‘You exceeded our expectations’: Drug, family courts recognize latest graduate in dual ceremony


The first time Rachel Robidoux met Lewis County Superior Court Judge J. Andrew Toynbee, the pair didn’t get off to the best start.

“She was late coming to court,” Toynbee said Monday afternoon. “Which never flies very well with me.”

Robidoux then failed to follow a drug treatment plan set during the hearing, with Toynbee describing the process as “a trainwreck.”

So when Toynbee heard Robidoux hoped to join Lewis County Drug Court, a voluntary program for those struggling with addiction and charged with a felony, he was skeptical.

“I thought two things: Boy this is going to be messy, and boy does she need this program,” Toynbee said. “And those two things proved to be true.”

What began with a “rough start” on Oct. 12, 2022, culminated Monday afternoon in Robidoux’s graduation from the Lewis County Drug Court and Family Recovery Court programs, a rare double ceremony, as friends and family watched on.

“I just wanted to say thank you to all of the (Family Recovery Court) and Drug Court staff for tirelessly helping me,” Robidoux said. “I’ve had so much support from every person in this room. Not just the staff, but a lot from the other participants. And I just feel so grateful to be here.”

Successful graduates from Drug Court have their criminal charges dismissed, and Robidoux watched Monday as Toynbee signed an order formally dismissing her charges with prejudice, meaning they cannot be refiled.

It was a document Toynbee wondered, at times, if he would ever sign.

Early in Drug Court, Robidoux failed to appear for a hearing and went on “bench warrant status” multiple times, among other violations of the program’s criteria.

Despite the setbacks, there were signs of progress.

Last spring, Robidoux received her driver’s license and began to clear warrants. In May 2023, she advanced to the second phase of the program.

“Once you got to phase two, you stopped pushing back and started collaborating, and you really started to fight,” Toynbee said.

Juggling the stresses of parenthood, taking courses at Centralia College, and the rigor of multiple treatment programs, Robidoux began to struggle.

“The great thing that you did there is you communicated with us, and you let us help you,” Toynbee said. “Instead of trying to do everything yourself.”

While in the program, Robidoux earned the trust to go out of state, a decision Toynbee said staff never regretted.

“Everything we asked you to do, you did,” Toynbee said. “You exceeded our expectations. You became the participant that helped others out, that helped others in recovery.”

Like her benchmate, Superior Court Judge Joely Yeager was equally as impressed, though surprised, with Robidoux’s time in Family Recovery Court. A former prosecutor, law enforcement officer and judge, Yeager said she “really prides” herself on being able to read people.

“And I was so wrong about Rachel,” Yeager said.

A week into the Family Recovery Court program, Robidoux was terminated for a failure to appear and a failure to follow program requirements. So when Robidoux asked for a redo, Yeager was doubtful she would succeed.

“Wow, was I wrong. I was so wrong,” Yeager said. “From that moment on, there was definitely something different about Rachel.”

Her second time in the program went off without a hitch, with Robidoux not receiving a single violation. After graduating from the program, Yeager described Robidoux as a wonderful parent, and role model, to her three children. During the ceremony, Robidoux was described as a “star pupil” for the program.

“She’s done big things with her life,” Yeager said. “And I know you’re going to continue to do big things.”

A student at Centralia College, Robidoux will graduate next year.

As is customary during the ceremony, Robidoux was presented with handcrafted signs with a unique word that symbolizes her time in the program. Out of more than 200 graduates, the courts have never repeated a word.

For Robidoux, the word was “empowered.” After graduating from the Family Recovery Court, Robidoux received a sign that read “family.”

“To my family, who never gave up on me, who didn’t enable me when I was in my time of use but were there when I woke up from it, and have always loved me unconditionally, I am so blessed to have you,” Robidoux said.