Brooklyn leading the way in helping domestic violence victims with integrated Domestic Violence Court
Justice Morgenstern teaches other courts about one-family-one-judge model
The Kings County Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) Court, presided over by Justice Esther M. Morgenstern, was created in 2006 and handles one of the highest volume dockets in New York state. Dedicated to a “one family-one judge” model, the Kings County IDV Court streamlines the court process for victims of domestic violence, allowing for criminal, family and matrimonial matters to be heard before one judge.
The “one-family-one judge” model has reduced the number of court appearances for litigants, provided more consistent and effective decision-making, increased offender accountability and allowed for greater access to integrated services while protecting the rights of each litigant.
The Kings County IDV Court handled over 1,500 cases involving over 200 new families in 2017 alone. To ensure that each family and each case is adjudicated with the appropriate scrutiny and care, Justice Morgenstern and the Kings County IDV Court staff have extensive training and expertise on the dynamics of domestic violence.
Additionally, the judge and court staff work closely with community stakeholders to assist families and provide integral services. These stakeholders include the New York City Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, the Brooklyn Family Justice Center, civil and criminal legal service providers, the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, victim advocates, social service agencies, the Children’s Law Center and abusive partner intervention programs.
In 2013, the Kings County IDV Court was designated a National Mentor Court by the
Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). In its role as a National Mentor Court the Kings County IDV Court serves as a model for other jurisdictions throughout the country seeking to develop an integrated domestic violence court.
Since 2013, the Kings County IDV Court has hosted court teams and domestic violence advocates from across the country and abroad. The Mentor Court program allows broad dissemination of best practice standards, lessons learned and discussion of innovations with judges, court personnel and local stakeholders.
This past September, Justice Morgenstern attended the Domestic Violence Mentor Court All Sites Meeting hosted by the Office on Violence Against Women in Washington
D.C. The meeting provided an opportunity for the Domestic Violence Mentor Courts from all over the country to network and enhance their mentoring capacity through presentations and interactive workshops.
As one of the few National Mentor Courts that hears both civil and criminal cases, and due to the experience and expertise of Justice Morgenstern in the field of domestic violence, the Kings County IDV Court was in a unique position to share with the other Mentor Courts best practices and unique challenges in the ever-changing field of domestic violence.
In recognition of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Justice Morgenstern organized a Judicial Engagement Conference on Domestic Violence on Oc. 29.
She invited judges and administrators from courts that hear cases involving domestic violence throughout Kings County to engage in dialogues regarding the courts’ current responses to domestic violence issues and the sustainability of the IDV model.
Among those who attended included the Hon. Sherry Klein Heitler, Chief of Policy and
Planning for the NYC Courts, the Hon. Matthew J. D’Emic, Administrative Judge for Criminal Matters, Kings County Supreme Court, the Hon. Jeffrey S. Sunshine, Statewide Coordinating Judge for Matrimonial Cases, the Hon. Michael Yavinsky, Supervising Judge of Criminal Court, Kings County, the Hon. Amanda White, Supervising Judge of Family Court, Kings County, judges from Supreme, Family and Criminal Court as well as representatives from the Center for Court Innovation.
The conference sparked a lively conversation regarding the court’s current response to domestic violence issues and highlighted challenges and areas that require further exploration and potential for improvement.
In light of the success of the Judicial Engagement Conference, the members have already scheduled future meetings to discuss future training sessions for judicial and non-judicial staff, the establishment and publication of certain domestic violence protocols as well as clarification on issues surrounding orders of protection.
The Kings County IDV Court is committed to excellence and will continue to explore new and innovative strategies to address issues surrounding domestic violence in Kings County and throughout the country.
As the issue of domestic violence continues to resonate throughout public discourse in Kings County and throughout the country it is more important than ever to ensure the sustainability of the Kings County IDV model so that it can continue to maintain its goals of enhanced victim safety, improved court efficiency, consistent judicial decision-making and increased offender accountability.
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