The purpose of the study was to map the current landscape of criminal domestic violence courts including the state of; court efficiency, coordinated response, dedicated staff and informed decision making, victim services, offender accountability, and recidivism.
The study focused on criminal domestic violence courts, defined as courts that
handle domestic violence cases on a separate calendar or assign domestic violence cases to one
or more dedicated judges or judicial officers. A mixed methods design was implemented to
achieve both scope and depth of understanding. The study had four steps:
Court Compendium: a
comprehensive list of criminal domestic violence courts nationwide was developed. The compendium is
a separate document (Center for Court Innovation 2009) that includes court names and
addresses organized by state.
Site Visits: three domestic violence courts were visited in each of five states (California,
Florida, Illinois, New York, and Washington) to develop in-depth information on 15
courts using semi-structured interviews and structured courtroom observations.
Interviews were conducted primarily with judges,
court administrators, prosecutors, and victim advocates, but also defense attorneys,
probation officers, batterer program administrators and law enforcement officers.
Domestic violence court judges and staff were asked questions on court background information, goals and objectives, predisposition policies, programs for offenders, defendant compliance monitoring, victim safety, stakeholders and partnerships, training, and problems and successes. Interviews with prosecutors were the same with the following additional topics; prosecutorial strategies, case assessment, victim involvement in prosecution, and disposition and sentencing.
National Surveys: a survey to all potentially qualifying courts in the
national compendium was administered and a survey of prosecutors linked to each court.
Phone Interviews: phone interviews were conducted with a sub-sample of court survey
respondents to explore the meaning of their responses to particular questions and to
obtain additional qualitative data on court goals, operations, and challenges.
The survey was sent to 338 potential domestic violence courts, survey responses
indicated that not all of these courts met the study's minimum criteria. Accordingly, the final
compendium includes information on 208 confirmed domestic violence courts (dataset 3) - courts that
affirmed their status in their survey responses or that were later independently determined to have
a specialized domestic violence calendar or dedicated judge. Of the 208 courts sent the survey 129 responded. The majority were in
New York (63) and California (34). Other states with a higher-than-average number of domestic
violence courts were Florida (14), Michigan (13) and North Carolina (11). The remaining 74
courts were distributed across 27 other states and Guam. Eighteen states had no domestic violence courts.
All 338 potential domestic violence courts listed in the national compendium of criminal domestic violence courts nationwide that handle domestic violence cases on a separate calendar or assign domestic violence cases to one or more dedicated judges or judicial officers.
Court and Prosecutor Surveys
Information regarding domestic violence courts was gathered from State Domestic Violence Coalitions.
The research of Keilitz 2001 and Shelton 2007 were used to generate lists of courts that met the researchers criteria.
administrative records data
Court Sample (dataset 1): Surveys distributed to courts listed in the compendium included 242 variables including: caseload characteristics; court personnel and staffing; victim services; orders of protection; use of programs and/or services for offenders; judicial and/or probation monitoring practices; and common sanctions or responses to noncompliance.
Prosecutor Sample (dataset 2): Surveys distributed to prosecutor's offices that worked with the courts listed in the compendium included 194 variables on a variety of operational and practice issues, including: domestic violence court goals and objectives; case screening processes; victim services; dispositions and sentences; use of programs and/or services for offenders; and judicial and/or probation monitoring practices.
Full Sample (dataset 3): information for all the criminal domestic violence courts across the country including 37 variables on county level data for each jurisdiction including; region, state, city, population and income variables.
For the court survey, 188 out of 338 responded yielding a response rate of 55.6 percent. Of the 188 completed surveys, 129 (68.6 percent) met the research team's definition of a DV court and were included in the final sample.
For the prosecutor survey, 122 out of 275 responded yielding a response rate of 44.3 percent. Of the 122 completed surveys, 74 (60.6 percent) met the research team's definition of a DV court and were included in the final sample.