent a range of disciplines and are selected competitively to join the Fulbright specialist roster. Exchanges are offered year-round and last two to six weeks, according to the program website, and involve host institutions in more than 150 countries.

Denise Richardson, staff writer, may be reached at 441-7213 or at drichardson@thedailystar.com. Follow her at @DS_DeniseR on Twitter.

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