Volume 2, Number 4
|Table of Contents|
Domestic Violence Trials Conducting the Initial Client Interview
Domestic Violence is a pattern of behavior in which one intimate partner uses physical violence, coercion, threats, intimidation, isolation and emotional, sexual or economic abuse to control the other partner in the relationship. According to the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence, nearly one in three women in the United States will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. This results in between three and ten million children being exposed to the ill effects of domestic violence every year. Unfortunately, domestic violence is known as the silent epidemic and far too many cases go unreported. Hopefully, with education and training, the legal profession will take strides to be an improved resource for victims.
The Initial Client Interview – the birthplace of your “discovery”
Whether you represent the victim or the defendant the initial client interview is the single most import part of your case preparation. In most states Domestic Violence trials are “summary actions” and the parties are not entitled to discovery as of right. This does not mean that the well prepared attorney will go to trial with out evidence! Lawyers are conditioned to get trial evidence though discovery. They are trained to take depositions, propound interrogatories, serve requests to produce, and serve requests to admit. None of these techniques are available in most domestic violence cases. “No discovery” means the lawyer will need to obtain evidence “informally”. The client is the single best source of information and evidence about the case. Even if the client does not have the needed evidence they usually can help their attorney learn where to look.
Some things to consider when interviewing the client (victim or defendant) for the first time:
The above items are just a list of items to consider in addition to the specifics for prohibited conduct as defined by your states domestic violence statute. As your client conveys to you what happened be mindful of obtaining supportive evidence to corroborate his or her testimony. In many domestic violence cases the only evidence is the testimony of the parties and the case is decided solely on credibility. Having even a small amount of corroborating evidence can mean the difference between your client prevailing or not.