Ada County’s specialized domestic violence court has been selected by the U.S. Department of Justice as one of three “mentor” courts in the nation to serve as a model for other courts to follow; the other two courts are in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Dallas, Texas. The Ada County court, established seven years ago, follows a “one family-one judge” practice that involves the judge in daily, weekly or monthly review hearings of the offender; brings in a team including a prosecutor, victim witness coordinator, public defender, probation officers, court coordinator and treatment providers; and focuses on defendant accountability and victim safety. It also averages 58 days from arrest to sentencing, compared to about 131 days in a traditional criminal court.
“After over 20 years of working in the criminal justice system, the Ada County Domestic Violence Court is one of the greatest engines for change I have ever seen,” said Judge James Cawthon, who with Judge Carolyn Minder presides over the court. “The court enforces offender accountability and promotes changes in their behavior. The court provides victims safety, resources and a voice, and it guards the welfare of the children involved and strengthens families.”
As a selected mentor, the Ada County court will host site visits and help courts around the nation follow its successful model. The Justice Department designation comes complete with $66,000 to fund the mentoring efforts over the next two years.