Virginia's Response to Domestic Violence Focus of April Law Conference

On April 26 and 27, the Therapeutic Jurisprudence Program and the Commonwealth's Attorneys' Services Council convened a conference at the Law School on the legal system's response to domestic violence in Virginia. The program, funded by the Verizon Foundation, Mallinkrodt, and the National Center for State Courts, drew nearly 90 attendees from across the state.

Centered around the theme of best practices and new solutions, two panels explored models offered by domestic violence courts in New York state and the Domestic Assault Response Team of Loudoun County, Virginia. Five additional panels offered perspectives on research on the effectiveness of criminal justice responses to domestic violence, crime victims' rights, the court's ability to serve battered women who have limited English proficiency, the impact of Crawford v. Washington, and Project Passport, an initiative by states and tribal nations to improve the recognition and enforcement of orders of protection.

The conference was organized by Gregory Baker, founding director of the William & Mary Law School Therapeutic Jurisprudence Program, and Jane Sherman Chambers '92, a staff attorney with the Commonwealth's Attorneys' Services Council.

According to Baker, a measure of the conference's success was the spectrum of professionals brought together from across the state for the two days of panels and discussions. Attendees included judges, public defenders, mediators, police officers, mental health and social service practitioners, and probation and parole personnel. In addition, representatives also were on hand from the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Virginia Department of Corrections, and the General Assembly.

"The nature of domestic violence requires a multidisciplinary approach for successful outcomes. That is no doubt that that's been proven in the research," Baker said. "The more interdisciplinary we can become in our approach, the better chance we have of success."

Baker plans to organize a follow-up conference in spring 2009 to revisit the issue.

"This is one of the most complicated and troubling areas in law," he said. "One of the major goals of the conference was to give people examples of how others are dealing with the issue - and getting good results - so they could take them back and consider them for their own localities."