Since launching as a pilot project in August 2018, the Grand Forks County Domestic Violence Court has heard 364 cases.
Northeast Central Judicial District Judges Jason McCarthy and Jay Knudson preside over this post-sentencing court, which aims to increase offender accountability with court orders, enhance victim safety, reduce recidivism, and improve the administration of justice in domestic violence cases.
Former N.E.C.J.D. Presiding Judge Jon Jensen, who is now chief justice, started discussions about the creation of a domestic violence court. He joined with Unit 1 Administrator Scott Johnson, Grand Forks County Clerk of Court Becky Absey and Jennifer Albert of the Community Violence Intervention Center to work out the concept. State Court Administrator Sally Holewa then oversaw development of the 2017 legislation that authorized creation of domestic violence courts.
Under North Dakota Century Code 12.1-17-13, any sentence of a domestic violence offender must include an order to complete an evaluation and programming. Domestic Violence Court monitors offenders after conviction, checking sentencing compliance, to include programming, throughout their probationary period. The men’s programming is 27 weeks long and the women’s is 20 weeks long.
Project Coordinator Maxwell Kollman of the Community Violence Intervention Center oversees information-sharing, offender compliance tracking and participant orientation.
Starting with 60 cases in 2018, it grew to 108 in its first full year and in 2020, during the pandemic, the court heard 123 cases, most virtually. Through the first half of 2021, 73 cases have come before the court. Since it launched, the total number of cases in Domestic Violence Court have involved 321 offenders, 258 men and 63 women.
During the pandemic, the court stepped up efforts to ensure offenders remained connected to the court and compliant. Sessions met virtually and McCarthy prepared a video shared with participants in which he acknowledged the heightened stress and encouraged them to continue attending programing and take care of their loved ones. The video was well received by participants. They were glad to know that the judges were still paying attention and cared about their success during the pandemic. The number of people completing court in 2020 was up 103 percent from 2019. Of all participants since June 2018, 133 have completed the program.
Like other specialty courts, Domestic Violence Court partners with other agencies to coordinate assistance for its participants. These include the Grand Forks County States Attorney’s Office, ND DOCR Parole and Probation, the Grand Forks Public Defender’s Office, Job Service North Dakota and the Community Violence Intervention Center.
The project is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women.