When Courts Collide: Court Pluralism, Domestic Violence, and System Reform
Elizabeth L. MacDowell
University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law
Scholarship about domestic violence-related judicial system reform tends to focus on criminal justice, leaving the civil system under-analyzed. Moreover, the pluralistic nature of the justice system - which consists of both criminal and civil justice - is often ignored. This article explores claims for specialized domestic violence courts that integrate civil and criminal cases into a single court and argues that the value of court pluralism is overlooked. Part I of this article introduces the problem of integrated courts in a pluralistic court system. Part II examines the normative function of criminal courts in relation to domestic violence cases and contrasts the remedies available to victims in criminal and civil courts. Part III critiques the rationale for integrated domestic violence courts from the standpoint of litigation strategy and other avenues for system reform. This Part also examines the ways in which integrated courts compromise the autonomy-enhancing functions of civil courts. Part IV shows that despite the advantages of civil courts for victims, the characterization of civil justice as relatively unproblematic is inaccurate, and revisits the normative role of the criminal courts. This Part concludes that given the risks and lack of benefits to victims of integrating criminal and civil court functions, this reform strategy should be reconsidered in light of its impact on court pluralism.
Keywords: domestic violence, specialty courts, domestic violence courts, integrated courts, integrated domestic violence courts, family courts, criminal courts, remedies, civil justice, criminal justice, jurisprudence, pluralism
Date posted: November 4, 2009 ; Last revised: July 26, 2010
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