The Impact of Student Assistance on the Granting and Service of Temporary Restraining Orders
72 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2019
Date Written: August 26, 2019
Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) provide victims of domestic violence temporary ex parte court-ordered protection against further abuse. Because the vast majority of TRO applications are filed pro se, legal and logistical hurdles often prevent deserving applicants from receiving the legal protection they are entitled to. Chief among these hurdles is the fact that TROs do not go into effect until they are served on respondents, yet service rates are very low.
In this paper, we study the factors that affect whether judges grant ex parte TRO applications and whether the TROs are subsequently served. In particular, we evaluate the impact of a program in New Haven, Connecticut that uses law students to provide clerical, non-legal assistance to applicants. We find that applicants assisted by Yale law students are no more or less likely to have their applications granted, but that student assistance is associated with double-digit percentage point increases in in-hand service. Factors that affect grant rates include gender, judge assignment, and various severity factors like police involvement. We confirm earlier evidence that service rates of TROs are exceptionally low, and find that in-hand service rates are relatively lower for racial minorities. We conclude by proposing possible reforms to law school interventions and the TRO application process that would reduce granting and service hurdles for pro se applicants.
Keywords: Temporary Restraining Order, TRO, Domestic Violence, Service, Service of Process, Law School Clinics
JEL Classification: K36, K41, K42, K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation