Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: June 15, 1999

Seal of the Unified Court System
First Combined Felony and Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Court Opens in Westchester
WHITE PLAINS, NY - Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye was joined today by Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro to announce the official opening of New York's first combined felony-misdemeanor domestic violence court. The court, established by order of Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman and funded by a grant from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, will handle all domestic violence felonies in Westchester County and all domestic violence misdemeanors in the City of White Plains.

Modeled after the successful specialized Brooklyn and Bronx Domestic Violence Courts, the Westchester court will be the first in the State to handle both misdemeanor and felony domestic violence cases in one courtroom. To ensure continuity and close monitoring of cases, the court will have a single presiding judge to handle all stages of a domestic violence case, as well as a dedicated prosecution team from the District Attorney's Office and victim advocate from My Sisters' Place, a local non-profit organization that provides shelter for battered women and their children. The Domestic Violence Court, a division of the Westchester Supreme and County Courts, will serve as a hub for interagency collaboration and information exchange among numerous criminal justice and social service agencies, including the Westchester District Attorney's Office, County Department of Probation, County Department of Community Mental Health, The Mental Health Association of Westchester County, Victim Assistance Services, Northern Westchester Shelter and My Sisters' Place.

"Three years ago this month, we opened the New York's first specialized domestic violence court in Brooklyn, which handles all domestic violence felonies in that borough," said Chief Judge Kaye. "The principles and practices developed there to promote victim safety and defendant accountability have served as a model for replication in other parts of the state and today has its first suburban foothold with the opening of the Westchester Domestic Violence Court. This court represents an exciting step forward in our domestic violence program because it will be the first court in the state to handle both felony and misdemeanor domestic violence cases. With the support of federal and state monies and the cooperation of the legal community, I am confident that this new court will provide victims of domestic violence the special attention and support they so critically need and help to ensure an effective response to domestic violence."

Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro said, "Victims of domestic abuse face unique challenges when navigating the criminal justice system. This new court part will ensure that judges are specially trained and procedures are in place to deliver justice in a manner that balances the needs of the victim with the rights of the accused." Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman added, "The sensitivity and potential volatility of domestic violence necessitate a more focused strategy on the part of the court system in the way these cases are handled. The Westchester Domestic Violence Court will stress victim safety, intensive defendant monitoring, continuity of case handling, and improved information sharing between the court system and law enforcement agencies. I want to thank Jeanine Pirro for working with us to make this new Domestic Violence Court a success and applaud her office's own efforts to tackle the problem of domestic violence in this community. I am also grateful to the State Division of Criminal Justice Services which has generously funded the creation of this specialized court, and I thank Commissioner Katherine Lapp for her continued cooperation and support of our efforts."

Katherine N. Lapp, New York State Director of Criminal Justice, said, "The Governor applauds Chief Judge Kaye and District Attorney Pirro in implementing the innovative court part designed to handle exclusively domestic violence cases. This program, funded by the Division of Criminal Justice Services, will ensure that these cases are given special attention by the court system and that the victims are able to access necessary services. The Domestic Violence Court augments the Governor's continuing commitment to protect victims of domestic violence and ensure swift justice for their batterers."

The Domestic Violence Court will promote:

  •  immediate, certain and consistent response to domestic violence crimes, including both punishment and intervention programs 
  • intensive monitoring of defendants' compliance with court orders of protection so that violations result in swift response 
  • oversight of victim safety through regular calls and contact by a victim advocate, and access to housing, counseling and other social services 
  • continuous judicial supervision of cases 
  • use of technology in information gathering and coordination with agencies, such as the New York State Orders of Protection Registry 
The Westchester Domestic Violence Court will be equipped with customized technology that links the court directly to key off-site partners, speeding the transfer of crucial defendant and victim status information directly to the judge and court staff, including information on defendants' attendance at batterer intervention programs and compliance with court orders of protection.

The new court will be overseen by Administrative Judge Francis A. Nicolai and Supervising Judge Peter P. Rosato and presided over by Acting Supreme Court Justice Daniel D. Angiolillo.

Web page updated: August 16, 2006