Domestic violence (DV) courts are specialized, problem-solving courts that specifically handle DV cases. In New York, a family with a DV case may also have related cases in family, criminal, and matrimonial court. This can result in conflicting court or protective orders, or inconsistent decisions made by multiple judges. New York's Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) courts are part of a unified "one family-one judge" model, in which a single judge hears all cases (criminal, family, matrimonial) related to a single family. The overall goals of IDV courts are to improve court efficiency, allow for more informed judicial decision making, promote victim safety, eliminate conflicting orders, and improve service delivery to victims of domestic violence and their children (Katz and Rempel 2001). The courts promote justice while providing a comprehensive approach to case resolution, and aim to eliminate inconsistent and conflicting judicial offers.
There are over 200 DV courts operating across the United State. The state of New York is home to 64 DV courts (Cissner, Labriola, and Rempel 2013). New York State has criminal and integrated DV courts. Criminal DV courts tend to be more common throughout the United States, and operate a specialized caseload for which eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis and includes DV-related cases only. Integrated DV courts are similar, but place criminal, family, and matrimonial cases involving the same family before one judge. Both types of DV courts focus on rehabilitating the offender and typically act as a diversion option in lieu of a jail sentence.
In New York, to be eligible for IDV court, a family must have a criminal DV case pending as well as a family court case, matrimonial case, or both. In addition, at least one defendant and one complaining witness to the criminal case is also a party to the family or matrimonial (divorce) case (New York State Unified Court System 2014). Cases eligible for IDV courts are identified using the Integrated Domestic Violence Application, a case management system used to track cases transferred to IDV courts throughout the state of New York.
Once the court has confirmed that the case meets the standards for inclusion, the court may identify and accept additional cases per family, including custody, visitation, and paternity cases.
The following program elements are part of the New York IDV court model:
Comprehensive jurisdiction: IDV courts have jurisdiction over all matters affecting families and children, including intrafamily criminal offenses.
One judge: The judge who is assigned to the family-specific court cases is cross-trained to handle all matters, criminal and civil, relating to the family.
Defendant monitoring: To ensure monitoring, the courts schedule regular compliance dates to keep closer tabs on defendants and respond to allegations of noncompliance.
Efficiency: The courts handle both civil and criminal cases, in a single integrated hearing, to reduce the numbers of court appearances for litigants. This also increases the speed for dispositions and streamlines the process for participants.
Victim services: The courts connect litigants with needed and accessible services. Courts work in connection with community-based victims’ advocates to coordinate services for victims. Services include counseling, job training, and housing.
Important personnel in the IDV court system include a trained and dedicated IDV judge, resource coordinator, project director, IDV court clerks, prosecutor, law guardian, victim advocates, and several attorneys who will appear regularly.
Katz and Rempel (2011) evaluated Integrated Domestic Violence (IDV) courts in specific areas of New York State, comparing cases processed in the integrated courts with court cases processed in separate criminal and civil courts. Data from the IDV courts was collected from the date of court inception until May 2007. Six counties were used in the study, including Broome, Chautauqua, Oneida, Orange, Oswego, and Rockland. Family court cases were compared with the IDV courts.
The eligible IDV court cases were identified using the Integrated Domestic Violence Application. IDV Application data was merged with data from the Universal Case Management System (UCMS). Eligible cases included family offense cases in addition to custody/visitation cases. A family offense is when one family member claims another member has committed a criminal offense against them, such as harassment or assault. The data in the UCMS consisted of defendant identifiers, family court litigant information, petition type, family court orders information, court appearance, and final dispositions. The data from the IDV application was also merged with the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to include defendant demographics, charges, dispositions, sentences, and re-arrest data up to 1 year after the initial IDV case.
Eligible comparison cases were processed in one of the nine selected counties, but not processed in the IDV court between the date the IDV court in the country started through May 2007. Eligible court cases included all family offense cases and custody/visitation cases in families that also had a family offense case, criteria similar to IDV cases. Comparison cases were also identified using the UCMS. Unlike IDV cases, the family cases that served as comparison cases did not have overlapping cases.
Of the cases, 87 percent involved family offenses, and 13 percent involved custody/visitation cases. A higher percentage of the families in the comparison cases were only family offense cases without custody/visitation (38 percent compared with 29 percent of IDV cases).
A propensity score adjustment was implemented to account for the differences between the IDV cases and comparison cases at baseline. The propensity model included measurements of age, race, 13 criminal history measurements, and 4 separate measurements related to the charge on the instant offense. The model included 321 IDV cases and 2,166 comparison cases. Using the propensity score model, cases were matched with the nearest score, to finish with a final sample of 318 IDV cases and 318 comparison cases.
Integrated Domestic Violence courts involve multiple actors within the justice system. The design of the court system is based on the Integrated Domestic Violence Court Model Court Components (Picard-Fritsche et al. 2011). The model suggests a 6-month comprehensive planning process followed by a 6-month implementation period. During both planning and implementation stages, technical assistance can be provided to the sites implementing an integrated court system. During the planning process, courts develop procedures for screening and transferring cases to IDV court. After cases are transferred, courts are governed by both the substantive and procedural laws of the originating courts. In an effort to maintain integrity, official documents recommend that each case type be called separately; criminal cases are heard first (Cissner et al. 2011).
There are 12 IDV Court Model Court Components: jurisdiction planning, staffing and technical assistance; case identification, screening, and court calendaring; legal representation; judicial monitoring and offender accountability; judicial and nonjudicial training; technology; courthouse safety; case integrity, confidentiality and record keeping; domestic violence services; use of community resources; and assessment (Cissner et al. 2011).
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:
Cissner, Amanda B., Sarah Fristche, and Nora Puffett. 2011. The Suffolk County Integrated Domestic Violence Court. Polices, Practices, and Impacts. October 2002-December 2005 Cases. New York, N.Y.: Center for Court Innovation.
Labriola, Melissa, Sarah Bradley, Chris S. O'Sullivan, Michael Rempel, and Samantha Moore. 2009. A National Portrait of Domestic Violence Courts. New York, N.Y.: Center for Court Innovation.
New York State Unified Court System. 2014. "Integrated Domestic Violence Courts." Accessed September 25, 2015.http://nycourts.gov/courts/problem_solving/idv/home.shtml.
Picard-Fritsche, Sarah, Amanda Cissner, and Nora Puffett. 2011. The Erie County Integrated Domestic Violence Court. Policies, Principles, and Impacts. December 2003 – December 2005 Cases. New York, N.Y.: Center for Court Innovation.
Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:Domestic Violence Courts
This specialty court practice follows the problem-solving court model, and is for individuals charged with domestic violence. In addition to judicial oversight, participants may receive other programming to address substance use or mental health issues or receive referrals to batterer intervention programs. Partnerships are established with judges, mental health workers, social services, and police. The practice is rated Promising for reducing general recidivism and violent, domestic recidivism.Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
| ||Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types|
| ||Crime & Delinquency - Violent offenses|