2012 DC Domestic Violence Court Watch Report

The DC Domestic Violence Court Watch Project is excited to publish our 2012 Report! This report contains data, analysis and recommendations from Civil Protection Order (CPO) hearings heard at the DC Superior Court from February 2012 through January 2013. Readers will find data, analysis and recommendations distilled into three sections: demographic information, judicial behavior, and recommendations.

Key findings discussed in the report:

  • Who was filing for protection orders in 2012?
  • How did Judges treat survivors?
  • What barriers to safety did survivors experience when filing?
  • What was the impact of having an attorney on CPO outcomes?
  • What steps need to be taken for the CPO system to be more accessible and effective for survivors?
  • And more!

Click here to view the report:  2012CourtWatchReport

February – April 2013 Statistics

From February through April 2013, DC Domestic Violence Court Watch volunteers sat in on 303 Civil Protection Order (CPO) cases.

The Honorable Judge Edelman heard 152 CPO cases. The Honorable Judge Anderson heard 119 CPO cases. The Honorable Judge Retchin heard approximately 10 CPO cases. The remaining 22 CPO cases heard were recorded as “other”.

judge breakdown

Where the gender of the parties was recorded:

  • 200 of petitioners were female and only 50 of petitioners were male.
  • 171 of respondents were male and 68 of respondents were female. 

Petitioner Gender

Respondent Gender

Where the perceived race of the parties was recorded:

  • Of the cases where the race of the petitioner was recorded, 184 cases were brought by black petitioners, 12 cases were brought by Latino petitioners, 7 cases were brought by white petitioners, 4 cases were brought by Asian petitioners, and 96 cases were recorded as “other.”
  • Of the cases where the race of the respondent was recorded, 150 were black, 13 were Hispanic, 11 were white, 1 was Asian, and 128 was recorded as “other”.
  • According to the U.S. Census, about 50.7% of Washington, DC’s residents are black, 42.4% are white, 9.5% are Hispanic, and 3.7% are Asian. As shown on the graphs below, both petitioner and respondent’s race were majority black.

Race

Relationship between parties:

  • Of the 303 CPO cases, 50% of the relationships were not stated.
  • 18% had a child in common, 17% previously dated, and 7% were married.

Relationship

*People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

Outcomes of cases:

            Case Dismissal:

  • Of the 303 CPO cases, 89 cases, about 29.6% of cases observed were dismissed. The majority of the cases that were dismissed were due to the petitioner being absent.  The following graph shows the breakdown of these cases.

Outcomes

Case Continuances:

  • Of 303 cases CPO cases, 89 cases, approximately 29.6% of cases, the Judge ordered a continuance. The graph below shows the reason for the continuances. About more than half of continuances were given because there was no service of process.

Continuances

Granted CPOs:

  • 18 cases were granted by default; the respondent was served but did not appear. 9 other cases were granted by default due to other reasons.
  • 58 cases were granted by consent order. 47 of the cases reached consent agreement prior to the hearing. 9 of the cases reached by consent agreement were consented with admissions.
  • 12 cases were granted through a contested hearing. The judge explained the terms.  
  • 19 cases were denied through a contested hearing

Outcomes real

December and January Statistics

1 2 3 4 5 6

DC Domestic Violence Court Watch Project Mid 2012 Report

DC Court Watch Project’s mid-year data provided objective evidence that SAFE’s Court-based advocacy services have a positive impact on our client’s court outcomes.  The data is released today on the DC Domestic Violence Court Watch Project’s blog and chronicles six months of court observations in DC Superior Court’s Domestic Violence Unit measuring things such as court outcomes in Civil Protection Order cases, court procedure and security, as well as the clarity of the proceedings for those representing themselves in these hearings.

The findings in the mid-year report showed that the court was providing victims and respondents the opportunity to be heard and plead their cases with or without attorneys, but that SAFE clients were more likely to obtain a civil protection order either through a contested hearing or by a default hearing than those without a SAFE advocate.  The data also showed how often individuals were requesting continuances and why.  While strides need to be made in terms of court security in the DV Unit, the report was positive overall with judges showing consideration and patience for both sides in the proceedings.

The DC Domestic Violence Court Watch Project was begun in January 2012 in its current form.  The mission of the DC Domestic Violence Court Watch Project is to create transparency and data-driven information through court monitoring to ensure that all victims of domestic violence have equal access to a clear, fair and consistent judicial process that prioritizes victim safety and offender accountability.  Court Watch is a volunteer-staffed project in which trained observers record information about Civil Protection Order hearings.  The Court Watch Project provides advocates with information about how the court deals with domestic violence, and provides feedback to the Court regarding its treatment of domestic violence survivors. The goals of this project are to improve the court experience for those seeking relief, and to give survivors a larger voice in the court system.

Click the link to download a PDF:

DC Domestic Violence Court Watch Project Mid 2012 Report (PDF)

October and November 2012 Statistics

In October and November 2012, DC DV Court Watch Project volunteers sat in on 224 CPO cases.

Where the gender of the parties was recorded:

Petitioners: 167 females, 33 males. Petitioners were female in 84% of the cases;

Respondents: 51females, 118 males. Respondents were male in 70% of the cases.

Where the perceived race of the parties was recorded:

Petitioners: 162 black/African American, 9 white, 9 Hispanic, Asian,  0“other”

Respondents: 119 black/African American,  8 white, 8 Hispanic, 0 Asian,  1 “other”

The racial break-down of cases recorded for parties were disproportionately African-American.

Where the relationship of the parties in the cases was recorded (with some overlap):

22 were married,   

48 previously dated or were romantically involved,

involved stalking, where in which, there was not necessarily a prior relationship,

38 had a child in common,

had a partner in common,

22 were relatives,

13 were roommates.

 

Where the outcomes of the cases were recorded:

Dismissals

Dismissed With Prejudice: 5,

Dismissed Without Prejudice: 50 ( 22 which were because Petitioner was absent, 3 of which were due to failure of service multiple times, and 25 of which were at Petitioner’s request–often because of failure to serve Respondent)

CPOs

70 granted (64 were through consent orders or default because Respondent did not appear, and 6 were in contested hearings);

denied (in contested hearing)

Continuances

94 granted (39 of which were because no service of process had occurred, 13 of which were at Petitioner’s request, 37 of which were ordered by the judge, and 5 due to trailing criminal case)

 

Thank you for your continued interest in and support of the DC Domestic Violence Court Watch Project! Please email kvandertuig@dcsafe.org if you are

Looking at The NY-Alert system for CPOs

During civil protection order hearings, petitioners’ safety concerns come up regularly .  Of the many concerns, one that stood out to me is when a petitioner asks “What do I do when they find out?”

A Civil Protection Order, while often life-saving, is a piece of paper. It allows the law to take action if it is violated, and is in essence reactionary, but also discourages further abuse for fear of punishment.  In situations when the CPO is issued in a default hearing – meaning the respondent was served with notice to appear in court, but did not appear in court and the CPO was granted anyway, the granted, default CPO must still be served on the respondent before it is considered enforceable.  The time right after a respondent is served with the CPO can be a very critical, and sometimes dangerous, period for a petitioner; justifiably, they may be worried about how this order can shield them.

In response to this predicament, that the state of New York has come up with part of a solution. In keeping with the times, many of New York’s counties have implemented the Statewide Automated Victim Information Notification Network, accessible through the NY-Alert system. It allows the petitioner to sign up for notices so that they are apprised immediately when the respondent is served with the CPO.  In its pilot stage the creators of the system hope to expand it to NYC within the next year. Immediate knowledge of the CPO’s “enforceability” could help survivors better plan for safety; the system allows users to be electronically updated through mobile and email alerts. This could be potentially useful for petitioners who feared that upon being served, respondents would become angry and likely to commit another act of domestic violence.

Is this a system that could work for DC? Let us know what you think!

Pooja Datta, Court Watch Project Intern

August and September 2012 Statistics

DC DV Court Watch Project volunteers sat in on 132 CPO cases.

Where the gender of the parties was recorded:

Petitioners: 89 females, 24 males. Petitioners were female in 78% of the cases;

Respondents: 35 females, 79 males. Respondents were male in 69% of the cases.

Where the perceived race of the parties was recorded:

Petitioners: 85 black/African American, 11 white, 2 Hispanic, Asian,  7“other”

Respondents: 86 black/African American,  11 white, 0 Hispanic, 1 Asian,  13 “other”

The racial break-down of cases recorded for parties were disproportionately African-American.

Where the relationship of the parties in the cases was recorded (with some overlap):

21 were married,   

39 previously dated or were romantically involved,

involved stalking, where in which, there was not necessarily a prior relationship,

19 had a child in common,

had a partner in common,

11 were relatives,

13 were roommates.

 

Where the outcomes of the cases were recorded:

Dismissals

Dismissed With Prejudice: 2,

Dismissed Without Prejudice: 29 ( 15 which were because Petitioner was absent, 2 of which were due to failure of service multiple times, and 8 of which were at Petitioner’s request–often because of failure to serve Respondent)

CPOs

41 granted (33 were through consent orders or default because Respondent did not appear, and 8 were in contested hearings);

denied (in contested hearing)

Continuances

47 granted (15 of which were because no service of process had occurred, 6 of which were at Petitioner’s request, 20 of which were ordered by the judge, and 6 due to trailing criminal case)

 

Thank you for your continued interest in and support of the DC Domestic Violence Court Watch Project! Please email kvandertuig@dcsafe.org if you are interested in getting involved. Check back in very soon to see our mid-year report on all data collected!