A New Idea for Handling DV Court Cases
The last two weeks, I’ve described the “in”justice system as many DV victims and I experienced it. Today, I would like to share a ray of hope. A municipal judge in Toledo, Ohio is calling for the creation of a new type of court system to handle domestic violence cases in her city. Here is the link for the article from the Toledo Blade.
Toledo Municipal Judge Michelle Wagner is asking her court system to establish a court designated only for domestic violence cases. It would have one judge handling all DV cases from beginning to end. Presently, a normal case might have three different judges involved at various points, said William Connelly, Jr., the court’s presiding judge.
Judge Wagner, who called for a separate docket during her 2011 campaign, said the change could allow for a designated victim advocate, prosecutor, public defender, and probation officer to work domestic violence cases.
Her proposal comes on the heels of a high-profile domestic violence case in Toledo. Kaitlin Gerber, age 20, was chased in her car and shot to death last month by Jashua Perz, 29, her on-again, off-again boyfriend who then killed himself. Unfortunately, stories like this happen all too often in our country.
Judge Wagner believes this new system would allow the judge and prosecutors to become familiar with the defendants and personalities in the domestic violence cases.
“It allows you to see when someone’s escalating. You’re coordinating other services for the victim,” she said. “You have a better understanding of the people and what’s going on in their lives because of the familiarity with the case and the parties.”
Judge Wagner said she doesn’t anticipate additional cost to accommodate her proposal, at least initially. Councilman Lindsay Webb said the docket changes can be paid for by reallocating funds, and grant money could be sought next year.
The idea was cheered by psychologist Carol Smith, who works with local offenders through the Batterers’ Intervention Program. She thinks a designated docket would increase the number of victims who participate in cases.
About 58 percent of the nearly 1,500 domestic violence cases resolved last year in the Toledo court were dismissed. Often, a case is dismissed because a victim fails to appear, said Adam Loukx, the city’s law director.
He said work is underway to create a two-attorney “domestic violence unit” within the prosecutor’s office. Having two prosecutors concentrate on domestic violence cases helps build rapport and build “a level of trust” with the victim, he said. They hope this level of trust will help improve number of convictions for DV perpetrators.
I salute Judge Wagner and the Toledo court system. I pray that other court systems around the country will begin considering ideas such as this. Victims of domestic violence have been suffering under the “in”justice system for far too long.
Court systems would do well to remember what Proverbs 24:24-25 says:
Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,”
will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations.
But it will go well with those who convict the guilty,
and rich blessing will come on them.