Anna Moscowitz Kross and the Home Term Part: A Second Look at the Nation's First Criminal Domestic Violence Court
34 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2008 Last revised: 17 Feb 2008
Many proclaim that criminal domestic violence courts - specialized court parts that focus on intimate violence cases and utilize a particularized approach in such prosecutions to prevent further violence - are a recent innovation within our criminal justice system. Most observers point to the Quincy District Court in Massachusetts, which opened in 1987, as the first venue in this country to offer specialized processing of criminal domestic abuse prosecutions. In the two decades since the Quincy court opened its doors, other jurisdictions have developed similar models using similar specialized approaches. For example, court planners in New York assert its first criminal domestic violence court, building on the Quincy model, was established in Brooklyn in 1996.
These contemporary accounts of judicial innovation fail to acknowledge, however, that a somewhat similar experiment in specially adjudicating domestic violence prosecutions was undertaken more than fifty years ago in New York. In 1946, Judge Anna Moscowitz Kross established New York State's first criminal domestic violence court within New York City's Magistrate's Court system. The Home Term Part, as Kross's court was called, was a groundbreaking experiment in criminal justice that sought to employ a particularized approach in domestic violence cases to address charges of assault, harassment, disorderly conduct and other abuses. Nevertheless, Kross, one of New York's first women judges, and her early attempts at judicial innovation like the Home Term Part, have been largely forgotten by legal historians and court reformers alike. This paper seeks to inform current conversations about dedicated domestic violence courts by shedding light on Kross's remarkable early efforts to treat domestic violence prosecutions differently from other criminal matters and handle them in a designated court part. The story of Kross's Home Term Part - the first specialized criminal domestic violence court in New York and probably the United States - is an important chapter in the history of intimate violence policies in this country. Its recognition is crucial to any complete account and understanding of our criminal justice system's renewed efforts at judicial innovation through specialized problem-solving courts. And although many features of Home Term would be viewed as objectionable by modern standards, it may also provide important insights to contemporary court reformers as they consider the future of domestic violence prosecutions.
Keywords: domestic violence, criminal, courts, problem-solving courts, women, legal history
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