Friday, November 14, 2014

Court Communication

By Stephanie Barr, Interim Director of SafeChoice Program

At our October meeting, the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force had the honor of hosting a panel discussion on domestic violence and the court system with panelists Judge Sonya Langsdorf, DVPC Unit Coordinator Jennifer Nugent, and Vancouver Public Defenders Attorney Christie Emrich.  We began the discussion by asking each member to give a brief introduction of her role in addressing domestic violence in Clark County. Judge Langsdorf emphasized the importance of a judge’s impartiality, while Jennifer Nugent and Christie Emrich expressed the unique perspectives and priorities of prosecuting and defense attorneys. The conversation explored ways to improve collaboration and communication among victim/survivor services, batterer’s intervention programs, and the criminal justice system, while acknowledging the differences in each position’s objectives.

Having joined the Task Force this Spring, I found this opportunity to hear directly from the panelists incredibly valuable. Although every case is different, Judge Langsdorf explained her approach to sentencing and what factors she considers relevant to ordering treatment or incarceration. The attorneys described how they approach negotiations, including what influences their recommendations to the judge. We explored gaps in communication and looked for ways to enhance our collaboration without comprising the boundaries of each person’s role. Though we come at it from different perspectives, each of us has a part to play in fostering a safe, healthy community. I am grateful that we could take time to come together and examine how our shared commitment to a domestic violence free community can be strengthened.

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