Technology to help victims of domestic violence in northwest Louisiana

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L to R; Schuyler Marvin, Bossier/Webster District Attorney, Jill Sessions, Bossier Parish Clerk of Court and Sarah Shehane, Bossier Parish Deputy Clerk.

With help from technology, the 26th Judicial District is leading the way for Domestic Violence Victims to receive help faster.

Beginning July 22, 2020, Domestic Violence Victims can remotely e-file (Electronic File) for Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) from the Northwest Louisiana Family Justice Center. 

The 26th Judicial Court serving Bossier and Webster Parishes (LA), in conjunction with the Bossier Parish Clerk of Court, and other Parish officials, announced starting on Wednesday, July 22, 2020, Domestic Violence Victims will be able to remotely e-file for a TRO. 

“I think this is a big step for preventing ongoing domestic abuse. The Northwest Louisiana Family Justice Center is a safe place to go to with great qualified staff that help them through a very hard time. I’m very, very pleased that Mr. Marvin and I have done this together. We’re very pleased that we have a place like the Justice center to help domestic abuse victims. We’re here to help our citizens,” said Jill Sessions, Bossier Parish Clerk of Court.

Victims will be able to e-file from the safety of the Northwest Louisiana Family Justice Center (NWLA FJC), 1513 Doctors Drive, Suite B, Bossier City, LA 71111, which is approximately 12 miles from the courthouse.

“This is huge. It’s almost 12 miles from our office to Mrs. Sessions’ office. It’s nice that we will have this for those that can’t get to Mrs. Sessions’ office, who are in fear, or if someone doesn’t have transportation. There’s just a number of reasons. I think this will hopefully help victims to maybe make the step to ask for help that they maybe wouldn’t have quicker,” said Jeri Bowen, Executive Director of the Northwest Louisiana Family Justice Center.

This new filing option will allow temporary restraining orders filed from the Family Justice Center (FJC) to be automatically and electronically integrated into the court’s electronic case management system. 

This procedure allows Judges, law enforcement, and court staff to share and view docket entries indexed and notated into the system simultaneously from multiple locations.

“This is a great enhancement to the functionality of the 26th Judicial Court system by using technology to assist victims of domestic violence,” said District Attorney Schuyler Marvin.

In April 2019, Mrs. Sessions implemented the new civil program for digital submission of all civil pleadings to and from the 26th Judicial District Court for electronic signing by the judges. In November 2019, Mrs. Sessions added the feature of electronic filing to its website. 

During the eight-week COVID-19 shutdown of the courthouse to the public, attorneys utilizing the e-filing platform continued to conduct business with the Clerk of Court’s office without leaving their office.

A total of 377 e-filed pleadings with 195 of those e-filings being received during the eight weeks of the COVID-19 shutdown. 

Mrs. Sessions extended the opportunity to the NWLA FJC to e-file Petitions for Protection from Abuse, also known as Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs). 

So far this year Bossier’s civil department has had a total of 126 TROs filed, with 30 of those being in the month of May. 

“It is critical that court-ordered domestic violence protection orders are entered into the Louisiana Protective Order Registry (LPOR) as soon as possible”, commented Louisiana Supreme Court LPOR Director Ramona Harris. “Digital transmission of petitions for court-ordered domestic violence protection will speed the filing process and expedite timely transmission for inclusion in the Registry. This will in turn increase victims’ safety as they reach out to the court system for help.”

Sessions hopes that this new safe opportunity will help those petitioners utilizing the assistance of the Family Justice Center to have a more time-efficient experience. 

“I see when the kids come in here and they’ve seen what has happened to their mother and daddy in the middle of the night. I see myself in those kids sometimes. 18 years my mother was married to an abuser. I just happen to be the lucky one who was only six years old when they decided to split. But my older siblings weren’t so lucky,” Sessions said.

“If we had the capability back then like we do now and she had support, I do believe she would have filed for a restraining order. We are so much more advanced and so much more open to helping the victim because back then you didn’t have a safe place you could go to. You didn’t have anybody willing to help you. The Northwest Louisiana Family Justice Center can put you in places if you need to. You didn’t have that back then,” she added.