In 2015, Cook County, Ill., decided to create a program to specifically address domestic violence cases with issues involving children. The Child Relief Expediter Program provides a voluntary and confidential process to help parents with orders of protection, develop safe and effective visitation plans, and address other child-related issues. In this podcast, host Nida Abbasi, Cook County Judge Marina E. Ammendola, and Child Relief Expediter Stephanie Senuta describe the benefits of the program and provide tips for courts interested in doing more.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on survivors of domestic violence. This document reflects on lessons learned from this difficult period and highlights innovative responses by courts that encountered tremendous challenges in providing access to critical services and forms of legal relief. In examining the ways in which courts adapted, new possibilities emerged for practices beyond the pandemic to safely and effectively expand access to justice in domestic violence cases.
The Tucson City Domestic Violence Court is a high-volume criminal misdemeanor court. The Court specifically provides services and safety for Deaf victims of domestic violence through their partnership with Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse and the Community Outreach Program for the Deaf.
The Tulsa County Domestic Violence Court in Oklahoma is a criminal court model that handles misdemeanor and felony domestic violence cases and coordinates with family court in an urban setting. Learn from the court and stakeholder team about this specialized domestic violence court and how it tackles offender accountability, working collaboratively, and victim safety.
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.