Domestic Violence Court Faces Seattle Funds Crisis

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The future of Seattle’s domestic violence court is threatened by a lack of proof that it is effective, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says. The court was set up three years ago in Kent, Wa., to handle misdemeanor offenses.

In the weeks since Tacoma Police Chief David Brame shot his wife, Crystal, then turned the gun on himself, communities across the state are re-examining their handling of domestic violence. Domestic violence courts are an increasingly common approach, viewed as a means of bringing consistency and oversight to these cases. As of September, about 300 courts across the country had some specialized process for handling domestic violence cases, according to the National Center for State Courts.

The Seattle court fast-tracks cases, assigns an advocate to each victim, sends batterers to treatment and regularly calls abusers into court to review progress — all to protect victims and hold abusers more accountable.

What’s lacking is solid research proving that a specialized court works. King County District Court hasn’t compiled data to support the anecdotal belief of judges and others involved that domestic violence court is a better way of handling these cases. Such evidence is particularly important in a time of shrinking budgets. The biggest threat now is the county budget, which faces a $21 million budget shortfall next year. “I think that the budgetary crisis puts the court in jeopardy,” said presiding Judge Wesley Saint Clair. The court was created at the instigation of King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng after a shocking string of 14 domestic violence slayings in five months.


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