Domestic Violence Mentor Courts
The Office on Violence Against Women Mentor Court Initiative supports criminal and civil courts seeking to improve their response to domestic violence. In 2013, three Domestic Violence Courts were selected to serve as resources for courts across the country by hosting site visits; facilitating peer-to-peer learning; and providing examples of effective practices for visiting teams of judges, court personnel, and other criminal justice and domestic violence stakeholders. Three additional Domestic Violence Courts were selected as Mentors in 2014.
The DeKalb County Compliance Project began in July, 2011. DeKalb County Magistrate Court Judges are designated to hear all Family Violence and Stalking Protective Order cases. The project resulted in the first stand-alone compliance calendar, with compliance officers in the state of Georgia. The project team team consists of two magistrate judges, two compliance officers, a legal advocate, a clerk and deputy sheriff. The goal of the project is to ensure that Respondents comply with Georgia law by enrolling in and completing a Family Violence Intervention class, and to create a victim-centered response to family violence protective order cases. The project is designed to provide ongoing judicial oversight, and mandatory check-ins with compliance officers from the moment that the Protective Order is entered, until the Respondent is released from the project with a history of compliance. The bi-monthly compliance hearings hold respondents accountable and are structured to increase the safety of victims. Long-standing partnerships with community agencies such as the Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence, DeKalb Volunteer Lawyers Foundation and Tapestri have been instrumental in assisting the project with maintaining its goals, specifically as it relates to identifying system gaps, improving processes and procedures, and providing a coordinated response for victims of domestic violence.
The Winnebago County Domestic Violence Coordinated Courts consist of a dedicated domestic violence criminal court and a dedicated domestic violence civil court. The DV criminal court adjudicates all appearances of intimate-partner criminal cases, including misdemeanor and felony offenses, as well as associated orders of protection. Annually, the DV criminal court is assigned over 1,000 criminal cases and closes nearly as many, and maintains an average caseload of over 700 defendants. The DV civil court is assigned all domestic violence related dissolution of marriage (divorce) cases and intimate partner orders of protection. In 2013, the DV civil court was assigned 226 divorce cases and heard over 740 emergency orders of protection. The DVCC Core Team is comprised of the Presiding Judge of the Family and Domestic Violence Division, the DV Criminal and Civil Court Judges, DVCC staff, the Trial Court Administrator, Circuit Clerk Staff, and the Supervising Attorney of a local law school legal clinic. On-site victim advocacy, advanced clerical practices, open communication, and innovative practices have been key to the success of the DVCC.
Stearns County Domestic Violence Court has handled felony criminal domestic violence cases since 2009. Located in St. Cloud, Minnesota, the court handles serious repeat offenders from the time of arrest through either commitment to prison or through probation supervision. The team consists of judges, prosecutors, public defender, probation agent, surveillance agent, prosecutor victim-witness coordinator, community advocate and legal aid attorney whose collaboration culminates at weekly compliance hearings; offenders are monitored 24/7 for compliance with conditions of release and probation. Victims receive holistic legal services from legal aid attorneys as well as community advocacy from the scene of the arrest and wrap-around services including the prosecutor’s office contact. Stearns County DVC chose this specific group of offenders for crime reduction and increased victim safety and has a robust data collection system to show the savings in time, money and lives.
The Ada County Domestic Violence Court (DVC) has responded to misdemeanor criminal domestic violence cases and related civil matters since 2006. Located in Boise, Idaho, the court handles over 400 active cases a year, based on the integrated domestic violence court model of “one-family one-judge.” As a fast-track court, the Ada County DVC disposes of cases in 58 days from arrest to sentencing, on average. A strong team made up of two judges, two prosecutors, a public defender, probation officers, a court coordinator, victim witness coordinators, the family court services coordinator, and a private member of the bar allow the DVC to implement a number of best practices, including: supervised probation; post-sentence judicial monitoring; evidence-based offender assessment and specialized treatment; and comprehensive case planning. You can read more about the Ada County Domestic Violence Court, and listen to Judges James Cawthon and Carolyn Minder discuss the Ada County response to domestic violence. https://fourthjudicialcourt.idaho.gov/ada/domestic_violence-criminal.html
County Criminal Court #10 in Dallas handles only misdemeanor criminal cases and was the first specialized domestic violence court in the State of Texas, opening in 1996. Dallas County is home to 2.4 million people, and includes diverse municipalities ranging from densely populated urban areas to smaller suburbs. County Criminal Court #10 focuses on high-risk offenders, assigning them to both pre-trial and probation dockets with enhanced judicial monitoring and compliance. Strong partnerships with the District Attorney’s Office and the Probation Department has increased supervision of these high-risk offenders.
The Brooklyn Integrated Domestic Violence Court (IDV) hears misdemeanor criminal domestic violence cases as well as related family law and divorce cases in a high-volume urban setting. Since its inception in 2003, the Brooklyn IDV Court has disposed of over 19,000 cases involving 3,008 families in Kings County, NY, which has a population of 2.5 million. Located directly adjacent to the Brooklyn Family Justice Center, the Brooklyn IDV Court is able to work closely with the Kings County District Attorney’s specialized domestic violence bureau and connect victims with 25 on-site government agencies and community-based organizations.
If you’re interested in visiting one of the Domestic Violence Mentor Courts, please contact us. Travel costs are the responsibility of visiting teams, but some jurisdictions may be able to use current Office on Violence Against Women funding or other grant funds.