Staggered Exit Report: Montgomery County District Courts Fail to Consistently Implement Recommended Safety Practice

Staggered exits are a nationally recognized best practice intended to keep victims safe, allowing them to leave the courtroom first after a protective order hearing, with their alleged offender leaving no sooner than 15 minutes thereafter. When properly executed, staggered exits reduce the risk of confrontation between the parties outside the courtroom and enable victims and their families to get safely to their transportation home. Staggered exits can help lessen trauma and increase the likelihood that victims will return to court when necessary to obtain a final order.

Court Watch has seen the use of staggered exits fluctuate by year and vary by judge, despite the fact that they are cost-free and pose no significant burden to the courts. As the courts emerge from Covid-related closures and parties return to in-person hearings, a renewed focus on staggered exits is timely. This report demonstrates that use of staggered exits in Montgomery County has continued to decline, even though the practice is recommended by the Maryland Judiciary and supported by the Montgomery Court District Courts.

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 […]

DV prosecutor stands up for victims

A prosecutor handling criminal domestic violence cases implemented a terrific “best practice” this week. She didn’t just assume that bailiffs would hold defendants at least 10 minutes so victims could safely leave the building. (In fact, bailiffs rarely ensure safe exits in criminal court).  Instead, the prosecutor informed the judge that she had a victim present who needed […]

Particularly unsafe day in criminal domestic violence court

criminal domestic violence

Some criminal domestic violence dockets go more smoothly than others. It was infuriating last week to see what happened to a victim who took the brave step to come to court to testify against her former partner, who was charged with violating her protective order six times. The defendant’s criminal record included numerous assault charges, carrying a concealed […]

New report out today on Circuit Court’s practices in domestic violence cases (Nov. 2013)

Court Watch new report

Protection for victims of domestic violence in Montgomery County’s Circuit Court – Deaths from domestic violence are a continuing and preventable tragedy in Maryland. In each of the last three fiscal years, the number of domestic violence victims killed in Maryland has increased. From July 2011 through June 2012, 49 Maryland residents died as a result of domestic violence. […]