Local News

Wake County Will Extend Domestic Violence Court...

Posted November 19, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

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

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

People who work in Wake County's Domestic Violence Court hope their new five day schedule means there will be more good days. One district attorney and one judge handle all the county's domestic violence cases. Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Jenkins says their caseloads have become 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 Farthing says 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 less painful and more efficient.

In an attempt to ease the caseload, the county hopes to add a new assistant 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 Police Department created a Family Violence Task Force a year ago, and has become very proactive in dealing with such cases. Also, the law changed in October, 1996 to say that an officer must arrest someone in a domestic violence case if there is probable cause. Before the change, officers were allowed to use their discretion.

Reporter:Amanda Lamb