Member Groups

The Catalyst
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law

January 2007, vol. 12, no. 2

Hot topics in domestic violence

The ISBA Committee on Women and the Law presented a comprehensive program entitled, “Hot Topics in Domestic Violence,” on Friday, September 8, 2006, at the Chicago Athletic Association. Annemarie Kill and Yolaine Dauphin acted as program coordinators and moderators. The Committees on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Minority and Women Participation, the Child Law and Family Law Sections co-sponsored the seminar. Attendees included assistant state’s attorneys and public defenders, family law practitioners, and private criminal defense attorneys.

Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, and Richard Devine, Cook County State’s Attorney, offered the Introduction and Opening Remarks for the program.

Attorney General Madigan updated us on two programs her office has implemented to help victims of domestic violence. In the first program, police officers give the victim a “Tear Sheet,” which provides information on dealing with domestic violence, a summary of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act (IVDA), and information on obtaining an order of protection. The second program takes aim at the high percentage (25 percent) of orders of protection that are not successfully served on abusers. An order of protection short form notification provides information on obtaining service on the abuser. Quite significant, any law enforcement officer who comes into contact with an abuser, for example following a traffic stop, can serve the order of protection on the abuser. Lastly, Attorney General Madigan informed us on steps her office has taken to educate teens on the issue of domestic violence. Information on dating violence is now available for teens and educators on the Attorney General’s Web site.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s remarks were equally informative. State’s Attorney Devine spoke of the changed attitude of law enforcement officers in domestic violence cases. The law enforcement community now better understands the complexities involved in domestic violence, including the emotional ties of the domestic violence victim with the abuser and the financial dependence of the domestic violence victim on the abuser. To bring a measure of security and comfort to victims, the new domestic violence courthouse separates victims and children from the abusers. Assistants are present in every courtroom to help victims navigate the system. The Target Abuse Call Unit at the State’s Attorney’s office deals with the most severe cases of domestic violence. The Unit looks at the use of weapons, the extent of violence, and any attempt to choke the victim. The Unit provides wrap-around resources to the victims at issue. Lastly, State’s Attorney Devine informed us of the efforts of his office in the use of education to break the cycle of violence. His office makes frequent presentations to schools, informing students that a dating relationship never has to lead to violence. Mr. Devine ended his remarks with a poignant reminder to defense attorneys that sometimes the best result for the abuser is not to walk away but to obtain services.

David Hopkins, family law practitioner at Schiller, Du Canto & Fleck, presented an overview of the IVDA and the IVDA in matrimonial practice. He explained basic concepts and key definitions contained in the IVDA, the various types of orders of protection, specific remedies sought by petitioners, and limitations on remedies available to petitioners.

In “Nuts and Bolts of Hearings on Civil Orders of Protection,” Mary Katherine Avery of Avery Camerlingo & Kill walked us through the process of obtaining a civil order of protection on behalf of a petitioner. Kim Anderson of Anderson & Boback gave defense attorneys valuable practice tips in representing order of protection respondents, including cross-examination techniques and witness preparation. Mary Katherine provided sample Petitions for Order of Protection and the accompanying Affidavits in Support, and Kim provided sample Motions to Re-Hear an Ex-Parte Order of Protection.
The Honorable Gloria Coco, Supervising Judge of Chicago’s First Municipal District’s Domestic Violence Division, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney, Paul Pavlus, and Erica Reddick, Supervisor of the Domestic Violence Division of the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, presented a lively panel discussion entitled “What All Attorneys Should Know About Orders of Protection in Criminal Court.” 

Judge Coco discussed emergency orders of protection and domestic relations cases. Paul explained the procedural steps for obtaining emergency orders of protection through the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Erica addressed specific issues of relevance to attorneys representing defendant/respondents, including knowledge of the IDVA, the fact-gathering process for hearings, the scope of an order of protection, possible conflicts with orders entered in other cases involving the same parties (ex. juvenile or parentage cases), and potential immigration concerns for defendant/respondents.

In “Domestic Violence and the Child Protection System,” Thomas Grippando of the Cook County Public Defender’s Office discussed how agencies such as DCFS in Illinois and the Administration for Children’s Services in New York City can and have charged mothers, who had not engaged in violence but had been victims of domestic violence, with neglect, and removed their children from their care. He cited several cases in Illinois and New York in which domestic violence victims’ parental rights were terminated and elucidated the outcomes of each case on appeal.

Julie Neubauer is a third-year law student at Northern Illinois University College of Law who worked for five years as a domestic violence victim advocate and counselor. Julie’s presentation focused on the collaboration between the attorney representing a domestic violence victim and the victim advocate. Julie made suggestions as to how the victim advocate can partner with the attorney in a family law case in which the client is a survivor of domestic violence. She explained that the victim advocate can act as the attorney’s “tool” by helping facilitate communication between attorney and client regarding the client’s safety needs and issues of trust, giving the client an extra boost of confidence, and assisting the client in avoiding self-help measures that can be counterproductive to the case.

Issues of concern in same sex domestic violence were discussed by Lisa Gilmore. Lisa is a therapist and trainer for the Anti-Violence Project of the Horizons Community Services Center in Chicago. She identified the power and control dynamics of same-sex relationships and explained training techniques used by domestic violence counselors in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, and Intersex (LGBTQQI) relationships.

Jennifer Kuhn, Chief of Crime Victims’ Services Division of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, defined the concept of crime victim compensation. She explained that the Illinois Crime Victim Compensation Act created a program to provide financial assistance to eligible victims to pay for out-of-pocket expenses related to crimes of violence. Under the Act, victims can apply for expenses such as relocation, rent, and security deposits if such expenses are necessary and were incurred as a result of a violent crime.

Jill O’Brien of Laner Muchin Donbrow Becker Levin and Tominberg, Chicago, described how the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) provides employees and family household members who are victims of domestic violence with leaves of absence from work for up to 12 weeks during a 12-month period, to enable them to seek medical attention, victims’ services, counseling, legal assistance, or to relocate. VESSA additionally prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who are domestic violence victims in terms of hiring, firing, income, promotion, harassment and retaliation. It also requires that employers make various reasonable accommodations in the workplace for abuse victims.

Sharizaan Minwalla of the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago wrapped up the program with “Immigration Issues in Domestic Violence Cases.” Sharizaan explained how the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) addresses the unique problems facing immigrant survivors of domestic violence. VAWA provides various immigration remedies to eligible undocumented immigrants who have been abused by a spouse or a parent who is either a lawful permanent resident or a U.S. citizen. She also discussed what assistance is available to those individuals who are ineligible for relief under VAWA and provided a sample Crime-Victim Witness Certification Form.