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Copyright (c) 1997 President and Fellows of Harvard Colleges
Harvard Women's Law Journal

LAW AND LITERATURE: SEX, SENSE, AND SENSIBILITY: TRESPASSING INTO THE CULTURE OF DOMESTIC ABUSE

Spring, 1997

20 Harv. Women's L.J. 263

Author

JACQUELINE ST. JOAN *

Excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

In 1989, I was a judge presiding over a busy municipal courtroom in Denver, Colorado. I had a docket full of petty criminal matters and overflowing social problems -- small precursors to a life of crime for some, one-time bad judgment calls for others -- everything from domestic violence to prostitution, from trespass to urinating in public.

That year I was appointed to the planning committee for the state judicial conference and was charged with organizing a training session on domestic violence. Domestic violence was a subject with which I was well acquainted, having spent the eight previous years specializing in the field, first as an attorney and then as a judge. Domestic violence cases increasingly filled the dockets in Denver as a result of a series of reforms which had been instituted over the preceding five years -- mostly as a result of coalition-building among feminists, legal organizations, and mental health agencies in the Denver community.

In 1984 the Denver police had instituted a "mandatory" or "preferred arrest" policy in domestic violence cases whenever an officer's investigation showed probable cause. 2 Arrests in Denver for domestic violence increased sixfold in the next ten years, largely as a result of this policy: in 1994, Denver police made nearly 7000 arrests. 3 The Denver County Court rules were also amended in 1985 to exclude domestic violence cases from the bonding schedule. 4 This policy led to the need for bond hearings in all domestic violence cases. The ...
 
 
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