California judges’ reluctant to get additional training on domestic violence issues allows injustice to spread

Published on
July 28, 2023

The reluctance of the Judicial Council of California to require additional training to family court judges on domestic violence issues, as well as the lack of transparency in the judiciary, is allowing dysfunction and injustice to spread, say women’s rights advocates.  

Some judges dismiss women’s claims of domestic violence and deny them restraining orders, endangering their lives, as well as those of their children.

Those most impacted by this are marginalized women, who face outrageous pronouncements from the bench because some judges still embrace the use of disproven techniques for solving relationship issues.

Training is important, since otherwise “they sometimes make decisions not based on facts but what they learned in law school.” That’s how Jacquelyn Campbell, a national leader in research and advocacy in the field of domestic violence, put it. She said the reluctance on the part of some family court judges to get any additional training on the nuances of domestic violence stems from a long-held belief that “they know what they need to know to make decisions.” 

Last year, California state Sen. Susan Rubio’s efforts to introduce a bill that would mandate this training faced such intense headwinds from the Judicial Council that she was forced to withdraw it. The Council said judges don’t have the time to take any additional training. Besides, the training smacks of advocacy, it said. Rubio recently introduced an amended version of that bill, which is again facing pushback from the Judicial Council. 

“Until we solve this issue, low-income litigants will continue to have their rights violated with serious life consequences,” said Lorin Kline, director of advocacy at Community Legal Aid SoCal.

I have found quite a number of women who are eager to share their stories about how family courts have let them down and how this has impacted their lives. With a grant from the 2023 Domestic Violence Impact Reporting Fund, I will explore this issue in depth.