St. Louis County, Mo., will retool the way it handles domestic violence cases to protect victims better and monitor its alleged abusers and stalkers, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. After years of complaints that the court was ineffective, Judge Michael Burton is instituting the one-year pilot program based on the recommendations of about 40 people that included victims advocates, attorneys, and police. The changes aim to strengthen orders of protection, penalize those who break them, connect the abused and their children with services and advocates, and weed out less serious disputes from potentially fatal domestic situations.
In the current system, numerous judges rotate in and out of the docket. The new court will have three judges devoted exclusively to domestic violence. A new staff member will provide judges with something they have never had before: prior criminal and civil records, and status reports on whether abusers are participating in court-ordered batterers prevention and supervisory programs. Avocates for battered women say they have watched for years as frustrated and terrified victims – mostly women – left the courthouse after hours of waiting, sometimes without the temporary orders of protection they had sought.