April 01, 2014

One Judge’s Passion . . .

By Judge Elizabeth R. Finn

When I was appointed a judge in 1979, most within the criminal justice system had the same perspective about domestic violence cases. We thought they were a waste of police officers’ and judges’ time and assumed the victim would just return to the abuser no matter what occurred. Why were we wasting our valuable resources sending officers out to the same address multiple times only to have the victim fail to appear for trial? Why were courts issuing protective orders just to have the victim return within a few days to have them quashed? And why couldn’t these people just resolve their matters like normal people without involving the criminal or civil justice systems? I shared this view. It took one event to change my attitude, one event to open my eyes and discover my passion: domestic violence policy.

The Arizona Supreme Court in the early 1980s was holding one of its mandated Annual Judicial Conferences. The Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence (now the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence) approached the Education Services Department about the Conference featuring a section on domestic violence issues. They were struggling to obtain a judge to help present this topic. Because I was a fairly new judge and had already taught many topics for Education Services, they asked me to assist. I informed them I did not know why we should care. These women continue to return to their abusers. Why should we waste our time and resources when nothing we do makes a difference? However, I reluctantly said yes.

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