Do domestic violence victims in Montgomery County have full access to justice? A look at District Court judges use of five fundamental practices

In this report, which analyses data collected in over 2,500 protective order hearings in Montgomery
County’s District Courts between September of 2016 and April of 2018, Court Watch examines judges’
use of the five fundamental best practices we first recommended in 2011. Notably, shortly after
publication of our 2011 report, in 2012, Maryland’s Chief Judge of the District Courts, the Honorable Ben
Clyburn, sent every District Court Judge a “bench card” urging them to adopt the very same best
practices we identified. Yet, in this current study, domestic violence victims are protected as they leave
the court house far less often than they were in 2012 – in fewer than half of cases. While judges have
improved greatly in engaging victims who wish to dismiss their cases about their safety, other
fundamental best practices have remained at about the same low level they were in 2011. Of particular
concern is that usage of staggered exits continues to vary widely by judge, with one judge staggering
exits 68% of the time, while a second only used staggers 24% of the time. Among our other
recommendations, we urge the District Courts to adopt a more uniform use of this basic safety protocol,
or to adopt a County wide policy to ensure judges stagger exits 100% of the time.

Court volunteers discuss domestic violence with judges

This week 18 court volunteers spent over an hour discussing the protective order and domestic violence criminal dockets with District Court Administrative Judge Eugene Wolfe, and Judges Mitchell, Moffett, Williams and Sabett. It was a valuable opportunity to more fully understand the court’s approach to domestic violence cases and to share Court Watch’s concerns about […]

District Court judges and bailiffs provide safe exits only 56% of the time

Staggering exits at the end of every domestic violence court hearing is a simple procedure. Bailiffs can keep victims safe by holding respondents for at least 10 minutes after the petitioner leaves the courtroom. When bailiffs don’t stagger exits, many survivors are harassed or assaulted by angry abusers on the way to their cars or buses. Staggering […]

See WTOP story on new Court Watch study

protective order extensions

WTOP did a great story this morning on our new report, “Small actions, big impacts“. In it, we take a careful look at steps District Court judges, bailiffs, interpreters and clerks take that help victims and their children stay safe. “One judge doesn’t get to hear what the other judges are doing, so this is a great way […]