Kanawha launches domestic violence pilot program




CHARLESTON -- West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Jean Davis will attend an Aug. 31 ceremony announcing the creation of a domestic violence pilot program in Kanawha County.

"The murder-suicide last week in Putnam County reminded everyone in the Kanawha Valley about the horrific nature of domestic violence and its serious consequences," Davis said in a press release. "Domestic violence is always a tragedy.

"The Supreme Court chose Kanawha County for this pilot project because of the volume of cases there and the quality and experience of the judicial officers who handle them. We have confidence that this will be a good place to try this innovative way of handling a challenging caseload."

The pilot program was called for by the Legislature earlier this year in a law which allowed the Supreme Court to establish one pilot program in any jurisdiction it chose. The Supreme Court chose Kanawha County and Family Court Judge Mike Kelly, who will work with Magistrate Julie Yeager.

Currently, domestic violence cases are handled by 10 magistrates and five family court judges; family court judges handle the civil part of the cases while magistrates handle criminal charges.

"It's very confusing for the respondents and petitioners," Kelly said in the release. "Clearly, we have to do something different.

"This program consolidates these to see if we can address these issues more effectively. We are going to focus on becoming a court of early intervention. We want to intervene with quality programming and provide services quickly."

The pilot project will last four years, at the end of which a report will be given to the Speaker of the House and the Senate President.

"It's a wonderful cooperative effort to address this important issue that comes before the circuit courts, family courts, and magistrates courts in Kanawha County," Kanawha Chief Circuit Judge Duke Bloom said in the release.

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