Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, July 25, 2002


Page 3


Superior Court Weighing Participation in Domestic Violence Court Program




Los Angeles Superior Court is exploring the option to participate in a newly created state program to determine the best procedures in domestic violence courts, a court official said yesterday.

AB 1909, signed by Gov. Gray Davis on July 17, authorizes San Diego and Santa Clara Superior Courts to develop a list of the best civil, criminal and juvenile court procedures in domestic violence cases. The law authorizes other superior courts to participate in the creation of a demonstration project for the Legislature. The findings and recommendations from the project are to be reported by May 2004.

“[AB 1909] specifies that other counties can take part in the pilot program as long as they have the funding to do so,” court spokesman Kyle Christopherson said. “We are looking into that and we would like to participate. We are investigating what financial responsibilities would be required and whether we can provide them.”

A Judicial Council probe in 1999 discovered that the 31 counties with domestic violence courts each approached the cases in vastly different ways, Davis spokesman Russ Lopez said. The governor’s office viewed the “overall lack of uniformity” as inefficient, Lopez said.

“If superior courts share their particular points of expertise—discover what works and what doesn’t—then not only will the court system work more efficiently, but victims of domestic violence will be better served by the judicial system,” Davis said in a statement.

Assemblywoman Rebecca Cohn, D-Saratoga, said she authored the bill based on recommendations from Select Committee hearings in 2001 that followed the publication of the Judicial Council report.

San Diego and Santa Clara superior courts were named in the bill because of her familiarity with their domestic violence programs, Cohn said. San Diego and Santa Clara’s programs “are probably a lot further along than other places’ ... they’ve focused a lot of attention on the breakdown between family courts and criminal courts,” she said.

She emphasized, however, that the law left room for other participants.

“We want to look at what’s really working well and make an assessment on how that translates to other places,” Cohn said.

Cohn said she anticipated the report to the legislature—most likely to the Select Committee, which she currently chairs—will be useful “in shaping public policy in the area of court procedures and determin[ing] the best use of our resources when available.”

Christopherson said the Los Angeles Superior Court is “interested in the best practices whether we originate them or not, so this is nothing but a good thing.”

The court’s Public Information Office plans to inform court managers of the bill and the “opportunity” involved in participation, Christopherson said. But all court managers are away at a conference so discussions on the matter will wait until after tomorrow, he said.

“We’re open to participating, if it is financially feasible,” Christopherson said.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company