Las Vegas Justice Court Chief Judge Joe Bonaventure said Tuesday afternoon he is in favor of keeping two of his courtrooms and judges dedicated to hearing only domestic violence cases.
Justice Court judges are expected to vote during an April 11 meeting whether to keep the current system, which has been in place since 2011. Bonaventure said court staff will provide judges with “statistics, paperwork and reports” related to the dedicated courts’ operations.
“I’m going to take a look at all the concerns, make sure I’m fully informed and then make that decision,” Bonaventure said. “But I’m personally in favor of dedicated dockets.”
The judge’s statement came in an interview immediately after the Clark County commissioners spent part of their Tuesday meeting hammering a proposal to spread domestic violence cases across 10 courtrooms starting in July.
During the meeting commissioners heard testimony from victim advocates, District Attorney Steve Wolfson and Judge Melanie Andress-Tobiasson. All advocated against a change.
“It is physically impossible for victim advocates to be in several courtrooms on different floors,” said Tara Bakhtavar, a victim advocate for the nonprofit Safe Nest.
Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said she was shocked to learn that victim advocates had not been formally asked to participate in the discussion until they spoke at the commission meeting. She believed the judges should heavily consider their input.
“They’re the ones who deal with this on a daily basis, and they know the emotional trauma that goes into it,” she said.
Commissioner Jim Gibson added that decentralizing the domestic violence cases would shake victims’ trust in the court and service they receive.
“The victims of domestic violence have confidence there will be consistently in the way their cases are handled because these courts have experience with them all the time,” he said.
Public Defender Phil Kohn advocated for exploring the creation of a domestic violence specialty court. Such courts provide therapeutic services for defendants.
“The whole idea is we want to change behaviors,” he said. “The way we’re doing it right now is not changing behaviors.”