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Wake County Will Extend Domestic Violence Court...

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RALEIGH — Many victims of domestic violence look to thecourts to help them escape the violence ruling their lives and, often thewait for justice can take months. That's why Wake County has decided toextend domestic violence court from three to five days a week and addan extra prosecutor.

The domestic violence court in Raleigh isn't even a year old, havingjust started in January, but already there are a record number of casescoming through the courthouse doors. Court Clerk Deborah Williams saysit's as many as 70 to 100 per day.

People who work in Wake County's Domestic Violence Court hope theirnew five day schedule means there will be more good days. One districtattorney and one judge handle all the county's domestic violence cases.Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Jenkins says their caseloads havebecome staggering.

Judge Joyce Hamilton says the court has been overwhelmed.

When cases get backlogged, some must be continued, often for months. For victims, defendants, police and attorneys that can be very time-consuming, costly and frustrating. Defense Attorney Earl Farthingsays the extension is a move in the right direction.

While there are few happy endings in the domestic violence courtroom,Jenkins believes the new schedule will make the process lesspainful and more efficient.

In an attempt to ease the caseload, the county hopes to add a newassistant district attorney to the program in December.

The district attorney believes there are several reasons for the recent increase in domestic violence cases. For one, the Raleigh PoliceDepartment created a Family Violence Task Force a year ago, and has becomevery proactive in dealing with such cases. Also, the law changed inOctober, 1996 to say that an officer must arrest someone in a domesticviolence case if there is probable cause. Before the change, officerswere allowed to use their discretion.

Reporter:AmandaLamb

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