A national survey of almost 100 coordinated community responses to domestic violence suggests judges are generally not substantial players. Yet, as our study found, the absence of strong judicial leadership can weaken the effort to holistically address victim safety and offender accountability. The study also includes three case studies of jurisdictions that draw on strong judicial leadership.
Specialized domestic violence courts centralize resources and trained staff to handle a dedicated domestic violence docket. Domestic violence courts operate in jurisdictions across the country, adapting to local laws and court structure, available resources, and community-specific needs. While there is no one model for a specialized domestic violence court, they rely on some common strategies and goals to ensure victim/survivor safety, a robust coordinated community response, and accountability and engagement for those who cause harm.
Coming to the courthouse and participating in hearings can be confusing and intimidating for anyone but is especially so for domestic violence survivors. They may have significant concerns for their and their children’s emotional and physical safety; may be contending with the effects of recent trauma; and may have difficulty accessing the supportive resources that they need. It’s essential for court teams to proactively design and implement strategies to support survivors’ safety and well-being so they can meaningfully participate in the legal process.
Our video captures a week in the life of Judge Carroll Kelly and the Miami-Dade County Domestic Violence Court, highlighting efforts to keep victims safe, hold offenders accountable, and coordinate an effective community response to domestic violence.
Creating a specialized domestic violence court can be daunting for any community. It requires careful planning, leadership, and the buy-in of partners. The Tulalip Tribes of Washington are tackling the issue of domestic violence head-on, spearheading an initiative to create a specialized court, one of the first in a tribal justice system. This outline of their planning process highlights the steps involved and serves as a useful guide for tribes seeking to strengthen their court’s response to domestic violence.
Having a strong judicial leader can make or break a specialized domestic violence court. A judge can marshal resources and rally community and stakeholder partners to achieve shared goals. So what happens to specialized domestic violence courts when that integral judge transitions to a new position or retires? Use this fact sheet to ensure your court has a plan in place for a smooth and successful transition.
For survivors of domestic violence, financial insecurity is often a huge problem. Without money to support themselves and their families, survivors can struggle to gain independence. In this New Thinking podcast, Michael Hayes from the Office of Child Support Enforcement and Krista Del Gallo from the Texas Council on Family Violence talk with Robert V. Wolf about strategies that states and the federal government are promoting to help survivors safely access child support.
DeKalb County Compliance Project, Georgia seeks to create a victim-centered response to family violence protective order cases and ensure that respondents comply with Georgia law by enrolling in and completing a family violence intervention class. The court provides ongoing judicial oversight and mandatory check-ins with compliance officers from the moment a protective order is entered until the respondent is released from the project with a history of compliance.
Winnebago County Domestic Violence Coordinated Courts, Illinois: Comprises a dedicated domestic violence criminal and civil court. The criminal court adjudicates all appearances of intimate-partner criminal cases, as well as associated orders of protection. The civil court is assigned all domestic violence-related dissolution of marriage (divorce) cases and intimate partner orders of protection. On-site victim advocacy, advanced clerical practices, open communication, and innovative practices have been key to the success of the court.
Ada County Domestic Violence Court, Idaho: A fast-track court disposing of cases in 58 days on average from arrest to sentencing based on the integrated domestic violence court model. A multi-agency team allows the court to implement several best practices, including: supervised probation; post-sentence judicial monitoring; evidence-based offender assessment and specialized treatment; and comprehensive case planning. Click here to listen to Judges James Cawthon and Carolyn Minder discuss the Ada County response to domestic violence.