New Domestic Violence Court Ready to Hear Cases

By Charles Hack

A new integrated court in Brooklyn promises better results for domestic violence victims as it brings together criminal, family and matrimonial cases under the same judge. The new Kings County Integrated Domestic Violence Court at the recently built court complex at 320 Jay Street was officially opened on Jan. 25. “The IDV courts have dramatically changed the way our systems deal with families in crisis,” said Hon. Judy Harris Kluger, the deputy chief administrative judge for the court operations and planning. Previously families suffering domestic violence would have to see separate judges in different courts, which could be spread around the county. “These families were recycled round the court system again and again,” said Hon. Jonathan Lippman, chief administrative judge for the State of New York. By bringing the cases under one judge, who has been trained to deal with domestic violence cases, decisions will be better coordinated. “It just logical that the same judge should deal with the same issues so that an informed decision can be made,” said Lippman. Having a single hearing also helps to reduce the number of court appearances that families have to go through. This should make it easier for employed victims, who have to miss fewer workdays during litigation. The court, which will be presided over by Judge Patricia Henry, also works closely with counselors who help victims establish independence from their abusers, by getting new housing and finding work. A specially trained victims’ advocate is on-hand to provide emotional support, safety planning and agency referrals during and after proceedings. The court is the 28th in an expanding statewide network, and fourth in the city. It has heard about 500 cases involving 112 families since it opened on Oct. 31. The new system, which was first announced in January 2001 by Judith S. Kaye, the chief judge for New York State, was unimaginable in the judicial culture, Lippman said. “Just a short while ago we couldn’t have envisioned this happening,” he said. Charles J. Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney, whose own mother was a victim of domestic violence, said that when he was a child, the judicial system failed victims of domestic violence — compared to the safety net that this court represents. While his mother was a successful real estate agent, his father was unemployed. A judge said he was just “down on his luck.” “The treatment we received was barbaric,” Hynes said. “No one really cared. The DA’s office didn’t care. The cops didn’t care. The court personnel, judges, no one really cared. We were sent from court to court with the same kind of insensitivity. My mother was once berated for attempting to get support for me and her.”

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