Ray Rice Case Prompts a Bill Establishing Specialized Domestic Violence Courts

Ray Rice’s assault of his now-wife Janay Palmer has remained in the national spotlight, especially after a video showing the incident was leaked to TMZ on September 8th.

In response, New Jersey State Assemblywomen have introduced a bill last week which proposes a specialized Domestic Violence Court to deal with such cases.

Currently, domestic violence cases are handled either by a town’s municipal court, or by the county’s Superior Court. Generally, less serious offenses go to municipal court, while more serious offenses are heard by the Superior Court. Lawmakers have expressed concern that the municipal court system places domestic violence victims in the same environment as traffic ticket offenders. Even if the domestic violence case is heard by the Superior Court – as was the case with Ray Rice – lawmakers still contend that even Superior Court judges lack appropriate training in domestic violence cases.

The proposed bill (A3801) establishes a three-year “pilot program” which creates two Domestic Violence Courts – one in Camden County and one in Monmouth County, with one judge assigned to each county. Under the bill, any court within those counties may refer a case involving domestic violence to the Domestic Violence Court. The bill further requires that Domestic Violence Court judges have “extensive knowledge of and experience in criminal law, criminal procedure and criminal sentencing, particularly in relation to domestic violence crimes and offenses.” Lawmakers hope that the new courts will get domestic violence victims and perpetrators into a court that really understands their problems.

The pilot program’s effectiveness will be monitored by the Administrative Office of the Courts, who will recommend whether the programs should be discontinued or expanded. As for the costs of the program, the two new courts will be at the Superior Court level, with Domestic Violence Court judges being paid the same $165,000 salary of their Superior Court colleagues. However, lawmakers believe that these costs are offset by fewer domestic violence cases on the municipal courts’ dockets.

In order to become law, this bill will need to be passed by both houses of the New Jersey Legislature and then signed by Governor Christie.

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