Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Monday, February 25, 2008


Page 3


Judicial Council Accepts Report on Domestic Violence Court Improvements


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Courts need to work with local law enforcement agencies to ensure implementation of domestic violence protection procedures, including relinquishing of firearms by persons subject to restraining orders, the Judicial Council unanimously concluded Friday.

That finding was included in a report approved at the council’s meeting in San Francisco. The 139 new guidelines and practices proposed by the council are designed to improve the administration of justice in domestic violence cases by encouraging greater collaberation among court leadership, streamlining the issuance of restraining orders under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, improve  access to and entry of orders into statewide databases, and improve practices in domestic violence criminal cases in general.

The 28-member council received and accepted the report by its Domestic Violence Practice and Procedure Task Force, culminating a two-year study by court leaders on cases that have a major impact on the lives of Californians. Chaired by retired Presiding Justice Laurence Donald Kay of the First Appellate District, the task force was appointed in 2005 by Chief Justice Ronald M. George to ensure fair and accessible justice for domestic violence litigants, and to promote victim safety and perpetrator accountability.

The problem with the current scheme for firearms relinquishment is that it is almost entirely dependent on the willingness of the subject to comply, the council said. “Experts report that some gun owners are extremely reluctant to comply,” the report noted.

Other subjects addressed in the report include:

Court leadership. These proposals would encourage greater collaboration among the courts and justice system agencies and would improve judicial education on domestic violence cases.

DVPA restraining orders. This set of proposals would simplify, streamline, and improve procedures for restraining orders under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, from the perspective of litigants, the court, and law enforcement agencies.

Access to and entry of orders into statewide databases. These proposals present immediate, interim, and long-range goals for improving access to and entry of restraining orders into the Domestic Violence Restraining Order System via the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System.

Criminal law procedures. In a 2005 report, then-Attorney General Bill Lockyer outlined a series of problematic practices and recommendations relating to the adjudication of criminal domestic violence cases. The proposed practices seek to address issues raised in that report and to improve practices in domestic violence criminal cases in general.

In related actions, the council also approved the appointment of an implementation task force to ensure that the recommendations are referred to the appropriate entities for review and follow-up action.  It also directed that panel to determine, by June 2009, the additional resources that courts will require to implement the guidelines and practices.

Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye of the Third District Court of Appeal chairs the task force’s criminal procedure working group, and Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Mary Ann Grilli chairs the restraining order working group.

The task force’s report is available online at the Judicial Council’s website.


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