Should there be any doubts about how prevalent domestic violence is and how complicated it may be to adjudicate domestic violence cases, attending a docket meeting at the Stamford or Norwalk courthouse is a good way to dispel them.
very week, a group of six to eight people meet to discuss between 80 and 90 cases scheduled for a hearing the next day in the Stamford docket court dedicated to cases of domestic violence. A second group meets to discuss between 90 and 100 domestic violence cases scheduled each week for a hearing in the Norwalk docket court. Over the course of a year, that adds up to more than 4,000 domestic violence cases per courthouse. Weighing in at the meetings are DVCC Family Violence Victim Advocates, an Assistant State's Attorney (prosecutor), and representatives from the court's Office of Family Relations, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Probation, Family Re-Entry and police departments in each town.
The purpose is to provide a forum for collaboration and information sharing that ultimately helps the prosecutor determine the best course of action in each case. DVCC's objective is to encourage outcomes that will best protect victims and their children, but the task is seldom easy or straightforward. Complications may occur for any number of reasons, including in cases where victims are reluctant to prosecute or where updated information is not presented to the court in a timely and coherent manner.
When the victim and victim advocate work together, the results can be both gratifying and just. For example, Susan*, a DVCC client, learned that her abuser had applied for the Family Violence Education Program on the grounds that he was a first-time offender. If a defendant completes the program, the charges are usually "nollied" (dismissed). Susan was horrified, anunderstandable response considering her abuser had attacked her with a weapon and then strangled her. DVCC Attorney
Advocate Aviania Iliadis spoke with the prosecutor, relaying the facts of the case, describing Susan's injuries and her request that the application be denied, and suggesting the prosecutor also object to the defendant's application. Next Iliadis met with the representative from Family Re-Entry, which oversees the Family Violence Education Program, relayed the same information to her and then asked if she thought the program was appropriate for this offender. Her answer was no, it was not. The judge eventually denied the application and ordered the case be continued. Without someone to advocate for Susan and present the facts of her case to the appropriate players, the judge's ruling likely would have gone the other way.
*Names have been changed for safety