Two years ago, the state set up a specialized court in Brooklyn to handle felony domestic violence cases. Now the state is taking this idea down a notch by tackling misdemeanor cases in a new Bronx court.
In this new model, judges, court staff and prosecutors will follow a particular case from beginning to end, from arraignment to trial to post-trial compliance. Judges will be able to track the daily progress of defendants through substance abuse and battery treatment programs, made possible by $1 million in federal and state grants. If the Bronx experiment is successful, this model will be set up in the other boroughs. About 20,000 domestic violence misdemeanors filtered through the city’s system last year.
For the defendants this new system can be a double-edged sword. It’s easier for them to find help in changing their behavior; it’s also easier for them to be assumed guilty. “We have to be vigilant. In these specialized courts the judges, staff and prosecutors may be more interested in solving a social problem then in dispensing justice,” said Michele Maxian, deputy attorney in charge of criminal defense at Legal Aid.