Circuit Court steps up response to domestic violence victims and their abusers
Released on 5/9/2012 4:18:05 PM

Adopting one of the recommendations of the blue ribbon committee he appointed last year to study domestic violence court, Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans today announced he will create a new division dedicated exclusively to hearing domestic violence matters. The goal of the division is to help victims of domestic violence and to increase efforts to stop the illegal activities of abusers to ultimately end the cycle of violence in each case.

Chief Judge Evans also announced he has appointed Judge Grace Dickler to lead the new division as its presiding judge. Judge Dickler is a 21 year veteran of the bench and chaired the Circuit Court’s Committee on Domestic Violence Court. She will be charged with the responsibility of overseeing the judiciary’s response to domestic violence matters and coordinating the delivery of court and community-based services to all those involved in domestic violence disputes.

Chief Judge Evans said, “With this new division, we are redoubling our efforts that we began when we opened the new Domestic Violence Courthouse four years ago to help end the cycle of violence. We are saying domestic violence continues to be a serious threat and deserves the added attention that this new division will bring to keep all those involved from falling through the cracks of the system.”

Chief Judge Evans thanked the members of the Circuit Court’s Committee on Domestic Violence Court who worked more that a year on developing their recommendations. He noted more work remains for the Committee, including the crafting of Circuit Court Rules to establish how the new division will operate and the development of critical information technology and record keeping procedures.

Other recommendations offered by the Committee are proposals for the new Domestic Violence Division to provide central administration for all civil and misdemeanor domestic violence matters and certain felony domestic violence matters filed in Chicago and all of suburban Cook County and for the presiding judge to oversee all judges hearing domestic violence matters at the Domestic Violence Courthouse and the five suburban municipal district courthouses in Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood, Markham and Bridgeview.

Also under consideration is a compliance call in which persons served with civil orders of protection will be required to appear in court on a regular and frequent basis so that a judge can determine whether they are following the terms of the orders.

Other proposed reforms include a revamped triage system to help victims more quickly access court remedies and identify resources; increasing the availability of behavior changing interventions for abusers; and establishing a streamlined process to extend orders of protection when a criminal case ends but the victim remains fearful for her or his safety.

Declaring his intention give judges better tools to ensure justice is served in domestic violence cases, Chief Judge Evans said he expects judges in the new division will undergo specialized domestic violence training. The Committee’s recommendations also call for training of all court-based personnel in domestic violence, including employees of the Sheriff, the State’s Attorney, the Public Defender, and the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

The division is expected to launch January 19, 2010.