Domestic violence court closing sparks protest

CN/ Ivan
CN/ Ivan Cazares

By Ivan Cazares

Members of the Feminist Club put on a puppet show on April 24 outside the West Covina Courthouse in protest of the closing of a courtroom dedicated to domestic violence cases.

“What do we want? Reopen the court,” the protesters said.

Nicole Castro, a Feminist Club member, said this issue is important to her and the rest of the club. She also said they wanted to support some of their members who live in the community.

Domestic violence cases have been spread among all judges since February 9.

The domestic violence court was initiated in 1994. It has received awards and praise from officials across California.

“The National Organization for Women is in disbelief that the judges have dismantled the Domestic Violence Model Courtroom,” Darby Mangen, San Gabriel Valley and Whittier chapter president emeritus of NOW, said in a recent newsletter.

The judges at Citrus Municipal Court disbanded the courtroom in 1999.

The decision was highly criticized and the court was reopened a year later.

For the last 15 years, the Model DV Court provided victims and their abusers with experienced judges and prosecutors.

Judge Rolf Treu presided over at Citrus Court while Judge Peter Meeka presided over at Rio Hondo Court. A single courtroom in each courthouse was dedicated to domestic violence cases.

The DV Court ensured that a victim advocate accompanied victims for emotional support.

“Diane Franklin with the West Covina Police Department is the first advocate of her kind in the country,” said Mangen.

Franklin continues to accompany victims to their court hearings. However she can’t accompany as many as she could in a courtroom dedicated to this crime.

If convicted, defendants would be placed on supervised probation that would include frequent monitoring by the judge,   mandatory counseling for the defendant and protective orders for the victim.

Another judge may still implement this. However, the DV Court would ensure it.

“Judges are trained to handle all crimes including domestic violence. However, the experience that a judge and prosecutors gain in a dedicated courtroom is indispensable,” said Mangen.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon said “judicial burnout” is the reason the court closed.

President of the San Gabriel Valley chapter of NOW Michelle Geil proposes rotating judges as alternative solution.

“Domestic violence is a complex social problem that affects each individual in society, either directly or indirectly, amounting to economic costs of billions of dollars each year in medical costs. These costs are eventually passed on to the taxpayers through Medicare and other health agencies,” Los Angeles Supervisor Michael Antonovich said in a resolution passed in 1999.

“The uniquely successful courtroom is a model for all domestic violence courtrooms, and should be opened immediately,”  Denise Brown, advocate against domestic violence and sister of Nicole Brown Simpson whose murder made headlines, said.

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