Montgomery County district courts have evaluated our findings and recommendations (Download Report) and have made some significant changes, including the addition of a bilingual audio at court. Clerks at each courthouse now play an audio recording in English and Spanish before the judge takes the bench for the domestic violence protective order docket. The audio explains what will happen in court and provides helpful information, such as how to appeal a case and how to get a cd of your hearing. The recording is particularly important because over half of domestic violence victims come to court without legal representation, and need to understand everything they can about the process so they can advocate for themselves.
Our suggestion for safe exits for victims from court, “staggered exits”, has been quickly implemented, but needs to be more consistently applied. It is critical that bailiffs and judges make sure that victims have a 15 minute window to reach their transportation safely before releasing the respondent. Victims must be safe – and safety will also result in more victims returning to court when additional hearings are required.
Judges should set the stage by announcing that staggered exits will be used. When the judge moves on to the next case, it is up to bailiffs and clerks to mark the time the petitioner leaves on the paperwork and hold the respondent’s copies of his court papers for 15 minutes from when the victim leaves the courtroom.