State Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) and the Cuyahoga County delegation of state lawmakers today announced their support of the proposed specialized domestic violence docket with the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court (CCCPC).
“In the months since Aisha Fraser met the escalated brutality that ripped her away from this world, I’ve learned a great deal in my research and work on Aisha’s law. The reoccurring lesson is that something has to change at the intersection between victim, perpetrator, and the court. The court is all too often a missed opportunity for life saving intervention. I applaud Judge Russo for his proactive decision to establish a domestic violence docket to address the most lethal domestic violence cases, and I am also encouraged by his choice in Judge Miday to preside over those hearings. We all know that these kinds of cases are often complicated, layered, and exceptionally emotional, but we must reshape our system towards valuing the lives of domestic violence victims. This new court is a significant step in that direction. Thank you, Judge John J. Russo and Judge Sherrie Miday,” said Rep. Janine Boyd.
Judge John J. Russo, administrative and presiding judge of the County Common Pleas Court, is seeking $1 million dollars from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish a four-year domestic violence docket pilot program. Currently, CCCPC has six specialty dockets, including Drug Court, Veterans Treatment Court, and more. The judge overseeing the Domestic Violence Docket would be responsible for monitoring defendants on probation to make sure they are abiding by orders of the court and that victims are being kept safe. According to Cleveland.com, Judge Russo plans to appoint Judge Sherri Miday to handle the docket. Judge Miday handled domestic violence cases as a Cleveland prosecutor.
A 2019 Attorney General report found 2,477 domestic violence incidents occurred across Cuyahoga County during 2018, resulting in 213 charges. The proposed domestic violence docket would hear “high-risk” cases, identified through a Lethality Screening tool known as the Danger Assessment for Law Enforcement (DA-LE). The DA-LE was developed by a team of researchers and practitioners led by Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell.
The DA-LE has been adopted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as one of two validated lethality screening tools, and is designed for police officers to administer to victims at the scene of an intimate partner incident. The screening includes 11 questions regarding risk factors for lethality and severe assault.
The DA-LE has already been incorporated in wards one and five of Cleveland as part of the Cuyahoga County Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Demonstration Initiative. During the first year of the initiative, 1,554 DA-LEs were administered, 544 (3 percent) met the high risk threshold, 160 (10.3 percent) did not meet the threshold, and 68 (4.4 percent) were declined by the victim.
The announcement of the domestic violence docket coincides with House Bill 3, also known as “Aisha’s Law,” introduced by Reps. Boyd and Carruthers (R-Hamilton). If passed, HB 3 would require all Ohio municipalities to adopt a Lethality Screening Tool endorsed by the DOJ. HB 3 would also authorize the Ohio Attorney General’s office to seek funding to train peace officers on the administration of the lethality screening tool along with continued education opportunities.
Hear what other Cuyahoga County lawmakers are saying:
“A domestic violence docket with the common pleas court will better serve the families of Cuyahoga County, ensuring their protection and keeping the Ohio Promise that family comes first.” —Rep. Stephanie D. Howse (D-Cleveland)
“Domestic Violence is the silent killer that affects the lives of so many women and men, not just in Ohio, but across the nation. I support the efforts to create this domestic violence docket for Cuyahoga County. This docket will have a direct impact on the prevention of serious crimes committed due to domestic violence.” —Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland)
“I applaud the efforts of the court in trying to secure funding to create this specialized docket. Following the lead of other courts across the nation, adding a specific judge to handle these cases ensures that we are handling them efficiently and consistently. We should be prioritizing domestic violence cases and it’s important that we have dedicated professionals overseeing this process and prioritizing the safety of victims. ” —Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland)
“Congrats to Judge John J Russo and Judge Sherrie Miday for their efforts to create a Domestic Violence Docket within Cuyahoga County through a federal grant. I hope the Department of Justice will fund this pilot project so that justice and interventions will be brought to Cuyahoga County families in crisis, breaking the cycle of violence.” —Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid)
“As a practicing attorney who sits on the Ohio House’s Criminal and Civil Justice committees, I am always open to improving our courts, especially if it promotes the administration of justice fairly, efficiently and with compassion toward domestic violence victims. I look forward to working with our judges in crafting appropriate legislation to advance this excellent idea.” —Rep. Jeffery Crossman (D-Parma)
“Having a domestic violence docket would show that Cuyahoga County is serious about addressing the issue. We need judges who can focus on overseeing a domestic violence docket to help make certain victims are safe and the defendants on probation are following orders of the court.” —Rep. Phil Robinson (D-Solon)